THE DIVER Awards at 20
Recipients of DIVER Awards appreciate that the trophies confer a distinct advantage when carrying on their businesses.
We calculated back in 1997, and still reckon today, that this is very much in divers' interests. Extra incentives for suppliers to maintain the highest standards in their products and services can only keep us happier and safer.
And it's all down to you, the readers who take the time to cast your votes and help us to recognise the people who have made our diving special over the previous 12 months.
If it seems like only the other day that you were reading about the winners of the 2016 Awards, that's because this time round we shortened the lead-time.
This allowed our new-look trophies to be presented, for the first time, at DIVE 2017, October's Dive Show at the NEC, which is organised by DIVER Group.
With so many winners present among the exhibitors over the weekend, it makes sense to make the presentations at the UK's biggest diving event.
Intrepid globe-trotting diver and TV personality Paul Rose was there on stage to do the honours.
If you were there you know the winners, if you weren't you may not, so here they are. And our sincere thanks to all you hard-worked voters for playing your part - you can take a break for a while before the 2018 voting takes place!
DIVER BRAND OF THE YEAR
Which badge on your dive gear speaks volumes about quality and reliability? Your first and second choices remain unswerving and a familiar name is back in third.
1st Apeks Initially associated with reliable regulators, Apeks has long been recognised as a maker of a diverse range of equipment. Significant additions this year have included items such as the MTX-R regulator (see below). Divers clearly trust the badge, and by combining a commitment to quality, reliability and innovation with stylish designs that they like to be seen using, it has once again swept to the top as brand of 2017.
2nd Suunto It’s now five times in six years that Suunto has been brand runner-up, an incredible record for a company associated among divers primarily with computers. Its high level of aftercare has to be a factor, and sets a fine example for other suppliers.
3rd Mares The Italian manufacturer of a comprehensive range of diving equipment is back in the top three this year after an absence of several years. One factor is perhaps its continued expansion into gear designed for extended-range diving.
DIVER PRODUCT OF THE YEAR
Which do you consider the most exciting item of kit to emerge recently?
1st Scubapro Hydros Pro - Built using the “Fluid-Form 3D Gel System”, this wing-style BC is unlike any other on the market, says its maker. Claims to fame include a modular design for easy customisation and repair; a body-moulding back-plate-and-harness for comfort and stability; little inherent buoyancy; fast-drying ability and compactness. “We’d like to thank all the divers who voted for the Hydros Pro and made this success possible!” said Johnson Outdoors Marketing Manager Tina Kopsell.
2nd Apeks MTX-R The recreational derivative of the military-grade MTX, we're told that design innovations allow this regulator to perform in almost-freezing water below 60m deep. Cool!
3rd Suunto Eon Steel This computer with its bright colour display designed for high contrast and a wide angle of view has been around a while, but with software updates this year it’s still attracting mass votes.
DIVER TOUR OPERATOR OF THE YEAR
Which company is best at arranging diving package holidays? This category is hotly contested by the big wheels in UK dive tourism – and we have to tell you, the order is unchanged from last year. You can’t say these guys lack consistency!
1st blue o two “We’re delighted to have been awarded this prestigious title for the second year running,” said company Director Jason Strickland. “Every member of the team works extremely hard to deliver superb scuba-diving experiences and this is a testament to them. A huge thank-you to our customers for voting blue o two – we wouldn't be here without your support.”
2nd Scuba Travel That Godalming-based rival was once again nipping at blue o two’s ankles, and it too offers global coverage, a long-established reputation and strong connections with a liveaboard fleet, Tornado Marine. It also has a very loyal set of return customers, and you don’t get that without delivering the goods!
3rd Regaldive Still sitting comfortably in third, this Ely-based former serial TOotY winner works hard to stay ahead of the destination trends and tribulations, which is at least half the battle in this tough sector of the diving industry.
DIVER DIVE CENTRE OF THE YEAR
Which centre, anywhere in the world, seems to get it right more often than not? For years all roads led to Egypt, but the world has changed and for many divers Hampshire now seems to host the location of choice.
1st Andark Diving & Watersports Last year it shot in as runner-up and now it reigns supreme – this PADI 5* instructor-development centre has a shop, indoor pool and purpose-built 7m-deep lake (below) designed for dive-training, gear-testing and other water sports, and it’s been drawing in divers in the South.
2nd Maltaqua This multi-agency dive-centre in St Paul’s Bay, Malta has a big shop and its own apartments, the Sands, purpose-designed to cater for divers. Malta is proving a big draw for divers these days, and with 45 years of experience, Maltaqua knows how to meet their needs.
