When attending TekDiveUSA 2018, I assumed it was going to be very similar to other dive trade shows DeeperBlue.com featured in the past. I found that this is not just a conference highlighting aquatic related products and travel, it is a way to bring members of the technical diving community together.
The show kicked off with a BBQ on Friday night to reunite old friends and relax before the weekend’s events. Saturday and Sunday’s packed schedule included beneficial booths for the technical side of diving and showcased speakers who traveled to Florida to share their knowledge. To celebrate the hard earned work over the last 2 years, divers traded out their Drysuits for dresses and collared shirts at the Gala Awards Dinner on Saturday evening. This is another opportunity to meet more people with your similar unique interests.
While walking the showroom floor, TEKDiveUSA veterans informed me that divers don’t only come to see the latest-and-greatest advanced products. People from around the globe are here to join workshops, panel discussions, and presentations hosted by some of the most educated and experienced divers in our industry. One of the main panels that I was interested in attending was Building a Technical Diving Hotspot hosted by Lauren Kieren. The panel included 5 influential professionals who have had success with motivating students to dive and continue their training in limited locations around the world; Aron Arngrímsson, Joanna Mikutowicz, Tom Steiner, and German Arango. Some lessons I learned from their discussion is to train your employees to their highest potential allowing flexibility in what they are able to teach and how they can mentor customers (soon to be friends). I learned communication is key and understanding multiple languages may help expand your barriers. Also, offering internships for your students will help them earn more experience and time in the water. Showing you are dedicated will motivate students to be dedicated to our sport and encourage growth at their home base.
I may not have been able to attend every seminar this year, but I was able to visit all 44 exhibitors. The showroom floor included well-known manufacturers, stores, and training agencies such as Hollis, Amigos Dive Center, IANTD, Fourth Element, OMS, NSS/CDS, and more! I came across unique equipment and programs that I considered being beneficial for divers above and below the water.
For Example, I was introduced to Darkwater Vision System. This patented technology allows divers to see through dark, particulate-heavy, tannin/stained water in real time. Engineers designed binocular (or monocular) viewing cameras that filter infrared light, process the information, and transmit a signal to the diver where they see a black and white image. The lenses can be mounted on full face masks, and even record the underwater data via their surface monitoring system. The Darkwater Vision System is ideal for search and recovery teams, treasure hunting, boat husbandry, and even oil rig inspection. This would have been perfect tool when I needed to inspect a damaged propeller in brackish water!
Another neat highlight of the show is the Smartstream Harness System from OMS. Unlike the standard webbed harness, this design allows more flexibility when donning technical diving equipment. Pete Nawrocky, sales manager at OMS, recognized that this would be something just perfect for someone in my position and wanted to show it to me right away. Instead of having to squat down to properly secure the webbing on my shoulders, this upgraded harness is designed so a diver simply just slides the shoulder straps forward and slips in. When pulling the webbing around the hips in place, the shoulders tighten and webbing is secured. The other benefit is that there are fastened D-Rings with weight stops where you need them. This allows you to place light canisters or weight pockets on your harness without those features moving while you adjust. Unique upgrades like this make a world of difference!
When I came across the Fourth Element booth, I was reacquainted to the Argonaut 2.0 drysuit and had the opportunity to be measured with The BIOMAP photo imaging system. As a drysuit diver, I have experienced the uncomfortable measuring process required to get a custom drysuit. Jim Standing, director at Fourth Element, simply had me wear their tight-fitting undergarment and asked me to stand on a the Biomap footmap. After taking two full body photos, my predicted sizing for my custom drysuit was complete!
Overall, TEKDiveUSA featured fascinating equipment, tools, and travel but being surrounded by people who have dedicated their lives to technical diving was by far the best experience. This conference’s goal is to “inspire, unite, educate, and excite divers from around the globe.” I was so thrilled to speak with the divers, researchers, doctors, and shop owners that have influenced me over the last decade. It is rare to see everyone in one place and so dry.
TEKDiveUSA is a biennial conference located in the Florida, USA and I am looking forward to attending in 2020!