Welcome to Submerged Nation Education.
Here you will find guided training specifically designed to maximise your knowledge in products and sales. Each area contains information that will help you deliver an improved experience when providing sales guidance or product training to your customers.
Introduction to Sales Training Guide
“There’s a fundamental truth to our nature, Man must explore …”
-David R Scott, Commander of the Apollo 15 lunar landing mission
Welcome to the sales training guide for the AUP Academy. This guide is designed to help you assist divers get the most out of their diving, and to help them continue exploring the underwater world. The aim of this course is to give you the information and confidence you need to help lead customers in the right direction for their diving needs. Of those that take this course, many are already dive professionals, either as a divemaster or instructor. Others may not have a recognised training title earned, but should realise that customers who work with them at a dive facility would consider any employee a dive professional. Regardless of whether a person has completed a professional dive course or not, the goal of this guide is to equip the reader with the knowledge and skill required to help the needs of divers coming through the door.
What this guide does not intend to do is delve deeply into the sales process. The topic of sales encompasses entire books, university courses, and studies. This course will quickly cover the sales process, but does not try to teach the reader how to coerce or convince a customer into purchasing something they do not need. What this guide does hope to achieve is to challenge your conception of what the sales process is. We hope to give you a goal you will also find fulfilling.
Due to the lack of sales training emphasis in professional diving courses, there are sometimes misconceptions by those who have completed the course, creating a clear designation between the shop, the classroom, and the boat. If you were to take a university course on sales today, you would likely find that there is a “holistic” view on sales. That doesn’t mean that the sale should happen in a church, but that the sales process encompasses all elements of the customer’s experience. How someone’s dive course goes, how someone’s dive trip proceeds, and how someone views the organisation as a whole will impact whether that person wants to support that business or not. It is important to realise that whatever your role is in the company, you are essentially an ambassador for the brand of the company.
Whilst everyone who works in a dive shop may not be an instructor, we encourage the reader to view the dive shop as an extension of the classroom. Here you can give knowledge to those coming in the door seeking solutions to their needs. Those needs may not necessarily be equipment, but perhaps further training. The #1 goal for any customer coming in the door should likely be this:
“What is the best way we can help this person continue (or begin) to enjoy diving?”
By working toward this goal, we can promote the sport, the environment, the customer, and future sales of equipment, training, charters, and trips.
The Retail Sales Process
Below is a visual for the retail sales process. You have likely been in this process before, either as a customer or a seller, even if unknowingly. We will use this process to break down the engagement, with important points to keep in mind. Much of this you may find comes naturally, especially with regular customers, but hopefully you will glean something from this overview, and at least be conscious of the process which is unfolding each and every time an interaction is being made.
Any time a person walks into the door, or phones the shop, you are engaging with a customer. Even if you are on the boat or in the classroom, there is engagement going on. For the purposes of this course, we will focus on face-to-face customer engagement in the shop. Here are some tips for engagement
- Aim to greet any customers within 15 seconds of them entering
- Even if this is to just acknowledge that they are there, this is important. If you are working with another customer or even on the phone, just let them know that you will be right with them and that they can make themselves comfortable. By greeting them, you are telling them they are important, and everyone wants to feel important
- Get from behind the counter when possible/appropriate
- By coming from behind the counter, you are making yourself more friendly and mobile. People are less likely to ask questions if they feel they might be inconveniencing you, and you can more more naturally to the appropriate equipment
- Try to be charming; avoid being boring
- Avoid asking generic questions, such as “Is there anything I can help you with?” They will say no if you ask, when the answer is probably yes. Better intro questions are more topical, such as “So, are you here to get ready for your next dive?”. Feel free to use humour here, but make sure it’s workplace appropriate. Even if a joke fails to get a laugh, at least you’re not being boring, and the customer will recognise you are attempting to get some fun engagement going.
After you have determined why they are in, you can then try to relate with that customer. For instance, you can trade stories and knowledge about areas they are planning to dive, or if they have brought up a product specifically, you can begin to discuss the product’s benefits. Also, through discussion and asking questions, this can allow you to determine the customer’s needs.
This also gives you an opportunity to deliver add-ons. Those add-ons aren’t just pieces of dive gear – you can also introduce courses, trips, and club events. The great thing about dive shops is that they are a combination of a tool shop and a toy store. It’s a place where one can easily “find what they weren’t looking for”, and you can help them find it.
If someone raises a concern or objection with a product you are offering, this is a great opportunity to either educate the customer on why their perceived problem may not be one, or find an alternative. Some concerns can be unfounded or easily solved/prevented. Below are some guidelines:
- Sometimes it’s not in what you tell someone, but in what you ask them. There are people who like to talk more than they listen, and you can tell them the answer until you are blue in the face, but if you ask them questions that lead to that answer, they will likely absorb that information more readily and more acceptingly.
- Ask open-ended questions about concerns you are not clear on. By asking questions that don’t have a yes/no answer, the customer is forced to elaborate more, which can give you a fuller picture of their needs and how to address them.
- Think of yourself as less of a salesperson, and more as an instructor educating (even if you aren’t one)
- This is also an opportunity for add-ons
All products are loaded with features and benefits. The benefits are what you should focus on, as this is what the diver will be most interested in. Also, many divers may not realise the benefits of certain features, or perhaps just how beneficial they can be.
When presenting solutions to problems, (let’s say which BCD to buy, for example) narrow down the choices for the customer based on the questions you asked them, and aim for offering them three options.
- By giving them a “good, better, best” option to them, you give them flexibility in their budget
- You can demonstrate how features may differ on various models more clearly.
- Also, this justifies different prices, making it less likely for someone to ask for a discount.
- This is also a non-aggressive way to jump the question of “are you buying it or not” to “which one will you buy”.
It is a good idea to contextualise benefits. It can be easy to think we (the dive shop) are selling dive gear, but we’re not. We’re selling diving. The reason the person is buying the gear is to participate in the dive. By talking about how the gear can be used on a dive, possibly even in a story-like narrative, the reasons for why the diver should have that equipment can be made clearer.
If a package, you can show how much they are likely to save.
You can also demonstrate value through emphasizing the savings on paying less/no rental and knowing the product intimately/being more comfortable.
If your company offers financing, you can show the monthly/weekly cost of financing a more expensive item, such as a package, as this can be a more digestible amount than a total.
One value that should not be overlooked with hardware is Oceanic’s, Hollis’, and OceanPro’s Free Parts for Life program, which saves a consumer a bundle when properly maintained. This will be covered more in the hardware sections of this guide, but should not be dismissed.
Don’t feel like you have to force a close. Just let it happen naturally. Continue this process through conversation. Ask more questions to ensure all needs are met. This might just be another place you can offer an appropriate add-on. Customers will typically offer to close the sale themselves, so don’t worry about this part too much.
- If offering complimentary items or services (such as sea drops or mask treatment), offer them now
- If hardware, you can offer to register the products for them
- Make sure to get contact details for every customer
- Use this as an opportunity to push another key product (ex: overseas trip or club membership)
There are extras, such as registering products for customers, that cost the dive shop nothing, but give value to the transaction. A popular one is treating mask lenses for customers.
Treating Mask Lenses
It would be a company choice whether to sell the customer Sea Buff or to have some on hand for this, but you simply remove the protective silicone coating on the inside of the mask lenses. What this does is helps the mask from fogging up. If not done, mask fogging can be a problem, even with defog. It is important to note that this does not need to be done for corrective lenses or those masks with anti-reflective coatings (ARC), and doing this procedure could possibly harm the mask. Essentially, you rub the Sea Buff against the lenses for a long while (5 mins) to remove the silicone coating, and then rinse. It is possible to burn off this coating, but AUP does not recommend this. You can damage the mask skirt, a black soot/smoke gets caught between the mask skirt and lenses (particularly noticeable on clear masks), and is simply unnecessary.
Extras given for free
Depending on the authority you have at a dive shop, you may be able to discount product, price match, or give free extras. If you do have this ability, it is typically better to give something away for free that would match the discount you might give otherwise. For instance, rather than giving 10% off a mask, it will cost the company less to give away a $15 mask tamer. The consumer sees it as the same value of $15, but it only costs the dive shop the cost of the mask tamer (much less than $15).
