The High Cost of Buying Cheap Diving Gear On-line

amazon-keyboardsA question asked on a scuba diving forum.

Beginner Advice Please

“I am a complete beginner and need to buy the kit.

Any advice on good on-line scuba diving retailers will be much appreciated.

My mate is fairly experienced, so he will be able to help me”.

 

 

Hi there

I am absolutely delighted to hear that you are thinking of buying some diving equipment. It is a researched and documented fact that if you own your own kit, you will go diving more regularly than if you haven’t got anything.

Boat fins, scuba diving fins, diving Isle of Man, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company
Two pieces of core scuba diving equipment: a pair of boat fins and a dive mask

I would certainly advocate that as a new diver you get the core kit of mask, boat fins, snorkel, boots, a shortie / basic thermal protection and a timing device.

This is your basic snorkelling equipment which will last you from now until kingdom come, provided you look after it carefully. It also means that when you start / continue learning, you have the basics which will also be fine for pool work and blue water diving.

Once you have your core kit I would suggest that you don’t go on a mad spending spree - yet.

The thing about learning to dive (or any other sport for that matter) is that you don't know, what you don't know. This is not a criticism, just a fact of life.

It is terribly easy to peruse the magazines, let your fingers do the walking on the web or post a question on the Forums. And if you are British diver you will probably end up making the decision to buy a certain brand of BCD and regulators. But is it truly the right equipment for the style of diving you are currently doing, and what you aspire to do in the future?

Anglesey ScubaFest, scuba diving in Wales, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, Jason Brown, The Underwater Marketing Company,
Attend an equipment manufacturer demo day or ScubaFest to try out new diving equpiment

To get the most out of your equipment you really need to have some in-water time and experience before you buy it. Borrow, hire, steal, beg equipment from fellow divers or your local club or dive centre and try it out. Or attend an equipment manufacturer demo day or the ScubaFests. But please pace yourself.

Try and dive ‘familiar’ diving equipment when you try out one new piece of kit to reduce the stress levels. By getting some in-water time, you will gain a mental and physical reference which enables you to start forming ideas of what equipment you want, and the route you wish to follow.

I am really glad to hear that you have an experienced mate who has taken you under his wing.

The one thing that I would say is that staff in dive centres have exposure to a large range of equipment from a number of manufacturers. They go on product days and launches, they get given the odd sample to play with, and it’s all so that they can understand the product better.

Anglesey Divers, Marting Sampson, Caroline Sampson, learn to dive in Wales, Porth Dafarch Beach, Holyhead, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, Anglesey ScubaFest
Dive Centre Owner and Chief Instructor Martin Sampson (in the orange and black suit) with his students on Porth Dafarch, Anglesey, Wales. Martin and Caroline run Anglesey Divers

Dive centre staff are out there using the kit in anger, and diving it on a very regular basis. They should ask you what kind of diving are you doing now, and what do you intend to do in the future, and will advise you accordingly as to what kind of kit will suit you. This means that you will be given good solid equipment advice by someone who is more experienced than your average amateur diver.

DSMB, delayed surface marker buoy, dive reel, scuba diving equipment, diving safety, being seen on the surface, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, diving PR, scuba social media
A well stocked dive shop offering a plethora of safety accessories

The beauty about shopping in a LDS (Local Dive Shop), is that you get to feel, touch, try on and look at the equipment for real.

If you ask for help the staff will walk you around the shop and show you the difference between a pool fin, a boat fin, a nature's wing fin, a spring strap, a traditional fin strap and a quick release strap.

Absolutely nothing can replace the opportunity of feeling, touching, smelling, lifting, finding out just how heavy something is, and trying on new up-to-date equipment. It’s almost a rite of passage for a diver to walk into a dive shop with a pocketful of cash and buy your drysuit / regulator / bcd and thoroughly delight in the frisson, thrill and excitement of that hands-on experience.

Buying on the web is just not the same thing. Pushing a button or two and waiting for a brown box to be delivered is quite pedestrian in comparison.

It should be noted it is not polite to visit a dive centre and benefit from their time, knowledge and counselling to then go and buy the product off the net for the sake of a few pounds. I have seen this happen all too often, and it is little wonder that dive centre staff sometimes end up quite jaded by this behaviour.

Fourth Element, thermacline, proteus, dry base, OceanPositive, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, Jim Standing, Paul Strike, EUROTEK Award Winners
I am not saying ‘never buy from the internet’

If you buy via the web you might get a more competitive price. This is because all you are paying for is for someone to take a piece of kit off a shelf, put it into a box and post it to you. There is rarely counselling and advice, and no cup of tea.

There is no substitute to having an experienced professional standing next to you, seeing how the kit fits and knowing how it will perform in the water.

When you buy in a LDS you gain education, information and benefit from the shop’s experience.

It is worth noting that your LDS doesn't necessarily need to be your nearest dive centre. My nearest dive centre is a is 12 minutes / 5 miles away. The one I use is 51 minutes / 28 miles away because of their great servicing, advice and gas blending. And your LDS will be ‘the one’ where you get good service, advice, mentoring and they actively go diving.

Buying on the web appears to be a great, short term gain, but you will definitely lose long term.

Now more than ever you need to support your LDS. (LDS equipment sales are one revenue source that helps to pay for rates, electricity, insurance, salaries, etc). Around the turn / start of the year I was hearing every week about yet another dive retail centre closing their doors and I know of another two dive centres that have gone down in the last 8 weeks. The blood letting continues.

