SITA Show 2011: a good year

Dive industry get-together at time of cautious optimism

Author: Pat
5th February 2012

If there was one word in the air that kept getting recycled at the UK Dive Trade Show, it had to be ‘rebreather.’

In the current climate, the industry believes the CCR offers new hope for sales growth.

Organised by the Scuba Industries Trade Association (SITA), last weekend’s show was a get together for professionals rather than the public at large. That encompasses a wide variety of disciplines, ranging from manufacturers, retailers, agencies and even explorers. Business people first and foremost, but unified by a passion for diving.

This was no NEC: the setting was a much more modest hotel and conference centre near Leamington Spa. The venue may have been small but the names were not, and such big hitters as Suunto, Typhoon, Scubapro, Apeks/Aqualung, Atomic Aquatics and Poseidon were all in attendance.

the rebreather has finally come of age

Several pleasurable hours were whiled away walking and talking. And the message that came across from several sources was a feeling that the rebreather had finally come of age.

Despite my relative ignorance of CCRs, Simon from Poseidon’s enthusiasm for the Discovery Mk6 rebreather was infectious. This recreational unit is the Swedish company’s first… nay, the world’s first, and one he accepted had been “a big risk.” To give you an idea how clever these things are, switch the unit on and it performs something like 57 checks. Only once these are completed successfully will it allow you to go diving. Ignore the checks and jump in anyway, and the mk6 will still boot up for diving with the best power/diluent left available, whilst physically ‘shaking’ the mouthpiece and flashing head-up display warnings. Oh, with a flashing strobe on the rear to warn your buddy.

Simon contends that with such electronic wizardry, this CCR can arguably be considered safer than open circuit.

Later I bump into Ian Forster, who owns Gildenburgh and Dosthill, although those are the least of his achievements. Ian’s a PADI Course Director and Instructor Trainer, used to dive with Billy Deans and was an early CCR adopter. It’s an astonishing CV but he’s nowhere near done, yet – the latest project is a PADI-approved series of Introduction to Rebreather courses using the Poseidon mk6. At just 250 quid for each progression (18, 30 and 40 metres), this is a bargain way to discover the Discovery he contends. Very tempting indeed.

Also at the show is US brand Hollis Gear, Oceanic’s technical offshoot, with its new Explorer SCCR. This one’s built under licence from VR Technology in the UK, but comes in a swish white box that belongs on a Ghostbuster’s back. Not hard to see this one appealing to techies, although it’s actually for recreational depths.

…and that really was the message coming through: the dive industry needs new products and disciplines to keep divers interested, and rebreathers are seen as the way to do it. PADI’s new CCR qualification could be about to tip the balance.

The SITA Show was no just about ‘things’ but people too, and a rolling roster of talks and presentations stretched from Margaret Baldwin on BSAC’s new snorkel qualifications to Neal Pollock of DAN on gas physiology. Come the evening, hair was let down to a meal and drinks, with quiz, awards, and a rather sublime bit of footage from Doug Allen shot in the Antarctic.

Massive thanks to Roz Lunn at The Underwater Marketing Company for organising a great show.



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