Getting comfortable in this role may take some time, but being an employee of the dive shop already gives you the authority to help these people with their issues. You should have confidence in that authority. With the features and benefits covered in the following sections, you will have the confidence in your knowledge to help these divers get the most out of their hobby. Remember, it’s much easier to work with repeat customers than it is to continually get new customers, so focus on building trust and relationships. That can be best done by putting the diver’s needs first:
By addressing their needs the best way we can to foster their passion for diving.
Let’s use the dive shop as another way to keep these divers exploring.
What type of diving will the regulators be used for?
Regulators can be a lot like cameras – people many times buy features they will never use. That being said, when dealing in the use of life support equipment, it is better to have something extra than something that isn’t enough. For most people, a basic regulator will do, as basic recreational diving is all that they will mainly do. However, if they are technical diving, or have dive preferences outside the norm, they may need equipment a bit more specialised. It is also to remind people to think of what they may “grow in to”. Scuba equipment isn’t exactly cheap, but it is more affordable than ever, and many times the reg with extra features may not be all that more expensive than one that lacks those extras.
Let’s remember what the different parts of the regulator do. The 1st stage is the first place the air hits when leaving the tank. It changes the high pressure to low pressure. The 2nd stage, then changes the low pressure to ambient pressure and delivers it to the diver via a demand valve and diaphragm. There are high pressure ports and low pressure ports on the 1st stage to accommodate 2nd stages, occys, BCD inflator hoses, Drysuit hoses, gauges, and transmitters.
Piston vs. Diaphragm
This basically addresses how the 1st stage functions. For most, this won’t matter a terrible amount. It has more of an impact on those who service the regulators, which is why many rental regs are basic unbalanced piston regs. In a piston reg, there is a piston on a spring which essentially opens and closes the pressure from the tank. In some regulators, there is an additional spring system that works against the main piston spring system. In a diaphragm 1st stage, there is an internal diaphragm. This typically adds parts to a 1st stage.
Balanced vs. Unbalanced
All regulators were initially unbalanced, and now we see some more complex regulators which are now “balanced”. What this means is that within the 1st stage, the high pressure chamber and low pressure chamber are balanced against each other, and what this does is makes a “low” tank breathe just as easily as a “full” tank. Balanced regulators will also breathe more effectively at depth than unbalanced regulators, but these noticeable benefits are typically outside the limits of recreational divers. There are some regulators now marketed as “overbalanced” or “hyperbalanced”, which make breathing at depth even easier than at the surface, but again, this is a bit hard to notice for the average diver.
2nd stages can be balanced, too. Essentially, some of the intermediate pressure from the hose is diverted to a chamber where it can “push back” against the pressure from the hose/1st stage. This makes for less breathing effort when getting the piston in the 2nd stage to open with an inhalation.
Dynamic Adjustment/Inhalation Control vs. None
On some higher-end regulators, dynamic adjustment knobs can be found on the side of the second stage. These basically control the “cracking effort” of a regulator, and the ease of breathing. For some, they like to turn this down to “feel” their breathing more. Others, like to have a greater free flow. Bear in mind that this adjustment does not affect how quickly one breathes through a tank, or at least not measurably. If diving in a heavy current, this can help the regulator not free flow if the current is pushing against the purge button of the second stage.
Venturi Control vs. None
Some regulators come with a “dive” and “pre-dive” switch, or a venturi switch. Some are marked “on/off”, others “+/-“, and a few even automatically adjust (Automatic Flow Control), but the principles behind them are basically all the same. This knob alters the airflow inside the regulator, making breathing easier or more difficult (or giving the diver the ability to regulate “cracking effort”). This difference is more noticeable at depth. Essentially, how it works, is when the diver inhales normally, the diaphragm on the 2nd stage flexes toward them. That initiates the airflow into the regulator. The same air they are breathing creates a vacuum, helping to maintain the diaphragm flexed toward the diver. That force required to hold the diaphragm flexed and keep the valve open is partly supplied by the diver’s inhalation, and partly by the Venturi Effect of the fast-flowing air. With the Venturi valve, there is less “cracking effort” to begin the air flow, meaning the diver only has to slightly inhale to begin air flow.
Now, why not just have the regulator continually on “dive”? Because the “cracking effort” is so much lower, the regulator more easily freeflows. For instance, when on the surface of the water, and the mouthpiece points toward the surface, occasionally the water pressure will be enough to make the regulator freeflow. Having the regulator set to “pre-dive” helps prevent this.
Environmental Seal vs. None
An environmental seal can be found in a 1st stage. It does just what the name implies. It seals that chamber of the 1st stage from the environment, denying water entry where it would otherwise go.
A benefit one gets with an environmental seal is that it typically allows the regulator to dive at lower temperatures, allowing them to be capable of cold water diving (check each brand and model, just to be sure). Cold water diving, sometimes called extreme water diving, is typically anything below 10 degrees. Be aware that this diving takes special training, as improper use of equipment can still cause freeze-ups, especially out of the water.
Another benefit is that by denying the water entry into that chamber, there is also less chance of any suspended particles coming to rest on the inside of the regulator. The reason this is worth noting is that those suspended particles can be left saturated with salt water, and that salt water can then lead to internal corrosion. That being said, it should be noted that proper maintenance and servicing of equipment does a greater amount of prevention than solely relying on an environmental seal
Number and Placement of Ports
The typical minimum port number for a 1st stage is 1 HP port (High Pressure) and 4 LP ports (Low Pressure), but some divers may want more. For instance, a diver with a transmitter may also want to run a SPG, thus needing two. Dry suit divers will have an extra LP Quick Disconnect Hose. If used as a “drop tank”, more 2nd stages may want to be put on the 1st stage.
Some 1st stages have a swivel between the HP and LP ports. This can help a diver position their LP hoses the way they want.
Other 1st stages have a LP port at the “top” or “bottom” of the regulator This typically is a higher-performing port, as the air doesn’t have to make a 90 degree turn like the other ports. Many side mount and technical divers like this for that reason.
2nd Stage Swivels
Some Second stages come with a swivel. The advantage of this is that there is less “jaw fatigue” for the diver, as the regulator generally sits in the diver’s mouth more comfortably. It is worth noting that these contain o-rings, so they need to be serviced with the regulator. If they typically come with that particular 2nd stage, those parts will likely be in the service kit for the regulator anyway.
2nd Stage Left-Handed Hose Configuration
Some 2nd stages can be converted from right-handed to left-handed. What this means is that the hoses can come into the left side of the regulator rather than the right. This isn’t so much for left-handed divers, but for sidemount and technical divers.
Special 2nd Stages
Some 2nd stages are unique, such as side breathers or those with extended exhaust tees. These can offer advantages in technical/sidemount diving, and can offer other benefits, such as exhaust bubbles being out of the way for photographers.
Nitrox Ready/O2 Clean/Air Specialty Regs
A vast majority of modern regulators are “nitrox ready”, in that they can safely deliver air with 02 consisting of up to 40% of the blend. However, because O2 is combustible, certain build and material specifications are required for regulators when using +40% 02 blends. They also have different servicing requirements.
Most divers are adventurous people, and therefore, will dive when travelling. Today, airlines are becoming more strict than ever on weight allowances, and therefore, the weight of the regulator set must be considered. Some regulators perform well, but can be quite heavy. Others might be lighter, but not as robust because of lighter, weaker materials. Titanium regulators offer toughness and are light-weight, but demand a premium. Finding out where a diver sees themselves diving most will also help positively influence their decision.
Warranties are important to factor in, as some may be for a couple years, others can be limited lifetime warranties. This can be important to the diver, and can influence their decision
Some regulators are more expensive to service than others. Some regulators are harder to find qualified technicians for. Others have longer service interval requirements. There are also some that offer “free parts for life”, making the service kits essentially free, provided the regulator is kept up to service. These are important to consider, as the ongoing upkeep costs of some regulators can make them much less attractive than others. Also, if the diver is somewhere remote, having a brand that is hard to service may be impractical.
