Appeared in DIVER March 2011

hspace=5The winners! – DIVER Awards 2010
The Academy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, the BAFTA Awards, the Brit Awards; there are so many awards nowadays that it can get confusing at times.
Rest assured, however: there is only one set of awards in the world of diving that really counts and that is the DIVER Awards.
Every year a variety of companies, individuals and even nations get a chance to win one of these expensively heavy bronze statuettes.
They qualify by providing products or services that are voted for by you, the readers of DIVER, and agreed to be more than exceptionally good.
Since the awards first began 13 years ago, more than 120 bronze statuettes have been cast and presented, and the deserving winners always carry them away with them with pride.
It is inevitable that there will be serial winners. Because it’s your votes that count, it will always be the more popular brands and companies that get the majority of the votes. However, it’s tough at the top, and previous winners need to be constantly on their toes.
There will always be some runners-up snapping at their heels, and sometimes it’s just a vital few votes that can make all the difference.
Here are the winners of the DIVER Awards for 2010. They will be presented with their trophies at the London International Dive Show (LIDS) later this month. We have Alain Sobol of Red Sea Diving College to thank for reminding us of a pertinent quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Win as if you were used to it. Lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.”

The Aqua Lung Zuma lightweight BC answered the requirements of a great many divers who travel by air and it took third place, while the Mares Liquid Skin range of masks proved exceedingly popular and came in second.
Thanks to a great design, thorough development, safe software and an admirable aftersales service (DIVER often gets letters commending it), the Suunto Vyper Air diving computer was voted Product of the Year.
“We’d like to thank all the Suunto divers who voted for the Vyper Air,” was the response of Ryan Crawford, boss of Suunto UK. “I’ve been involved in its development from its inception, and feel like a proud parent at my child’s graduation.”

Scubapro has won this title so often and so regularly that the people there must feel they own it. Suunto, even with a product line limited to computers, often nearly makes it. This year, no doubt spurred on by its new distribution of Aqua Lung products alongside its traditional line, Apeks has accelerated past the previous incumbents to breast the tape first. Scubapro and Suunto took second and third places respectively.
“It’s great news,” said Tony Gallagher of Apeks.“We’re really pleased and thank DIVER magazine. We appreciate why the readers have voted for us. Our goal is to manufacture the best diving equipment in the world, backed up by the finest customer service, and we constantly strive towards that end.”

With such a vast number of divers visiting the northern Red Sea every year, it’s no surprise that it was a dive centre based in Egypt that took the honours.
And, as in 2009 but still surprising, all three finalists were dive centres based in the same location, Sharm el Sheikh.
Red Sea Diving College was in first place, proving that it is a serial winner, while Emperor Divers in second and Oonas Dive Club in third proved that there is no room for complacency either. Alain Sobol of Red Sea Diving College was ecstatic: “To win once shows how much our efforts are appreciated, but to win five times shows an enduring commitment to our guests.
“Perhaps next year we’ll remove ourselves from the competition to allow one of the other diving centres a chance at the award!” said Alain graciously. “Besides, we simply have no more space on our shelves for more statuettes!”

It is inevitable that the biggest dive-tour operators should get the lion’s share of the votes, and as usual there was a titanic struggle between them to attract the most. Regaldive came in in third place, closely beaten by blue o two. But it was Scuba Travel, the perennial winner, that took the honours yet again.
On hearing the news, Tony Backhurst, boss of Scuba Travel, said: “We owe huge thanks to every single person who not only voted for us but also travelled with us in 2010. It really is a massive privilege to have now won this DIVER Award for the seventh year running!”

There may be fewer local dive shops than there have been in the past, but those that remain are mostly now very professional in the way they operate (more of a challenge to Mystery Diver!).
Online shopping has become very important, but the way you are treated as a customer is still a key to success, too.
The vote was very fragmented, as more retailers exhort their customers to vote for them. Some very good stars of the past were overlooked by the volume voters this time, while others that had previously loitered in the wings were able to gain more than just a walk-on part.
For 2010, Simply Scuba, the online dive shop based in Whitstable, Kent, won most votes and took first place, followed closely by Deep Blue Dive, based in Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear, in second. Mike’s in Chiswick, West London, which followed up in third place, also has a vibrant online presence.
On hearing the news of its win, Gerrard Dennis of Simply Scuba said: “Brilliant! Fantastic! Remarkable! A great honour! I’m really thrilled for our staff and our customers alike.”

