Zeagle Systems has developed a new inflatable belt for freedivers, one of the new products introduced here at the 2006 DEMA Show.

The patent-pending "Ascent" Buoyancy Control belt has a 4-cubic-foot aluminum air cylinder and Zeagle’s "Razor" valve-regulator first-stage combination that supplies air to a baffled bladder attached to a rubber belt, according to the company’s brochure. Weights can also be attached via the belt’s removable buckle.

Usually, a freediver has to expend energy during both the descent and ascent phases of a dive, with the risk of shallow-water blackout as the diver passes through the 10-15 foot danger zone.

Zeagle’s new belt allows the diver to completely deflate it at the surface, dive down to the desired depth and then achieve neutral buoyancy with only a light touch of the inflation valve. Because of that, the freediver doesn’t have to expend as much energy keeping him- or herself neutrally buoyant, thereby enhancing bottom time, according to Chad Carney, head of Florida sales for Zeagle and the belt’s developer.

On the way back up to the surface, the compressed air in the bladder expands, providing increasing lift. An integrated overpressure valve bleeds off excess air. A promotional video used at DEMA showed a diver barely kicking as he ascended.

Once at the surface, the added flotation is enough to keep a properly weighted diver afloat even after he or she exhales and making the breathe-up for the next dive much easier, according to the Zeagle brochure.

"This streamlined BC gives the freediver all the benefits a scuba diver derives from a buoyancy compensator, with little more weight or drag than occurs with a standard freediving weight belt.

Charney, a lifelong freediver, "had to convince Zeagle to do this," he told DeeperBlue.net today. Such a device would also help drive freedivers to their local scuba retailer for refills, he added.

The air cylinder can also be refilled from a regular-sized scuba tank, so a group of freedivers could bring one with them on a trip and refill their BCs using a cross-over filler, according to Charney.

The entire unit only adds about 1.5 to 2 pounds of ballast, he said. It will cost around $599 suggested retail price without the weights.

Visit Florida Skin Diver for more information, photos and video