3rd Stoney Cove Also flying the flag for Britain is last year’s winner, the National Diving Centre in Leicestershire. With its sturdy fan-base and ever-expanding facilities, it’s more than likely to stay a top-three fixture.
DIVER LIVEABOARD OF THE YEAR
It may be the facilities, the crew or the itinerary – what makes your ideal boat?
1st Hurricane “We’re really pleased for the guides and crew of Hurricane (right) for winning for the second year running,” said Angela Nordin of Scuba Travel. “This can be achieved only with a vast amount of hard work. The season diving-wise down south has been epic. The food is also fab, and we never have hungry divers. And she’s quick! These are the areas that beat other boats and why she has picked up such an accolade. Customers keep coming back for more.”
2nd blue Horizon It could the last DIVER Awards hurrah for the flagship of the blue o two liveaboard fleet under this name, because after 12 years the 41m motor yacht is due to be rebadged as Red Sea Master. It can carry up to 26 divers.
3rd Nautilus Explorer is world-famous for being one of very few liveaboards able to take divers to world-class eastern Pacific destinations Guadalupe (great whites) and Socorro (giant mantas). It is built for safety on ocean-going cruise-ship lines.
DIVER DESTINATION OF THE YEAR
We asked you to name the best country for divers to visit, and you know what you like!
1st Egypt The news may still be grim for Egypt as a mass-tourism destination, but UK divers see things differently. “We’re naturally very pleased to win this award again,” said UK Tourism Director Amr El Ezabi. “It’s a testament not only to the numerous world-class dive-sites Egypt has, but also the facilities and the highly qualified individuals working in the country’s diving industry. Just a five-hour flight from London, the clear waters and beautiful coral reefs ensure an easy escape to diving paradise.”
2nd Malta has cemented its place among UK divers’ big three, offering wrecks, marine-life and interesting topography, plus shore-tour diving combined with affordable pricing and in easy reach of home.
3rd Maldives In the halfway-house between the Middle and Far East, the quality of the big-animal diving especially keeps the atolls popular, and the Maldives ever in the top three.
DIVER RETAILER OF THE YEAR
Which dive-store has given you good value and exemplary service? Our perennial winner has found the magic formula…
1st Simply Scuba “We’re thrilled and honoured to be named Retailer of the Year for the ninth consecutive year,” said MD Gerard Dennis. “In 2017 we undertook a large-scale project to replatform our website and align this with our other business processes. To still be credited with this award is a testament to the effort that has gone into this venture. We’d like to thank our customers, suppliers and partners for their support during this time.”
2nd Mike’s Dive Store, which describes itself as London’s biggest dive-store, cements its runner-up placing from last year, offering “a tradition of good service and advice from a position of a wealth of knowledge”.
3rd Andark Diving & Watersports has not only won the Dive Centre category but retains third place in this one. Its retail base near Southampton has been selling dive-gear for longer than the other stores – since 1982!
DIVER NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
With readers’ votes always in mind, DIVER also gets involved in judging the outstanding innovations or arrivals on the scene.
1st Paralenz - The Danish diver-designed action-cam that can compensate for colour loss at depth automatically scored highly. “We’re very honoured to receive this award; it shows us that we’re on the right path and that there is a need for the Paralenz,” said mastermind Martin Holmberg (above). The product’s “amazing journey could not have been done without the support of the backers and A-testers!”
2nd Ocean Turtle This PADI 5* IDC, which is based in Basingstoke and arranges training, holidays, dive-gear sales, hire and servicing, was swept to our attention on a mighty tide of votes!
3rd Ratio iDive Easy Sports This new computer can be integrated with one or two transmitters, handles two nitrox mixes, has a 3D compass and a rechargeable battery – and has hit that sweet third spot.
DIVER LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
Colin Doeg is the elder statesman of British underwater photography.
A boy reporter during WW2, he took up photography and became an award-winning sports photographer.
He started diving in the early 1960s, and was soon portraying the underwater world on film. In 1965 he won the first International underwater photography competition – organised by DIVER. Colin also took the world’s first pictures of feeding basking sharks.
For all his own achievements in underwater photography, it is for his selfless contributions to helping others attain success that he is receiving this award.
In 1967, with the late Peter Scoones, Colin co-founded the British Society of Underwater Photographers. Fifty years on, BSoUP continues to mentor new photographers and has amassed an outstanding body of alumni, all of whom are indebted to Peter and Colin’s influence.
Through his articles over the decades Colin has educated photographers globally, and he is cited as an inspiration by National Geographic underwater photographer David Doubilet. As co-founder of the Visions in the Sea underwater photography conference, Colin introduced many of the world’s best professional image-makers and cameramen to an audience of British photographers who would not otherwise have seen them.