Yesterday, I spent the day and evening at the SCUBA Show in Long Beach, California. This is one of the, if not the, largest recreational scuba diving show open to the public. For me, as a diver and filmmaker, it's an opportunity to see the latest toys, bells, and whistles to carry under water. It's also an opportunity to meet up with many of the friends and leaders in the scuba diving industry, from manufacturers to island resorts.
Judging by what I saw yesterday (the show runs for the entire June 4-5 weekend), business is beginning to pick up. The dive travel industry, like so many other disposable income activities, took a severe hit with the economic downturn. But with the slight (albeit very slight) improvement that has occurred with the economy - and, probably more importantly, with consumers finally saying enough is enough with all this doom and gloom - there appeared to be more people willing to get back in the water, whether it's locally or via some exotic destination.
It could be an advantageous time for the consumer as we are not out of the woods yet, economically speaking, so retailers and resorts are offering some pretty amazing deals. Not to get totally off-subject, but it seems that while many look to Wall Street or the government or industry to turn things around, we must not forget the mindset of the consumer. Throughout this entire financial crisis, everyone pulled back on spending as well they should. And as much as Wall Street's ups and downs are often motivated by attitude, so it is with the general public. So there is some evidence that we are beginning to peek out of our shells and show some willingness toward prudent consumption that will hopefully stimulate the economy. What I saw at the SCUBA Show was, perhaps, a small indication.
However, back to scuba diving. Two noticeable trends I saw was a greater proliferation of simple, easy-to-use underwater camera systems that deliver some terrific results. Many of the cameras provide both still and video (although they're a long ways from broadcast-quality video, so I don't think my skills will be put out to pasture just yet). But there are some amazing systems that can provide divers with wonderful digital memories of their dive travel experiences.
Also, technical diving is making more inroads into the general diver populace, particularly in the area of closed circuit rebreathers. These are diving systems that recirculate and clean the carbon dioxide from your exhalation, adding in the required amount of pure oxygen to replenish what you consumed. What this provides then is extended depth and bottom time - and no bubbles. For photographers and vidoeographers, the advantage to having no bubbles can be very significant. With surrounding sealife, the standard scuba system is quite a disturbing noise-maker, with bubbles being exhaled into the water with each breath. Rebreathers often allow divers to get much closer to fish and other sealife, with provides for better photo and video opportunities.
Closed circuit rebreathers are much more technically advanced than the standard scuba unit (and if not properly maintained or operated, can be quite dangerous), but as with any technology, advances have been made to make them safe enough that they are now making more inroads into the general diving community and not just restricted to advance technical divers or professional photographers and filmmakers.
The SCUBA Show in Long Beach will be concluding today, just in time for a change to summer weather - which will bring out the local California divers. If you are a certified scuba diver anywhere in the world, I would suggest dusting off your gear, checking in with your local scuba dive store retailer, and getting back in the water. If you are a non-diver considering the sport, now may be a great time to get started. It's a great way to remind yourself as to what makes the oceans so special and why we need to dedicate our energies to preserving them for generations of divers to come.