Apeks, A clamp, DIN Adaptor, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, Dean Martin, Aqua Lung, scuba diving equipment
We can't buy air or gas fills online

The price you will be charged in-store is a fair one because it’s the suggested retail price. Remember diving is effectively a luxury sport where you want life support equipment that will always perform efficiently in a harsh environment. You need it to work properly and that costs real money to research, develop, test and manufacture.

By demanding cheaper equipment you will get just that. There have been comments on the Forums about cheap weight belts falling to bits, cheap clips and knives rusting up, cheap reels jamming and tangling, and I am aware of a couple of lovely masks that are sadly now just plain nasty.

These two low profile masks fitted 95% of all faces, looked great and were a sensible price. Unfortunately because the public kept on demanding cheaper masks, production was switched to another factory, and now these products are inferior and sales have dropped right off. The silicone used is horribly hard and the frames crack. By demanding cheaper kit the product has been destroyed. Everyone loses.

It is worth pointing out that I am also not saying ‘never buy from the internet’. That is just plain daft. We are very time poor these days, and when you know precisely what you need, and that it will fit you perfectly, buying on-line is a useful, timely solution. But as a new diver, or a diver upgrading key pieces of equipment, you really benefit from buying your equipment in store because of the personal hands on service you will receive. And you leave with something that properly fits you.

Cylinders, air tanks, mixed gas diving, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, Divetech, nitrox, stage cylinders, The Underwater Marketing Compay, buying cheap dive gear online, scuba diving PR, rebreather diving
Do we really want to return to 100 mile round trips to get diving cylinders filled?

Whatever your position on internet sales, if they become all that we have got left, along with some very large regional centres, then not only you, but everyone will lose out.

So if you end up spending a tad more now on kit at your local dive centre, it should mean that in the future we all won’t be doing 100 mile round trips to get cylinder fills and regulators serviced which is better for our pockets and kinder to the environment. And the great thing is that we will be well looked after by like-minded kit monster professionals who still get huge thrill out of playing with shiny toys.

Good luck with your diving, I hope this helps.

Jarrod Jablonski talks 'Mars' by Rosemary E Lunn

Jarrod Jablonski, GUE Founder and CEO of Halcyon, made a whistle stop tour of the UK in September 2013. He gave two talks on 'Mars Makalos' - or 'Mars the Magnificent'. This aptly named 16th century warship took quite a bit of finding. She was discovered in May 2011 after a twenty-year search by a team of divers from Ocean Discovery that included GUE's Richard Lundgren.

To put the wreck into context, it would be fair to say that Mars is Sweden’s ‘Mary Rose’, and the comment that ‘this is the wreck find of the century’ is probably quite correct. Mars is considered so important that the current King of Sweden visited the team to see for himself how the exploration work is going.

Grahame Knott, John Kendall, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, Jarrod Jablonski, DiveLife, The Shipwreck Project, GUE, Santi, Suex Scooters, EUROTEK, TEKDiveUSA, advanced and technical diving conference,The Underwater Marketing Company, Halcyon
From left to right; Grahame Knott (technical skipper and The Shipwreck Project), John Kendall (UK Santi distributor, GUE Tech and Cave Instructor), Rosemary E Lunn (The Underwater Marketing Company, EUROTEK and TEKDiveUSA co-organiser) and Jarrod Jablonski (GUE Founder and Halycon CEO) at DiveLife.
Image Credit: Jason Brown / Bardo Photographic

The story of Mars and her subsequent discovery could be taken out of any ‘Boys Own’ annual, so it was no surprise that over 100 divers attended Jarrod’s talk, hosted by Manchester based DiveLife. Southern divers were not neglected either - Jarrod also spoke at Aquanauts in Plymouth.

Jarrod is a charismatic fluid speaker, and gave a highly entertaining presentation, actively involving his audience. He vividly brought images of a bunch of exceedingly large, very well preserved timbers and cannons to life, explaining about the ‘maritime battlefield’. Mars sank during a ferocious battle between Sweden and Denmark, and there is plentiful evidence of this. Divers were able to see how the ship burnt and they also found cannon balls embedded in the timbers. I was entranced, and Mars is now firmly included on my bucket list of diving.

I found watching the story of the exploration dives and the logistics involved enlightening. Having been involved with running the logistics on two HMHS Britannic expeditions, I can appreciate just what goes into running a major dive. The GUE ethos of running a unified dive team, standard gases and set way of rigging diving equipment, makes perfect sense when it comes to project diving. It saves so much faff time, and divers who have never met before will have a greater understanding of how their diving partners will behave underwater.

Diving on Mars has been very closely controlled and monitored and it is a perfect example of what amateur divers can achieve. Richard Lundgren’s team has been working hand in glove with scientists and academics to properly document and preserve Mars and her artifacts. Certain protocols have been put in place to protect the wreck and its environment. Lundgren’s team are trying to minimise the amount of oxygen in the water, therefore this has primarily been a rebreather expedition. And there has also been limited lifting of artifacts. A broken cannon and a small cannon that had previously only been seen in documents have been recovered and preserved. All the other cannons are remaining in situ for the time being. It looks as though work will continue in this significant wreck for many years to come.

Incidentally if you missed Jarrod speaking about Mars, you have the opportunity to see Richard Lundgren talk at the Nautical Archeology Society Conference on Saturday 2nd November in Portsmouth. More details on this can be found on the NAS website.

Article published: Sport Diver UK, November 2013 issue