It smells like salt, it smells like home. The Mediterranean Sea that dances around the coast forming many “Calanques” (coves) near Marseilles is the only water around the world that feels like home. This is the place where I first disappeared in the blue, skin diving with my cousin Olivier when we were young. In Carro some 1,000 years after the Romans made it a quarry, I slapped my first tank on to dive over the limestone bottom, getting mesmerized by schools of cuttlefish. The Mediterranean is fierce, you can get out of the harbor in Carry-le-Rouet and have Caribbean flat seas or deal with open ocean conditions similar to the ones in the Channel Islands in California when you get back from diving in Anacapa Island at 4:00 p.m. and the channel is making you regret that hefty bowl of chili you had for lunch. The fast changing conditions due to our tumultuous mistral wind are a good thing for what I’m trying to do: a test dive with the new Oceanic Omega 3.0 regulator.
The Omega 3.0 with its slick side exhaust combines form and function. While the FDXi pneumatically balanced first stage claims to deliver easy breathing at all depths, the second stage looks like something that could very well be in James Cameron’s next Avatar movie. This piece of gear looks good, but most importantly it belongs to a new era of scuba diving where divers use well-thought-out, comfortable and efficient hydrodynamic equipment.
The Mediterranean Journey
Although we anchored close to the coast, we sat in over 150 feet of depth. The water visibility at 35 to 40 feet is not ideal but is good enough. Surface current is slight, running to the south; we have a line in the back as it makes it safer and easier to organize our two groups.
My cousin Olivier, our dive leader Lionel and I jump into the water as the other group just surfaced. We drop progressively, following the bottom floor topography to the wall. In what seems like the blink of an eye, we find neutral buoyancy at 155 feet in the darker shades of blue. We shine our lights on the wall and discover a cornucopia of life: majestic sea fans, bright orange sponges and dalmatian nudibranchs.
I slow down my breathing to get closer to a small school of Gilt-head breams. The Omega 3.0 air delivery is smooth, from the surface to 155 feet I felt no real transition in my breathing, just a constant flow of resistance-free air supply. Thanks to the orthopedic mouth piece, it is comfortable but also feels very light in my mouth. I have rarely experienced such constant and balanced air delivery on a dive — bubbles are flying behind me giving way to an undisturbed field of view.
I am a happy diver.
Lionel is doing the lobster dance, mimicking antenna on his hood with one hand while pointing to a small crevasse at the bottom of the wall with the other. Olivier is flashing his light and we now see three familiar critters rocking out to our bubbles. My breathing is so effortless that I suddenly become weary of my air consumption; I check my gauges to find that I still have 1800 Psi. We all do a gauge check and decide to ascend toward shallower pastures. The rest of the dive is mellow, cruising over a shallower reef at 50 feet, swimming in and out of schools of rainbow wrasse. We surface at the boat’s stern some 50 minutes after immersion. We are all happy and excited about the dive but the brisk 57°F water made us hungry for lunch.
It is 3:30 p.m. when we get to the next anchorage in Niolon’s Cove. The wind is getting stronger and seas are rough with whitecaps as far as the eye can see. As we are gearing up and bouncing around the boat, I keep an eye on my cousin’s tank while he puts it on. We decide to stay in one group this time. Our dive is in 60 feet of water, the visibility has dropped and the surface current is stronger than this morning. Lionel insists that we descend following the anchor line and wait at the bottom. One by one we follow our fierce leader down the line. While I wait by the anchor at the bottom, I am greeted by an inconvenienced octopus, noisy bubbles are too much for him and a small cloud of ink later he disappears into the grassy bottom. We start kicking vigorously toward the reef with a deceiving forward thrust, this dive is definitely more physical than the first one.