Buoyancy control devices come in many different forms, with some suited for different types of diving better than others. This guide is designed to help you understand the different features and benefits offered, and who these BCDs cater for. There is no “one size fits all” for BCDs, as these need to be comfortable and fit well, but also meet the demands of the user. As we explore the differences in these BCDs, keep in mind that many divers, especially those just buying their first hardware set, may only be accounting for their current needs as a diver, and not what they may potentially be doing. Having a BCD that can “grow with them as a diver” can help keep them as active divers longer, and encourage them to expose themselves to the different types of diving available to them.
Why Buy a BCD?
This is a question that many divers don’t seem to find the answer to. Many make it up to the level of instructor candidate before investing in their own hardware. If you are involved in open water courses, or any continuing education, it is a great time to address this question, even if not asked. The reason being, that there aren’t many divers who regret their BCD purchase, provided they purchased the right one to start with. Also, many divers may have already dismissed the idea, without being presented with the benefits.
1. You will be more comfortable and confident on a dive
Diving with gear that is comfortable can make or break a dive/experience. For those traveling, it can be frustrating to travel halfway around the world and pay $1000’s only to have their desired experience hindered, if not ruined. Whilst there is good rental equipment, there are some destinations that have rental equipment to simply “get by”. This equipment can be dated, worn, non-user friendly, built to last rather than for comfort, and basic. In establishments that aren’t as reputable, it can also be neglected, overdue for services or even broken. Whether diving locally or overseas, having one’s own BCD (that is right for them) will feel more natural to the user. It will fit, accessories are always in the same place, weighting and placement can be made with greater certainty, and the operation of the BCD is more instinctual.
2. Diving will be cheaper, and you will likely dive more often
Hiring a BCD typically costs each and every time one does it, and whilst that money may not seem like a huge cost in relation to either the dive itself or the cost of the BCD, it will add up. By having one’s own, the rental cost is eliminated. Also, if the diver lives in a place where shore diving is accessible, diving can cost as little as an air fill after they have their own equipment. Also, whether because one has already committed to the hobby subliminally through the purchase of their own equipment, they like diving so much that they would have bought their equipment anyway, or the diving is that much more affordable because they have their own equipment, the diver is likely to be that much more active then they have their own equipment.
It should be mentioned that there is a servicing cost to keeping a BCD, so the diver would need to be at least a little active to come ahead when considering rental vs. servicing costs.
3. The right equipment can help you become a better, more experienced diver
As mentioned before, one will likely dive more often when they have their own equipment. This will expose them to more experiences that they may have otherwise not had. Also, many divers may grow to the capability of their equipment. For instance, if their BCD is suitable for cave diving, they are likely to more seriously consider taking a cave diving course. They are also likely to see
Comfort and Fit
Comfort and fit are the most important elements to a BCD. If the BCD doesn’t fit properly, this device can even be potentially dangerous. Getting this right should be priority #1. Even if you are not a divemaster or instructor, and even though this person should hold a certification card, there is still a level of a certain “duty of care” when selling these to a consumer. Besides, we should all want to help these people get the most out of their underwater experience, and getting them into the right equipment does wonders.
There are BCDs tailored specifically for women. It should be noted that the difference is to meet a woman’s contours, especially where the shoulder straps come down in the front. For some women, these contours aren’t as pronounced as in others, and therefore this style of BCD may not be as appropriate for them. Whilst these can add a level of comfort and fit in some women, it will ultimately come down to each individual. Also, the female diver will want to consider what type of diving they see themselves doing, as many are a great choice for the recreational diver, but may be less appropriate for tec diving.
Sizing and Fitting a BCD
For many, traditional rental BCDs may be all that some divers are familiar with. It may also have been a while since they first became certified, so may have forgotten how to properly adjust a BCD to best fit them. Others may have never been properly shown how a BCD should be worn. A common mistake is to tighten the shoulder straps as tightly as possible. These should only be adjusted as needed to allow the waist strap to fall into the correct place. This is typically between the belly button and the torso. Some with a larger gut may find the waist strap (and cummerbund if on that model) is more comfortably worn further down, more like a belt. Divers need to remember that this also should not be made as tight as possible. If done so, and the BCD is a traditional jacket style, then the strap may become even tighter, leading to discomfort and even nausea. Also, many forget that most sternum straps are adjustable. It should be a sternum strap, not a throat choker. This also doesn’t need to be tightened as much as possible. Adjustments will likely need to be made in the water, as weight displacement changes, and with some BCDs, the straps may slightly loosen when saturated in the water. This shouldn’t affect sizing up a BCD in store, though.
As an experienced diver, you should be able to tell which size is most appropriate for the customer. If you have any doubts, it may be worthwhile to consult a colleague. It is worth noting that if a customer has doubts about your assessment, you can remind them that some brands (all of AUP brands) have a 30 day guarantee, where they could potentially switch the product out if they did find it truly unsuitable. Provided you have identified their needs and sized them properly, this switch will likely never occur, but if it does, AUP is committed to helping dive shops cater to their customers in this manner.
Jackets vs. Wings
Traditional BCDs inflate around the diver, in a “jacket style”, and let the diver sit up a bit more easily when fully inflated on the surface. This is typically what one finds in the rental range of dive shops, as there are quite a few surface skills that are required to be performed in an open water course. Because of this, most divers are more acquainted with this style than any other. They also typically have large pockets built in the sides which allow for storing, spare masks, SMBs, pocket masks, surface signalling devices, etc. for the dive. These can be great for recreational divers, as the diver is typically familiar with them.
Wings solely inflate on the back of the diver, and can come with round bladders called “donuts”, or U shaped bladders called “horseshoes”. These wings come with some advantages. Divers typically find they have greater control on the dive, with easier turning and pivoting. They also can release air more easily, as there aren’t as many curves/angles for bubbles to get caught on as they travel upward. The BCD can also have a greater longevity if/when the bladder is replaceable.
Wings with backplates can also cater to tec diving and can be more customisable (i.e. changing to accommodate for twin tanks). These BCDs can come with greater lift capacity, too. Some components, such as the backplate, can be changed out in many models. With backplates, a diver could choose a steel backplate for extra weight, thus eliminating some of the weight they would need to carry, or an aluminium backplate, for if they wanted to travel with the BCD, or dive in tropical water where not much weight is needed.
These BCDs do have some disadvantages, though. For instance, when these BCDs are fully inflated on the surface, a diver may find that their head is pushed forward into the water, rather than sitting upright. Some divers may be less comfortable with this at first, but it is good to remind divers that they will likely be under the water more than they are on the surface. And, if a surface swim is required, they will likely find it easier to swim backward, where this issue of pushing one’s face into the water is largely eliminated when positioned with legs kicking oneself backward on the surface. These BCDs can also lack pockets or integrated weights (explained further on), but many models either come with these features or are an optional upgrade.
There are some “hybrid” models, which combine both features, which then mix and match the benefits/drawbacks, but there will always be some give/take, all coming down to the preference of the diver.
Travel BCDs are typically lighter and more compact. Because of this, they sometimes sacrifice robustness or other features to accommodate for easier travel use. Many divers in landlocked locations or places where the water temperature is much cooler, may solely dive when travelling, and this can be a great option for them. Others may have this as a second BCD. These styles are typically less advisable for “local divers”, who dive at home regularly.
These BCDS are quite specialised, and many only cater for sidemount divers. This type of diving requires its own course, and is usually to facilitate some type of specialised diving, such as cave, tec, or wreck. Also, there are those that prefer it due to comfort, no weight on the back, and always having a second air source (i.e. solo or independent divers). This type of diving gives the diver a more horizontal profile, which can be great for swimming in between bedrock layers or through wreck confines. By having the versatility to move dive tanks more freely, tighter spots can be travelled through.
There are differences in models, which can be important even for sidemount courses. For instance, PADI requires that a diver has a dual bladder sidemount BCD should they take this course, but SDI/TDI only requires a single bladder if the diver is diving a drysuit.
Some BCDs cater for both sidemount and traditional, such as the SMS 100, whereas others, such as the Katana/Katana II are built solely for sidemount and are more streamlined, reducing drag, for even easier movement in confined spaces. Many have inflator hoses positioned differently than traditional BCDs, as the orientation of air within the BCD and the manoeuvrability a diver has are different for this type of diving. All come with D rings positioned for where tanks will be attached, with some more suited for multiple tanks/steel tanks as they have greater lift capacity. Other accessories can also be added, such as butt plates or pouches.
