What to Wear and Why
Buying scuba diving equipment can be overwhelming for many new divers. What brands are the best and how much to spend on an item to make sure you receive a quality product are the most common questions asked.
The gear supplier market consists of mass manufacturing suppliers and small boutique gear brands. So, should you buy from the largest manufacturer or from someone that specialises in the specific equipment you are after?
Origin: Apollo is an award winning scuba manufacturer that focuses on the production of the finest recreational and military special forces equipment since 1965. With offices in both the US, Japan and Australia, Apollo prides itself on some of the more unique concepts in the diving industry.
Overview: Producing Drysuits, masks, fins, snorkels and boots to name a few, Apollo is one of the lesser known brands around the marine world, especially in Europe, yet their constant output of high grade product that often cater for divers who require special assistance is unparralled. For example, Apollo make excellent seals for Drysuits for people wo suffer from cramps, rashes and throat issues. Apollo furthermore make specialised equipment including scooters for the military.
Price: While Apollo’s gear is not as expensive as other brands, there can be no doubt that there are cheaper alternatives to Apollo’s merchandise. That being said, if you live in an area that is able to receive Apollo’s products they are well worth investing in, especially for comfort that will last for a long period of time. Gold Coast Dive Adventures uses Apollo BCD’s and Regulators for their rental gear as it is hard wearing and comfortable to use.
Origin: Founded in Tokyo, Japan in 1952, TUSA was one of the worlds first scuba diving manufacturers. Kazuo Tabata was the founding father of the company and began making masks in his own garage. TUSA’s mantra is to produce equipment from the finest materials, testing them rigorously before they are sent to retailers.
Overview: TUSA are known for their colourful equipment as well as selling a wide range of well-made scuba sets. TUSA’s new line of regulators, the RS-1001 is tailor made to be light weight yet include ‘high-flow’ cold water insulation for those who dive in the more frigid waters of the world. TUSA sell many of the essential scuba diving products such as fins, regulators, lamps, knives and BCD’s. Wetsuits are one of the only products that TUSA are not well known for, in fact, TUSA’s wetsuit line are usually part of budget sets or in turn for surf use.
Price: TUSA products are reasonably priced. While many of TUSA’s products are well worth investing in such as masks, others are not. Companies such as Waterproof or Probe have infinitely better wetsuits, while Cressi offer superior fins. TUSA may be affordable for many items, such as computers, BCD’s, masks and fins.
Origin: Founded in 1949 by Ludovico Mares in Italy, Mares was initially a spearfishing outfitter who specialised in spear guns and masks. Since then Mares has become one of the largest scuba, freediving and spearfishing manufacturers in the world selling a wide range of products.
Overview: Mares are notorious for having a wide price range of equipment, selling in bulk to many dive shops, they often sponsor athletes and influential figures in the marine fraternity. Mares sell a immense amount of different products from wetsuits to weight belts and all in between. Due to mass production there is a general consensus that Mares can lack a certain quality. That being said Mares computers are cheap and popular while their fins, especially the Mares Avanti Quattro are considered to be some of the best in the world due to their comfort and powerful thrust. Mares can be seen as the Bunnings in the diving industry.
Price: Usually cheaperthan the majority of other scuba brands due to mass production and cheaper materiels, Mares is one of the best budget manufacturers to buy from. Mares’ smart computer can be as cheap as $300, much more reasonable than other brands such as Suunto, a company whose watch-style dive computers begin at prices of over $500.
Origin: Probe Wetsuits were established in 2001 as a 100% Australian run company. Created by avid Aussie divers, their mantra became to create unique wetsuit materials that kept divers warmer and drier in the water, all while maintaining maximum comfort.
Overview: Probe Wetsuits are a relatively new player in the scuba manufacturer market, yet that being said are already making a name for themselves in their own continent. Boasting great flexibility in their suits, Probe’s iDRY, iFLEX and FROGSKIN lines are a force to be reckoned with. Probe is Gold Coast Dive Adventures staff suit of choices and also used for hire.
Price: Probe’s iDry Semi Dry is priced at $549 while their 3mm Quick Dry is $395. These prices are similar to other brands such as Cressi, and in turn reviews of the product state repeatedly that their flexible suit revolutionises diving allowing a tight fitting over various different body sizes, as well as being easy to get on and quick to dry.
Origin: Founded in the US in 1963 by Gustav Dalla Valle and Dick Bonin, Scubapro has merged with a number of companies including Uwatec and Beuchat to become one of the finest scuba manufacturers on the planet. Perennially referred to as having some of the highest quality dive equipment, Scubapro are famed for their computers, regulators, BCD’s and various suits.
Overview: Scubapro is renowned for its regulators and wetsuits as well as masks and accessories such as knifes and SMB’s. A company that has been in business for so many decades and constantly improves to higher levels is one to be respected. Many customers praise their warranty coverage and support. The only negative when it comes to a top brand like ScubaPro is price. More often than not, as so often with Apple and Samsung, you are paying for the brand, and can find cheaper alternatives elsewhere. Users have also made comments about their BCD’s stating that the design is becoming too complex and they often wish for more simple pockets and fixtures for diving.