The Earth hasn’t moved, the status quo is maintained – there were no surprises here whatsoever. Egypt took first place as is customary, with the Maldives again proving the second most popular destination with British warmwater divers.
The vast geographical area taken up by Indonesia, with some of the best tropical diving in the world, was right there claiming third place.
“It’s wonderful to hear that DIVER readers are still choosing Egypt as their number one diving destination,” said Hesham Gabr, boss of Egypt’s Chamber of Diving and Watersports.“It is our mission to ensure that the Red Sea diving industry continues to provide great diving  in a safe and beautiful environment, and that we remain a firm favourite with UK divers.”
And Khaled Ramy, who heads the Egyptian State Tourist Office in the UK, added: “As the Government of Egypt, we do everything we can to increase the quality and attract more British divers to our country.”

Once again, the sheer popularity of Egypt as one of our nearest and most economical-to-visit warmwater diving destinations gave vessels operating in Egyptian waters an advantage. Old adversaries fought it out as usual, but for 2010 it was blue Horizon that took the honours, closely followed by Grand Sea Serpent in second, and Emperor Elite in third place.
Jason Strickland of blue o two, operator of the winning vessel, told us: “I’m thrilled that blue Horizon has won the liveaboard award for a third time. It’s great recognition of all the hard work our team has put in, both in Egypt and the UK. Receiving runner-up in the Tour Operator category is just the icing on the cake – another great year for blue o two!”
Who knows, with new vessels being commissioned as we write, next year could see some entirely different names gracing this category.

This is a difficult one for readers to assess but we at DIVER get a special insight into what’s new, and as it happens all three of our winners were awarded the maximum number of stars in their respective DIVER Tests in 2010.
Outright winner was the Aqua Lung Zuma, a lightweight wing-style BC that takes up little room in checked baggage, yet performs admirably in the water.
“The cross-pollination of ideas between our UK, French and US subsidiaries, combined with good feedback from our customers, results in innovative products that people want,” said Tony Gallagher of Apeks/Aqua Lung. “The Zuma is just one of them.”
Second-placed was the Pegasus Thruster, a diver propulsion device conceived for divers with disabilities. For anyone, however, to try one is to want one. Third was the super-compact yet super-bright Light & Motion Sola 600 lamp.

Underwater Photography for Compact Camera Users by Maria Munn, published by OceanVisions, is a book about exactly that subject. Every diver seems to jump into the water with a camera of some sorts nowadays, and this volume has obviously answered a need. It won a DIVER Award.
Maria Munn was over the moon when we told her the good news. “Wow! I am totally speechless!” she said. Once recovered, she added: “I feel incredibly humbled and touched that my book has been so well-received, and that so many guests are winning prizes across the globe.
“Thank you so, so very much to everyone who have supported my courses over the years – you’ve all made a very special dream come true.”
No other single book or DVD attracted votes in sufficient numbers to be deemed worthy of being a runner-up in this category.

Readers voted in their thousands in the DIVER Awards, and one of you, drawn at random, won the £5000 prize. That reader was Simon Range of Telford. Simon and his partner Samantha Rowley will be taking off for the Bahamas to indulge in a holiday aboard
the luxury catamaran Aqua Cat, arranged by Bahamas Flavour.
Simon started diving five years ago, and is a PADI Assistant Instructor with an IANTD Recreational Trimix card. His work as an export sales manager takes him to the Far East a lot, but he says he is a “massive fan” of UK diving, spending much of his spare time at dive sites in Cornwall and North Wales.
Simon has also dived in Egypt and the Maldives, but the Bahamas will be a new departure. Samantha snorkels but is a non-diver – so far. “I always fill in the diver Awards form, but I had never even thought about the holiday prize,” said Simon. Bonus!
Find out more about Aqua Cat at, and for more on diving the Bahamas go to the Bahamas Tourist Board website,