Note: Many wing BCDs can be modified for sidemount, but this generally shouldn’t be recommended for someone just starting out. There can be liabilities, errors in judgment/placement, and the BCD can be compromised.
Features found in BCDs and their benefits
Part of the reason there is so much choice in the marketplace is because of the innovation implemented into the BCDs of today. In addition to comfort and style, the extra features and benefits offered suit different preferences of how to dive. We will be covering weight systems, inflators, cam band styles, mounts/D rings, bungee systems, and strap designs.
Integrated Weight Systems
For many, weight belts can be awkward, uncomfortable, and impractical. To reduce or eliminate this issue, BCD manufacturers have developed different weight systems integrated into the BCD. To ensure safe diving practices were maintained, these systems also needed to be “quick release”. There are multiple types of systems, with most utilising “weight pockets” secured in a pocket via a locking mechanism. Others have buckles which need to be pressed (and are arguably not quick release).
Some have a single hand ripcord system for the user to drop their weights (Zeagle). Whilst this type of system does require for the ripcord to be rethreaded, which can take a couple minutes to do, the reality is that the diver should only be dropping their weights in an emergency The likelihood of this being required is extremely low provided the diver is properly trained. The advantage of these systems is that they eliminate the risk of the diver not properly securing their weight pocket. Not only can losing a weight pocket ruin a dive, it will cost the diver money to replace and can be potentially dangerous.
Many come with smaller weight pockets in the back, sometimes located on the cam band.
Although not technically a ‘weight system’, many wings have the option of having a steel backplate, which allows the user to carry less dumpable weight, making for a more comfortable dive.
Side mount systems need to be configured differently with weight, as there is a different profile whilst diving, and many times, additional weight may not be needed. This is covered in the side mount course, and someone looking at one of theses systems will have any weighting issues addressed with their instructor.
Most BCDs typically use the traditional 2 button inflator attached to a corrugated hose. Some will differ with where they have their dumps for expelling the air. Most will have a dump valve at the bottom of the BCD, on the back side, to allow air to exit when the diver is inverted. Some have this on both the left and right side.
Others have a lever system built in to the side, controlling all dumps at once, with up and down controlling inflation/deflation. Some divers like this type of system, as they have to think less about their profile when descending. These systems can be less robust, though, as they are typically made of plastic, are attached to the bladder of the BCD, and the hose can potentially get caught (especially on a backwards entry roll), which can compromise the unit. They also require longer inflator hoses, which can complicate diving if needing to change to a different set of regulators.
As mentioned in the regulator section, second stages can be integrated into these inflator systems. This allows for one less hose off the first stage, and makes the diver more streamlined. These typically require a different hose than the typical low pressure quick disconnect hose, which can also complicate diving if needing to change to a different set of regulators.
Cam Bands (tank bands)
The standard Cam band will work for any diver, but there are some easier, more stable ones on the market. The standard cam band can be subject to some wobble. They may be harder to lock into place if the pulled strap isn’t lined up well enough with the strap around the tank, as it interferes with the buckle. The webbing can slightly expand when wet, loosening the hold on the tank, which is why it is best to wet the webbing first.
To address wobble, some BCDs have two cam bands. Others have cam bands designed to hold the tank in place more firmly
To address webbing interfering with the buckle mechanism, metal cam buckles have been introduced to eliminate webbing interference. With some of these models, just be careful that your fingers don’t interfere instead…
To address webbing expansion, some manufacturers have changed the material of the band completely. Atomic’s cam band system addresses all of these issues, as the ratcheting CAM-LOK tank band won’t expand/contract, is made to be a firm tank holder, and works much like snowboard bindings. This also eliminates any weaving of webbing through buckles.
This is fairly self-explanatory, but having the right ways to mount accessories can make diving easier. D rings allow for accessories to be easily clipped on to. D rings at the hip allow for gauges and/or SMBs to be clipped into place. Also, grommets in a BCD to mount your knife can be a great way to carry this tool, whilst remaining streamlined and not taking up any pocket space. It’s also more accessible. Just be sure to check grommet hole distance against your knife mounting system.
Although this will not make/break a dive, certain BCDs have bungee systems which create a more streamlined profile. For example, Oceanic’s Excursion BCD has bungees holding the wing more tightly to the diver’s body.
The traditional shoulder strap consists of a plastic adjustor that can either tighten or loosen the strap. Some of these come as an integrated buckle, others with buckles separate. This allows the diver to easily get out of the BCD if/when needed. Others have a swivel. This doesn’t affect the comfort of the BCD as much as it prevents the webbing from doubling over on itself in the adjustor buckle.
The waist strap typically has the larger buckle in the middle with D rings attached to the straps for easy tightening. Some have clips which allow the diver to tighten by pulling forward rather than outward, but work conceptually the same way.
BCDs can be made out of many materials, and here are a few of the most common found:
Nylon is a fabric which is woven from man-made fibres – think a type of sturdy woven plastic. One of the first commercial uses of nylon was in women’s stockings, which is why they’re still called that today. Nylon fabric has many uses, such as parachutes and tents. As it is a synthetic, there have been many different types of nylons produced over the years.
As the name would suggest, it is more resistant to fading. Many times, materials, and plastics in particular, fade due to UV exposure or aging. This type of nylon should have a much longer “unfaded” lifespan that other nylons.
This form was created by DuPont during World War II, with its original intended purpose being to protect aircraft personnel from shrapnel, bullets, and other ballistic impacts. In other words, it’s really tough. A big difference in this material is the weave, built for a high tear strength.
Cordura is a collection of fabric technologies, and can differ in the materials combined, but are usually made of nylon, and possibly blended with cotton or other natural fibres. Because of their tough abrasion resistance and high tear resistance, Cordura is used often in military and outdoor equipment intended for extended use (backpacks, tents, etc.)
What is Denier?
Pronounced “dhenieer”, this represents what fibre thread was used, and does not necessarily represent the strength, but the weight, or density, of the fabric. The higher the denier, the bigger the yarn, and the heavier the fabric. For instance, Cordura material made with the same denier as another material could be more abrasion resistant (and typically is) due to the weave and combination of materials. That being said, an item with 1680D Nylon/PU would have a greater tear resistance to a 1050D Nylon/PU
This is a patented material, marketed as “a living fabric”, as it stretches, flexes and conforms to your body. The material can stretch whilst remaining airtight as well. That makes for the ability to use a smaller air cell with the BCD’s bladder, creating less bulk and drag underwater while achieving a high volume of lift. This material can be found in the Excursion and the Bio-Lite BCDs
Double Laminated Polyurethane Coated Fabric
Found on the Atomic BC1, this is a custom matte finish fabric, which is incredibly tough and sheds water. The result is a BCD which is extremely durable, and practically dry when exiting the water. This is particularly helpful when watching weight for traveling.
Warranties are important to factor in, as some may be for a couple years, others can be limited lifetime warranties. This can be important to the diver, and can influence their decision.
The inflators of BCDs have elastomers within (the o-rings) which wear out/harden with time. These need to be replaced to keep the unit working properly. Also, dump valves need to be inspected from time to time, as well as the integrity of the bladder. It is important to remember that this is also a piece of safety equipment, and ensuring it continues to work properly is the best way to prevent dangerous situations from occurring. These typically cost less to service, and it is advisable to have serviced with one’s regulators, especially if using an occy/inflator combo (i.e. Air xs, Air2, SS1). There are also some, such as Oceanic, Hollis and OceanPro, that offer “free parts for life”, making the service kits essentially free, provided the BCD is kept up to service. Also, if the diver is somewhere remote, having a brand that is hard to service may be impractical, and therefore, other mainstream options should maybe be considered.
It can be easy to get bogged down into detail with BCDs, but remember that the principle concern is fit and comfort. If those two aren’t correct, the other features lose their value, as the diver will either not be able to or will choose not to dive.