It is time to put the Omega 3.0 through a heavier workload. As I kick harder into the current, the regulator side exhaust is a nice perk preventing any kind of free-flow. My heavy breathing is not scaring away the pneumatically balanced first stage, on the contrary the Omega 3.0 is stepping up to the plate delivering effortless breathing. After a 25-minute trek around a massive rock, Lionel and I find some protection from the current to admire a beautiful school of anchovies flashing silver lights throughout the water column. We rest there for a moment somewhat hypnotized by the beauty of this underwater ballet. The rest of the group catches up with us as one of the divers is giving us the low on air sign. I am satisfied with my work out with the Omega 3.0, we turn around and head back to the anchor line and end a great day of diving the Mediterranean sea.
The Hawaiian Experience: Turtle, Shark and Rock’n’Roll
This time it is from the shore and in warmer seas that I decided to challenge the Omega 3.0. Kauai might not be the first destination one might think of when going shore diving, but Whaler’s Cove or “Landings” — the way locals call it — is probably one of the finest shore diving I have ever done. To spice things up, I decided to put the Smith Aerospace X-15 hydrofoil monofin into the equation. I have always been fascinated by underwater hydrodynamics and how to make a human more efficient underwater. Diving with a hydrofoil is a lot more efficient as its energy to forward thrust ratio is far superior to scuba fins. It also helps to lower the holy air consumption and is just plain fun.
The morning I set out to dive with my girlfriend Brooke, we awoke to a windy day. The Cove is fairly protected from the elements so we knew we could go diving, but we had our doubts on the visibility. Surprisingly, after a few kicks passing the turbidity caused by the river mouth to our backs, we enjoyed 40 feet of visibility. A slight resistance as I inhaled called my attention, I quickly realized I had forgotten to turn the predive switch to dive mode. I rotated the ring next to the second stage and was greeted by a nice and now familiar airflow. Brooke was checking out a Moray eel in the reef so I decided to test out my hydrofoil propulsion. I pressed down on my toes and the upstroke immediately brought some speed. A guitar riff was now playing in my mental playlist; Cake was loud in my mind: “He is going the distance, he is going for speed,” the hydrofoil in motion was working its powerful magic, and I was flying over the reef.
I started to do some heavy kicking and the Omega 3.0 did not miss a breath, effortlessly providing the perfect amount of air while trailing bubbles away from my face to my left side and behind me. By the time I got back to Brooke I had a “I-am-having-fun-with-my-new-toys” smile on my face, I switched gears and resumed to a slower cruising speed as we headed East on the deeper end of the reef.
Visibility was starting to drop when we had a peekaboo moment with a nice sized white tip shark, and discovered two big green sea turtles hanging out under us on the sea floor, this dive was getting better and better. We continued to cruise the 40 feet deep reef at a gentle pace for a good 50 minutes. The coral wasn’t pristine, which is probably due to the sediments coming from the river mouth but it looked pretty healthy. The reef life was abundant with several baby spotted eels, flowery flounders, green sea turtles and a plethora of tropical fish. We had plenty of air when we decided to surface, but the visibility had dropped below 20 feet and we still had a very busy day of exploration ahead.
“This was a fun dive!” were the first words coming out of Brooke’s deregulated mouth.
I smiled and nodded in agreement, it was an extremely fun dive. Combining the Oceanic Omega 3.0 and the X-15 hydrofoil monofin from Smith Aerospace is a hydrodynamic match made in heaven. We felt lucky as “mama watta” had once again provided a fantastic playground and blessed us with its abundant and colorful marine life.
Diving with the new Oceanic Omega 3.0 was a truly enjoyable experience, its small form factor and low drag is in accord with my hydrodynamic diving philosophy.
The pneumatically balanced first stage does breathing wonders at depth and in high workload situations, maintaining a constant breathing effort through any type of situation. The side exhaust design makes for a bubble-free field of vision enhancing the diver’s interaction with the marine environment and making it the perfect regulator for the underwater photographer and videographer.
The build and design are solid and attractive; a detail like the Matflex hose confirms that the Omega 3.0 is made to last. The lightweight second stage with a swivel combined with an orthopedic mouth piece bring the final touch for the Oceanic Omega 3.0 to never leave my dive bag.
For more info on the Omega 3.0, head over to http://www.oceanicworldwide.com/us/omega-3/