Price: As mentioned, prices for Scubapro can be steep, BCD’s often exceed $700 while computers can be well over $800 for their simplest model. Their wetsuits however are worth the fee, the 5mm Everflex is priced at $350, a great price for a great piece.
Origin: Aqua Lung were founded in 1946 by the incomparable Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan. The company produced the first line of regulators such as the CG45. Since the company’s inception they have been considered the benchmark of dive equipment. There is an American division of the company who took over U.S Divers.
Overview: Since the origin of the famed breathing device, Aqua Lung have focused on the production of regulators. In more modern times, the company has branched into developing high tech computers, suits and fins that are made to the highest standard. Many military and professional divers use the brand due to the ability to rely on the structural integrity and warmth of the equipment in dangerous circumstances. The Auqa Lung Mikron is one of the newest releases from the company, a lightweight model that is easy to travel with and extremely durable in the harsh ocean conditions. The Aqua Lung Aqua Flex is a custom fit wetsuit that has 3 times the stretch of standard neoprene. Aqua Lung are always evolving the boundaries of equipment.
Price: Aqua Lungs main negative selling point is the price of most of their products. While there can be no denial of the quality, the prices seem to be a little steep for the majority of divers.
Origin: Waterproof is an award winning producer of scuba diving equipment. Founded in Sweden in 1984, the company’s dry suits are their top selling product, used by many film companies and divers who spend a great deal of time in the Arctic and Antarctic waters.
Overview: Waterproof cater soley for clothing accessories, therefore masks, fins and computers are not sold by the company. Gloves, Hoods, Dry Suits and Neoprene accessories make Waterproof a high grade, niche business. Search and Rescue teams often use Waterproof products due to their excellent toughness.
Price: Waterproof suits are extremely expensive, averaging at prices well over $2000. Quality comes with price however, and there are not many who offer higher quality than this!
Specialising in certain equipment pieces and providing them to the highest quality standard seems to be the way gear manufacturing is heading in regards to business sustainability. Whilst many companies believe that offering the largest possible range and variety is what makes a market leader, they often miss the focus and attention to the detail which is the trade-off at the same time. Doing a few things very well, rather than doing many average things is a business philosophy that is successfully applied across many industries. This is why companies such as Apple are so successful. Their range is minor if compared to their competitors such as Dell or Microsoft but what they do are simply world class products.
WHERE TO BUY SCUBA GEAR
Most scuba gear suppliers have quite old school compliance requirements in place for retail their outlets. They make it very difficult for new dive shops to offer and sell their products but at same time supply large warehouse style outlets that have no dive centre features whatsoever as well as via Amazon and other platforms. This is why many dive centre turn their backs to a retail focused dive business and focus on other income streams. This also includes rethinking the traditional dive centre set-up with the lease of expensive retail spaces. Instead, modern dive shops are set up lean and agile in a more efficient way and customers enjoy the lack of sales pressure.
Large retail outlets often lack in expert advice. We see many new divers that join our charters with equipment that is not suited for them but they relied in the advice of the shop staff who maybe divers but not experienced instructors with hundreds or thousands of dives who have used several different equipment brands and types throughout their diving career.
For example Gold Coast Dive Adventures business model does not require the retail revenue and has zero focus on it. We are actively working on schemes that make renting equipment more affordable, hence we encourage divers to think twice before they buy their own gear. We only stock accessories and a few selected products that customers frequently ask for. These are usually products that the big retailers do not sell.
We usually do all the hard work for the large retail outlets by advising our divers in the most suitable gear to buy and if we don’t have it ourselves we send them off to one of the big stores.
We are aware that we won’t stop anyone from finding the large retailers and buying from them so here they are.
Gold Coast – Dive Warehouse https://www.divewarehouse.com.au/
Located inside Sporty’s warehouse in Bundall. They have a good range and all major brands but aren’t necessarily cheap. They also aren’t a dive shop so their advice might be more driven by margins of particular products rather than what is the best equipment for your individual needs so double check before you buy. If in doubt, ask us.
Brisbane – Adreno https://adreno.com.au/
The largest scuba equipment retail store in Australia is Adreno. They have millions of dollars worth of stock in their Brisbane store which is overwhelming for many divers in particular for the new ones. Once again, expert advice is often lacking (not always). We often see divers with new equipment on our boats that they never should have been buying in the first place so if in doubt, ask your instructor or dive shop for advice before you buy.
WHAT BRANDS DOES GCDA SELL
We believe in quality vs quantity and generally only offer items for sale that we have used as hire equipment. This allows us to make true and honest recommendations to you in regards to quality. This includes Apollo, Tusa, Probe and Waterproof. If you are interested in any of these brands, simply drop us a line.
Any opinions expressed about equipment brands (pros and cons) maybe subjective and express the view of the individual blog writer/author and not necessarily the opinion of Gold Coast Dive Adventures.