Dive Computer Guide
Dive computers are powerful tools, and have grown in popularity to such an extent that they are practically a necessity. In some places, such as Queensland, they are, as it is a legal requirement to have one whilst diving. We will explore dive computers, their functionality, benefits to divers, and some of their differences in the guide that follows.
A Brief History of Dive Computers
Before dive computers existed, scuba divers relied on dive tables, calculating their allowable bottom time at predetermined depths. These tables also helped determine required surface interval time between multiple dives to achieve certain dive times at planned depths. These tables were typically used in conjunction with a dive watch. It is likely you may have learned how to use these tables in your open water course.
These tables have multiple drawbacks, though. Firstly, divers were “penalised” by dive tables, as they only accounted for a “square” profile, assuming the entire dive was at that maximum depth, not crediting the diver for shallower parts of the dive. Secondly, a diver would have no record of their maximum depth achieved. If there were an incident of DCS, there was not as much evidence to determine what exactly happened on the dive. Third, nitrox was a bit harder to use, as different percentages have different impacts on depths. Fourth, decompression stops were even harder to determine. Lastly, if a dive plan was not followed, there was no direction as to how a diver should best proceed.
With the introduction of dive computers, divers could quickly and more accurately determine nitrogen uptake and elimination in their bodies. This was done through microprocessors which read pressure tranducers, which then calculated bottom times, surface intervals, no fly times, safety stops and decompression stops required through the algorithms within the dive computer.
Dive computers have been continually evolving for +50 years. Divers today live in a privileged era, where their computers have a great range of capabilities, with many options available for the diver. Dive computers will give all no decompression limit (NDL) information needed, current depth, current dive time, ascent rates, and save your maximum depth and dive time in its history. Most have audible alarms. Some have an apnea or freedive mode.
Many are even able to calculate nitrox algorithms on blends up to 40%. This allows the diver to set the nitrox percentage before the dive to get the extra bottom time nitrox can give. It is important to note that this requires additional training for divers. They may want to acquire a dive computer that has this functionality if they are not nitrox certified so that they can “grow into their equipment”. The same can be said about any tec diving functionality.
Other various features, such as integrated digital compasses, can be found throughout different models.
We will explore the differences, and the various features/benefits.
Types of Dive Computers
These are your more basic option, and thus are typically more affordable. They show all the typical things you would find in a dive computer, but what they don’t show, is your air pressure. The diver must rely solely on their SPG (submersible pressure gauge). These are available in both wrist and console types.
Air Integrated via Hose
These units offer all the features of non-air integrated models, and show the diver their current PSI/Bar. The main advantage of this type of computer is that they can show the diver their air/gas time remaining. This is calculated based on the diver’s current depth, rate of breathing, and air available to give an estimated “Air Time Remaining” (ATR) figure in minutes.
These models typically offer larger displays, which make the figures easier to read. This can be a real benefit for anyone with any vision challenges (I.E. wearing a corrective lens mask, as they sometimes cater for distance, not what is near, or someone whose eyesight might not be as sharp as it once was).
Some models show a “Dive Time Remaining”, which is the lower figure of either your NDL or your ATR. This removes any confusion of how long a diver could/should stay down for.
You can see the value these features would have for a diver, which is why these and your wireless air integrated computers have increased in popularity since their inception.
Being in the position you are, you are likely a diver with some experience. If you haven’t worked with air integration before or have grown comfortable enough in your knowledge in air consumption, it can be easy to overlook how much peace of mind an ATR (air time remaining) figure can give a less experienced diver.
All divers starting out religiously monitor their air, fearing an out-of-air emergency. This wariness is only reinforced with all the out of air exercises an open water course contains. Also, many don’t know just how much of an impact depth may have on their air consumption. Having this as a number can give a diver a greater sense of security and understanding, making for a more enjoyable dive.
Wireless Air Integrated Computers (Transmitters)
These types of computers are typically a top-of-the-range product, having all the same features as the Air Integrated via Hose models, but using a transmitter to send the information wirelessly. This can reduce another hose, making the diver’s reg set-up more streamlined with less hoses, but many divers will choose to dive with an SPG as a backup for PSI/Bar indication. As they are wireless, they are worn on the wrist.
Console vs. Wrist
Consoles, being attached to the regulator set, offer some advantages. These are typically attached to the HP hose, either digitally reading the PSI/Bar, or in a “boot”, attached to an analog SPG (when non-air integrated). Compasses can also be on these units. For dive course gear and rental, they offer simplicity when managing inventory and when keeping track of profiles of students. New divers may like the familiarity of these units. Some experienced divers also like these set-ups, as they offer some simplicity.
Wrist computers come in a few different styles. The most popular is a watch style, which is more streamlined, can be worn as a watch for everyday purposes, and is smaller/more lightweight. There are also “puck” computers, which are dive computer modules which can either fit into the “boot” on the console or in a wrist strap “boot”. There are also larger display wrist computers, which typically have tec diving features, as the display is made big enough to monitor multiple tanks/multiple gasses at once.
Algorithms are intended to keep the risk of DCS to an acceptable level. These have continually evolved and validated over the years, and different models use different algorithms. Some dive computers even have multiple algorithms (Like Oceanic’s Dual Algorithm) for divers to choose from, should they want to be more or less conservative with their diving. Brands can differ substantially on their algorithms, especially when calculating the second dive for a diver, as surface intervals impact algorithms differently. For this reason, it is imperative that every diver have their own computer, and that the group or dive pair follow the most conservative computer to prevent risk and “lock out”. A dive computer will “lock out” a diver if they have “blown their profile”, such as when they skip a deco stop. Air integrated models use an algorithm to calculate air consumption rates for “ATR”, but when one refers to a dive computer’s algorithm, they are typically referencing the algorithm associated with theoretical nitrogen absorption.
It should be noted that the dive computer is working theoretically, everyone’s body and condition pre-dive effect their nitrogen in-gassing/off-gassing, and that multiple factors, such as BMI, hydration, level of exhaustion, and other physical factors impact how one’s body handles nitrogen accumulation. The level of exertion on the dive can also impact this factor. Every diver should read their dive computer manual before using it, and understand its limitations.
Some computers have a larger display, which some people may find easier to read. Also, some computers’ texts are sharper than others, such as those with dot matrix displays. There are others which have bigger “fonts” so they are easier to read. More are coming out with colour screens, making for a vibrant, easy-to-read display which helps denote different numbers, as well, and can serve as better warnings for different situations.
Digital compasses are available on some dive computers, and these have become more and more accurate over the years. Some even offer different “Norths” to work from, whether it be true north, magnetic north, or the ability to change hemispheres for correct calibration. These can work via 2 axis/3 axis full tilt or 3D digital functionality. These can be found in both wrist and console computers, and can make for one less piece of equipment for a diver to carry.
As these are digital items, they all need batteries to run them. Some are rechargeable, whilst others are not. If the battery is not rechargeable, then it is wise to find the cost of a battery change before. Some are user replaceable, whereas others may need to be sent away by a specialist to change. If user replaceable, this could cost as little as $5, whereas others which require a specialist may be +$100, and can put the diver in a bind if they are somewhere remote and their computer dies.
Battery life is also important, especially for rechargeable batteries. If a computer only has a battery life to last 10 dives, this can be a problem in remote locations or on liveaboards if the diver has no way to recharge the battery.
Downloading Dive Data
Having the ability to transfer dive data to computers can help divers analyse their profiles, track their dive history, and if there were a medical emergency, help decompression chambers and other medical staff decide on the best course of action. This can also help decrease the liability of dive guides and dive shops by having a record of dive history. The software associated with downloads can give great visual representations of depths, dive times, and help divers improve their skills and understanding. Measuring air consumption against water temperature, whilst analysing different thermal wear used, for instance, can help divers determine how to get the most out of their dives. Some computers can even measure a diver’s heart rate if they wanted to see how their air consumption was effected by their physical effort on the dive. There are some that even work via Bluetooth, removing the need for cables.
This can also be of value when the diver will exceed the built-in memory of the dive computer. Models vary on how many dives they can hold, and being able to download the data allows the diver to save a digital copy when the computer reaches its capacity.
