Editors note: This year we chose to give two overall best in show awards. One for products now shipping and one for products coming soon. The main factor that we use for choosing best in show is our judgment that it the product is revolutionary and will make a change in the dive industry or a major sector of the dive industry.
BEST IN SHOW FOR PRODUCT (Products Coming Soon Category)
Integrated Silicone Seal System (I.S.S.S) | by WaterProof and Si Tech
These two creative Swedish dive equipment manufacturers, WaterProof and Si Tech collaborated to make a revolutionary new seal system that will improve the lives of dry suit divers and save money to boot. If not for one small problem – you cannot glue silicon to the suit – we would likely have had silicon seals on our drysuits for years. Enter Si Tech. Si Tech has a had a quick connect ring systems that attach to the suit arms for years. Like DUI’s Zip Seals, they allow you change your wrist seals, without glue, on the fly. Now Si Tech has designed a flexible neck ring, "Neck Tite" ring system to do the same for the neck seal.
Even at first thought, silicone drysuit seals make perfect sense to divers. They are extremely stretchable (40% more than latex), very durable, eliminate the latex allergy problem, require no maintenance, are naturally slick (no powder needed), very comfortable (no numb thumbs) and easy to doff and don. Everyone that saw them wanted a set, "right now!" We stretched and poked at them with sharp finger nails (see video) and they are remarkably tough. They should have a much longer life than any latex seal. We wonder if dive shops are going to be reluctant to promote them in fear of losing replacement business.
The only question that people consistently asked is, "is the neck ring going to be comfortable to wear." This is an especially pertinent question for Whites Fusion drysuit divers. The fusion is so flexible that anything added, like this neck ring, could easily be noticed and reduce comfort. I know that I can tell the difference from a DUI drysuit with a zip neck seal and one without the zip neck seal. However the payoff of having the silicone seal would be worth a little loss in comfort.
The product is promised by February 2010 at a price close to current latex seal price.
BEST IN SHOW FOR PRODUCT (Products Shipping Now Category)
The Vindicator Safety Valve Handle | by Scuba Stik
What does the dive master do just before you jump of the boat? What does your buddy do just before you enter the water? Grab your tank valve and check to make sure it is fully open. There have been many dive incidents, accidents and even deaths due to a valve that was only partially open.
The Vindicatory Safety Valve Hand by Scuba Stik, clearly shows full red when it is off and green when it is fully on. In between the green ring progressively hides the red ring to indicate the degree the valve is open or closed. It is a simple, elegant and "why didn’t I think of that" solution.
Some dive shop owners we interviewed felt we were going out on a thin limb giving this product a best of show. All agreed it is a creative innovation but a few thought it was a bit more gimmicky that valuable. We will have see which opinion prevails.
Being red-green colorblind I had to ask what to do if I had trouble seeing the colors. The inventor, Ed Davis, said that was easy, just drill holes in the outer ring and look for the dots to be empty or full.
At the show we noticed that XS Scuba was displaying a similar valve handle on their new tanks. It turns out that the XS Scuba lawyer advised them that the product “would likely not be patentable.” So they made some themselves. However, Ed Davis of Scuba Stik had other advice from his lawyers and did apply for a patent and expects that it will be fully approved shortly. We talked with him about it and later on our way back to XS Scuba booth we happened upon a heated conversation between Ed and Mike Piantoni of XS Scuba. After a bit of back and forth they cooled down and came to an agreement to work out reasonable licensing terms when the patent is finalized.
Shop owner’s to whom we showed the valve found it a creative solution but not were not as sure as us that it will be a hit.