These are digital pieces of equipment in a saltwater environment going under meters of pressure. This is a lot to ask of any piece of equipment, much less one with a circuit board. The product’s warranty can help give a diver some peace of mind that this piece of dive equipment will last for a decent amount of time, and also give a dive shop some greater recourse for a customer should something happen.
The right option will depend largely on the diver’s needs, and of course, their budget. Knowing the differences between models will empower you to help these divers get the most out of their diving.
Software is the most important equipment for a diver to have. A mask can make or break a dive, because if it doesn’t fit properly, the dive is only filled with problems. After all, we dive to explore and discover, and we need our vision to get the most out of our dive, and to be safe divers. Fins are our mobility, and having the right fins for the right situations is crucial. Snorkels are less vital for a successful dive, but can be viewed as a safety piece of equipment, which is why Queensland requires all divers to carry one. They can also be a useful tool if making a surface swim to a dive location or if needing to return to the boat or shore on the surface. Here we will go through the features and benefits of each, and how to fit a mask. Ask your AUP regional manager or company supervisor for extra guidance on fitting this equipment if anything here remains unclear.
This is arguably the most important section of this course because:
- Most divers start with purchasing this first – not having this right can prematurely end their time in the hobby
- Divers with inappropriate software can be a danger to themselves and other divers
- There are many more customers who purchase software than those who buy hardware. This is because:
- Some divers may actively dive with only their own software, as they may regularly travel, but can’t warrant the extra equipment with travel kgs, especially when having diving as only a fraction of their holidays/trips.
- Some might not feel they can afford hardware
- Many people can justify an investment in software as it can be used in snorkelling, too
- If a diver is only semi-active, they may not be able to justify the continual servicing costs of hardware
- This gear is often required to purchase by the dive shop for open water dive courses. If you are acting as the instructor on an open water course, it is important you go through the differences and benefits of this equipment. They may have inappropriate equipment, or in some cases, may have not acquired the equipment yet.
Different masks have different features, but remember that comfort and fit are most important. If the mask doesn’t fit properly, then no feature will be of any benefit to the diver.
Mask skirts can be made of different materials. The best is 100% silicone. Some cheaper masks are made with silitex or silicate. The issue with these materials is that they have plastic and other materials mixed in with the silicone to reduce manufacturing costs, and these items harden over time. The mask skirt will then lose its shape and be worthless to the diver. These non-silicone masks tend to yellow with age as well as they harden. Provided the mask is looked after, the skirt should last for years. Many divers have their original mask +10 years later, provided they stored it properly and took care of it.
Black or Clear?
Some divers prefer clear as this style lets more light through, feeling less claustrophobic. Black skirts are also popular, as they create a greater contrast of colours, stop the refraction of light at the surface, and don’t show grime nearly as much. It is entirely a personal choice, with other colours becoming available, too.
Mask lenses are stronger than normal glass due to the pressures the masks have to withstand. They are also tempered, which is a safety feature should the mask somehow break (ex: someone drops a tank on top of a mask).
Masks can be found with single lenses or dual lenses. If the diver needs corrective lenses, certain dual lens masks have those special lenses which can be fitted into the mask. Many freedivers prefer dual lens masks as many typically have a lower profile (meaning there is less of an airspace in the mask, making for easier equalising).
Some divers prefer single lens masks as they typically offer an uninterrupted field of view. There are also frameless masks, where the skirt essentially connects directly to the lenses, eliminating the need of a frame. These have a great field of vision, and are also a very low volume, making them a popular option for tec divers as spare masks.
There are Ultraclear Lenses available as well. These are typically made with glass which has had the irons pulled out, giving the diver a greater sense of true colour and letting more light through.
Certain masks, like Atomic, have an Anti-Reflective Coating, which allows more light to pass through the lens as it reduces the bounce-off of light from the lens. This multi-layer metal oxide coating process is applied to both sides of the UltraClear lenses, resulting in 98% light transmission.
Buckles and Straps
Most buckles are fairly standard, allowing the diver to loosen or tighten their mask with either tabs or buttons. Oceanic’s SureFit technology is a bit different, in that the buckles are built into the mask to create a better seal on the mask itself.
Most masks come with a standard silicone strap. The drawback to silicone straps is that they do break with time and wear, and that they can also get caught in the user’s hair. Strap tamers are available to either cover or replace these straps, but some masks, such as Oceanic’s Cyanea and Zeagle’s Scope Mono come with a “ski mask strap” design, where the tightness of the strap is on the strap itself, rather than controlled through the buckles. The advantage of this style is that once the tightness is set, the diver can typically leave it at that tightness. The strap also doesn’t get caught in the user’s hair. These typically have a snorkel loop built in as well. This can be a benefit in that the snorkel is always in the right place, with less issues with hair again. The drawback is that the snorkel is not easily removeable should the diver want to carry the snorkel somewhere else on the dive.
Whilst not used on the dive, snorkels can be useful tools for divers to have. Some sites require a surface swim, and using a snorkel can help conserve the diver’s air. If a diver surfaces away from the boat, they can swim back on the surface using the snorkel. Also, in an emergency, a snorkel can be an extremely useful thing to have. Snorkels vary in their features, and we will go over their differences.
Cheaper snorkels have built-in mouthpieces, whereas higher-quality snorkels have mouthpieces that are replaceable for longer use. Some of these mouthpieces have orthodontic grips. Others are larger or smaller for respective mouth sizes.
Many snorkels have splashguards, while others do not. Splashguards are designed to prevent water from getting into the snorkel. This can be done either through a vent system, or a dry-top, which has a bobber attached to a door.
Purges help clear the snorkel through the bottom or side, and are basically a one-way door. Having a purge allows for not having to push water all the way out the top, but only via that shorter distance. Some purges have covers, others don’t. Most purges are replaceable.
Some snorkels have detachable clips, allowing for easy removal and replacement of the snorkel on the diver’s mask strap. These are typically seen as superior to plain clips, which tend to get caught.
Atomic snorkels have a scupper valve, which is essentially an extra reservoir, with an extra “one way door” which works differently from a purge. This allows for easier clearing and breathing.
Some snorkels are made of silicone or another flexible material, which allows the snorkel to bend. The snorkel can then be more easily stored during a dive.
Different types of fins are suited for different types of diving, along with different types of divers. Below are the different features and benefits.
Full Foot vs. Open Heel
Full foot fins are designed to be used barefoot or with a sock. These can be great for traveling and tropical diving, as there is less weight and equipment. It is important to note that fins will “mold” to a person’s foot, and that sharing full foot fins can compromise the fin for the owner. If the fin gets stretched out, it may then not fit either person.
Freediving fins are full foot, and are designed for freediving and spearfishing. They have a much longer blade to achieve greater depths from the surface. They typically are not recommended for use with scuba.
Rubber fins are also full foot, and whilst good for swimming and snorkelling, they are unsuitable for diving, as they are positively buoyant, ruining a diver’s profile. They also typically don’t have a big fin blade surface, lacking power.
Open heel fins are designed to be used with a boot. These have a strap, which can be either rubber, a bungee, or spring. Rubber straps will perish over time, needing replacement. Bungees last much longer, with springs likely to last the longest. Both bungee and spring straps are typically considered much easier to get on and off. Some spring straps are adjustable, making them tighter or looser for the diver.
Open heel fins are great for tropical diving, cooler water diving, and shore diving. By diving with a boot, the diver has extra thermal protection, extra protection on the bottom of their feet, and the boot prevents any rubbing that could happen with full foot fins. Because of their versatility, these tend to be the most common used in scuba.
Blade Fin vs. Split Fin
Blade fins are your traditional fin which has a large blade to move water, and work best with a traditional full leg kick. As the diver kicks, the propulsion through the water is fanned out behind the diver. These fins provide power, but require extra effort to get that power. There is a slight differentiation between a paddle blade and a channel blade. Paddle blades tend to have a smoother, flatter surface, being more cost effective. Channel blades will sometimes have stiffer rails, with the biggest difference being the channels built into the fin, directing the water/thrust behind the diver. These channels vary in size, and are sometimes constructed of a different material than the main fin.
Split fins were inspired by the split tails of fish, and work best with small ankle “flutter kicks”. This is because the large rails on the sides channel the water more directly behind the diver, creating a more efficient kick. These fins can be great for people who have knee problems, as there is much less strain put on the knee. They can be less effective than a blade fin in a current, and the kicking style can get a bit getting used to. Sometimes speed of flutter kicks is more effective than large kicks used with blade fins. Some divers report more efficient air consumption on dives because they find themselves working less.
There are some fins that don’t fit into one category, as they borrow different properties from different technologies. For example, the Oceanic Manta Ray fin has a channelled blade, but with large softer channel, acting somewhat like a split fin in how it channels the water. That being said, the kick style is more traditional. It also has a smaller attachment between the foot pocket and the blade to reduce drag. Because of this design, it is hard to simply call it a blade when it is much more. The same can be said for other models of fins.
Blade stiffness effects the power the fin can give. The proper stiffness of a fin blade depends on the diver. Their fitness, ability level, and leg strength all impact which choice is right for them. For instance, a large 120 kg diver with a strong kick will require a stiffer blade than a new, small diver. If the blade is too stiff for the diver, then the fins will only wear the diver out. Alternatively, if the blade is not stiff enough, the diver may not get the thrust they desire.
The weight of fins doesn’t concern most divers, but can have a fairly large impact on a diver’s profile. Tec divers/cave divers are more concerned about their profiles, as a good profile is more crucial to their diving. Diving with a drysuit can also have an impact on which fins a diver might choose to wear, when the diver typically opts for a heavier fin.
There are certain fins, such as the Hollis F1 fins, which many drysuit divers prefer due to their extra weight. These also come in a form called the F1 LT, or F1 neutral, which weigh less for divers wanting something similar, but lighter.
Other fins, like the Oceanic Accel fin, are made to be light, for better travel use.
You will notice that most scuba fins are angled from the foot pocket. The reason for this is that if you imagine a person lying on their stomach and then look at their feet, the foot never comes parallel to the leg. By angling the fin blade down from the foot, the fin is more streamlined in the water with the diver’s profile.
Helping divers get this right will allow them to enjoy the sport so much more than if they get this wrong. Also, when divers have their own equipment- and the proper equipment- they tend to dive more.
Thermal Wear Guide
Wearing the right thermal wear is crucial for comfort and safety. Ensuring divers have the correct thermal wear helps them dive longer and more often. This section explores the different solutions and will help you direct divers to the best options available to suit their needs. We’ll start from least effective to most.
Rashies and stinger suits typically don’t offer thermal protection, but only UV protection, stinger protection, and can protect from slight bumps and abrasions. These are fine for water which is 27°+. OceanPro’s stinger suit has 50+ UV protection. This is better than some which let more light in through the materials. As it is a stinger suit, hood and gloves are attached to cover the most skin area. This is so the jellyfish’s stinging tentacles have minimal skin it can come into contact with. If it touches the lycra, the diver is protected against any sting. This is why many dive vessels operating in the northern warmer waters of Australia require these suits to be worn during irukandji season, from October to May. The suits protect against inconvenient stings, but also the deadly ones from Irukandji and box jellyfish.
Enth Degree is an evolution of different thermal and active technologies. The main fabric materials are Fernotherm 3, Activflex, Coolvent, and Q-Dry. These can be used solely for diving in warmer locations, and some as underlayers in colder climates. Enth Degree garments come in various models, with many different tops which can be accompanied with pants or shorts (more popular with stand up paddlers), full body suits, or as full wetsuits. The product offers flexibility in sizing when pairing up tops and bottoms, and gives the diver a greater range of dive environments when coupled with other thermal protection.
A great advantage to the Enth Degree garments (excluding those with neoprene) is that they are neutrally buoyant, meaning the diver doesn’t need to add weight to their dive for the extra thermal protection.
Fernotherm 3 is made of three layers, hence the 3. Its outer layer is a performance-woven nylon lycra with water repellent treatment. This material facilitates ease of movement, fast water run-off, quick drying, and anti-windchill. It also provides a UV protection of 50+
The middle layer is a windproof, breathable polyurethane membrane adhered with an advanced dot lamination technique for optimum flexibility. This material wicks cool moisture away from the body on the surface when dry. It traps warm water against the skin when wet. This layer also stops wind-chill, especially helpful when boat diving.
The inner layer is a 385 g/m2 soft-touch fleece, offering superior comfort against the skin. Its moisture-wicking characteristic and thermal heat retention properties will keep the user warm, either when wet or dry.
To give a wetsuit warmth equivalent, this would keep a diver about as warm as a 2-3 mm wetsuit. When wearing as an undergarment with a wetsuit, this is practically adding an extra 2 mm to the wetsuit, extending the range of that suit. Because these don’t need extra weight for the dive but add extra warmth, dry relatively quickly, and are relatively light, these are great for travel. A diver may be more inclined to have this not only as a thermal layer, but also as a barrier between themselves and a rental wetsuit at overseas locations, as rental wetsuits tend to have a reputation.
This is a 240 g/m2 ridge weave brushed nylon lycra with UV 50+ treatment, providing the ultimate 4 way freedom of movement, controlled core temperature regulation, and soft touch anti-chaffing.
This material is found most often in the arms where a user is more active. These tops are great for kayaking, sailing, stand up paddleboarding, kitesurfing, and windsurfing where there is more upper torso movement. They are also effective for diving, as some models have fernotherm in the chest, to keep the user’s core warm.
This material is more suitable for on the surface, possibly during a surface interval. This is a 185 g/m2 channel flow weave polyester lycra with water repellent, UV 50+ treatment, and extreme breathability. Channel flow weave allows any water to quickly pass through the material, achieving incredibly quick drying times.
This is also a 3 layer material, but is typically found within a wetsuit, below a neoprene layer. The outer layer is made of Neospan, a super stretch abrasion resistant lining that facilitates ease of movement and ensures the external longevity of garments.
The middle layer is lightweight expanded “S Foam” that is soft to the touch, light to wear, and offers high level stretch characteristics, ensuring maximum flexibility and function during high intensity performance.
The inner layer is a custom designed 200g/m2 Quickdry fleece constructed from a proprietory water repellent fibre, coupled with a strategic fast water flow pattern design, enabling “dry to the touch” times within 10 minutes of full saturation.
Wetsuits generally come in one of three thicknesses 3, 5 and 7 mm. The thicker they are, the more insulation, but the less mobility. The most important factor here is fit. If it doesn’t fit properly, it won’t work properly. These are designed to trap the water between the diver and the wetsuit, allowing the diver’s body heat to heat the water, and insulate the diver. If the water can escape, then the body can’t heat that water, making for no insulation. Some water movement might be okay, but still compromises the effectiveness of the suit. Below is a general guide, as people feel the cold differently, but this should help you size up what will be appropriate for a diver.
If someone particularly feels the cold, a possible option rather than a thicker wetsuit may be an underlayer (such as Enth Degree) which will be covered later
One must not discount the difference hoods, gloves and socks can make, as they can go a long way in keeping a diver warm. These will also be covered later
22°-28° is best for 3 mm
15°-25° can be recommended for 5 mm
10°-18° is a good range for 7mm
Thermal wear can be important for snorkelling, too. As this is most popular in more tropical regions, 3 mm suits are typically the most popular. All wetsuits add buoyancy, so it allows the snorkeller to stay on the surface more easily, but they may need to weight themselves to gain extra depth. This should only be done after some training, to avoid any shallow water blackout. 3mm suits are typically more affordable, such as OceanPro’s Orbit and Iluka steamers (another word for wetsuits). These come in “shorties” as well, where the arms and legs are shorter. These can give the user more range of motion when wearing less neoprene, but reduces the thermal insulation the diver has in those areas. There are also youth wetsuits available, too, such as the grommet and nippa steamers by OceanPro.
Remember that temperature changes with depth, generally getting colder the further one goes down. In most cases, you could experience a 1 degree drop for every 10 meters or so. Some areas, such as Bali, have deep water upwells, which can drop the temperature from ~25° to ~16° in the matter of 10-20 meters. Thermoclines can also have larger differences in certain areas. Encourage divers to research their destination and its seasonal variances, and know what your market demands. Because 5 mm offers the widest range and is in the middle offering some versatility, it tends to be the most popular.
7 mm wetsuits should fit particularly well around the cuffs and ankles, as that is where most water can get in/out, making the seals especially important. Encourage the diver to cover these areas with gloves, boots, and/or hoods, to help restrict the movement of water.
What separates a diving wetsuit from any other wetsuit?
Suits made for diving can handle compression at depth much better than other wetsuits. Some surfing and other watersports wetsuits can sacrifice this thermal property, using a cheaper, possibly more flexible, neoprene. As they are only meant to be used on the surface, the manufacturer can make the suit more cost-effective with the cheaper materials. For instance, OceanPro’s Rebel wetsuits have a greater “crush resistance”, continually insulating at depth.
A flush guard under the zipper can stop or slow water from “flushing” in through the teeth. The OceanPro Rebel 5mm version and 7 mm version come equipped with this. The Bare Reactive and Evoke suits also come equipped with this.
Internal linings, like those found in Enth Degree’s Eminence Quick Dry 5mm version and 7mm version , can help trap the water, helping the diver heat the water more effectively. The Eminence’s lining ability to dry quickly also helps the diver get into a recently used wetsuit more comfortably, as the inside is dryer, slips on more easily, and feels nicer on the body. The quick dry feature is also important when drying gear before returning from a trip away.
Other internal linings, like Bare’s Reactive 5mm version and 7mm version, along with Bare’s Evoke 5mm version and 7mm version, have special materials which promote the effectiveness of the suit. The Reactive and Evoke have Celliant Infrared technology incorporated into its lining. 13 thermo-reactive minerals woven into the fabric lining convert body heat into infrared energy and reflect it back onto the diver. This improves the body’s circulation, increasing oxygen levels in the body, enabling the diver to use less energy. This not only improves overall warmth but increases your dive time. It is important to note that for this technology to work at its full potential, an underlayer should be avoided, as the material needs to make contact with the diver’s skin. For some background, this technology was first used in the medical industry, helping patients like those with diabetes, increase their blood flow to their extremities.
Different stitching/construction of a suit can make a considerable difference, as water can slowly flow through the holes of the stitching. A blind stitch helps prevent puncture holes through the neoprene. Glues can also be used to bring neoprene pieces together. Extra seals on top of stitching/glued areas can help prevent water movement. For instance, the Rebel 5mm and 7mm are blind stitched and glued. The Bare Reactive 5mm and 7mm uses No-Stitch Technology (NST), a construction technique that virtually eliminates seam stitching – It’s all heat taped and sealed – the diver stays warmer by reducing flushing within the suit.
Wetsuits made for diving are typically reinforced in the places that matter most. These areas are typically the knees and the shoulders. Shoulders have the straps of a diver’s equipment rubbing against the suit. Kneepads help protect the suit should the diver need to kneel on the bottom of the ocean floor to exercise skills with an instructor. Some, like the Rebel 5mm and 7mm, reinforce the seat as well, for those longer boat rides, tender drops, and gear removal/replacement whilst sitting. The Rebel suits use a Supatex reinforcement in these areas, as well as the elbows. The Bare Reactive and Evoke models use a material called Armor Flex 2.0 in their kneepads, which is highly flexible, durable, and abrasion resistant.
Open Cell Wetsuits
Open cell wetsuits can be very effective, but can require more effort to get into, which isn’t always the best on a dive boat, and are built for freediving/spearfishing. Because of this, they may not handle the abrasions of scuba gear as well. These are covered more in our freediving/spearfishing gear training guide.
Drysuits supplied through AUP are from Bare. The reason a diver would want to choose a Bare drysuit is that they are a specialist manufacturer, the company has 44 years’ worth of experience, they are the original equipment manufacturer, and that Bare offers over 20 mdels worldwide- with the Aqua Trek 1 designed specifically for the Australian market.
Drysuits are practically required for water temperatures that are <10°. They can be suitable in temperatures that are warmer than 10°, as they just keep the diver dry, with suitable thermals worn underneath the suit. Water takes heat away from the body 25 times faster than air, which is why drysuits are so effective. Divers who have drysuits can dive in cooler months, in colder locations, be more comfortable, and there are even benefits for tech diving, should the diver want to take the hobby in that direction.
Types of drysuits
There are different types of drysuits available to the recreational diver, with some being neoprene, others being of a commercial grade neoprene, and the higher end suits, the trilaminates. Below is a table comparing the three:
The Aqua Trek 1
The Aqua Trek 1 is designed specifically for Australian diving. It is lightweight, and actually a quadlaminate, as it has 4 materials versus the typical 3 in trilaminates. The materials in the suit offer enhanced flexibility over other current butyl trilaminates, built with an outer layer of cordura for toughness.
Something unique in this suit is its hydrostatic membrane. This layer allows the suit to breathe out of the water, with the water pressure upon submersion sealing off the membrane, keeping the suit completely dry on the inside. The benefit of this is that the diver is less likely to overheat on the surface. Bear in mind, this is dependent on what the diver is wearing underneath the drysuit. Due to this breathability, this suit is much more versatile, even for warmer water, than other drysuits.
M Padz knee protection offer 2mm neoprene padding added to the knees. This offers greater protection for an area which tends to get a lot of wear, whether that is kneeling on the bottom or through kicking motions.
There are also two self-draining pockets with stainless steel attachment points on the inside. These are great for spare masks, SMBs, camera accessories, or storing a diver’s hoods/gloves between dives.
There is a neoprene sock attached to the suit which can be used with traditional boots, but most people prefer using the lace-up boots.
There is a diagonal front zip for easy donning and easy in/out. Some other drysuits have a zip along the back, making it nearly impossible for someone to get in/out on their own. By having the diagonal front zip, the diver can be more independent in their gear setup, as it is self-donning. This is also a T-zip, made of nylon. This makes the suit more lightweight, and the zipper more flexible. Because it is made of nylon, it is corrosion-proof, and still water tight. These features make the zip more durable than traditional brass zips.
There is a 2mm nylon/smoothskin warm collar with a vented neck drain, providing an improved seal with the Bare dry hood.
This suit is equipped with Si-Tech replaceable silicon neck +wrist seals. The benefit of these are that they are field replaceable, and cheaper to replace than seals built in. Because they are made of silicon, they have some advantages over latex, in that they don’t break down with UV light or heat, they last for much longer, and many divers find them more comfortable.
There are Si-Tech manual auto shoulder dumps and an inflation button for easy, reliable air control.
Within the suit are bracers/suspenders, with four anchor points for extra attachment strength, and this enables comfort to the diver between dives when they can remove their top.
The telescopic torso fits the contours of the diver’s body better than other drysuits, which look much baggier with bigger air spaces for air to get trapped. There is also internal double seam tape construction at “critical wear” seam points for added durability. On the outside of the suit is external felled seam construction, increasing seam integrity, making it low profile, and less prone to abrasion. This also finishes for a clean look on the suit.
Each drysuit comes with a Bare drysuit bag, with optional extras being the Bare hood and boots.
All Aqua Trek drysuits come with a warranty of 7 years on the stitching, 2 years on the materials, and 12 months on the fittings-seals/valves.
Gloves can come in a variety of materials. Some are neoprene, like OceanPro’s Fusion and Reef Pro gloves. Others are made of Kevlar or dyneema for extra toughness, like those in the Ocean Hunter range. The Enth Degree range has gloves with its unique materials, as well. Each glove lends itself to a different use for the diver. If they are a hunter/gatherer, they may value toughness. If they are a photographer, they will likely want tactile fingers for grip and feel. All help keep a diver warmer, with some being more effective than others.
Hoods come in a variety of materials, but are typically used for thermal protection. One exception would be a lycra hood for UV and stinger protection. Hoods can make the greatest difference in fighting heat loss from extremities. They need to be tight enough to trap the water, but not too tight, restricting blood flow. Some come with a flange or collar to tuck underneath a wetsuit’s neck, helping mitigate the movement of water.
Socks are much like hoods, in that they come in a variety of materials, and are typically used for thermal protection. There are also lycra socks, and whilst these protect against UV and stingers, they also help prevent fin rub if a person is wearing full foot fins. By having a layer, any rubbing which could cause blisters is reduced with a layer in between.