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Orlando Hosts Biggest Diving Event in The World

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The showman Walt Disney’s extraordinary success with animation brought great fortune. Disney’s vision saw creation of Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The theme park opened in 1955. With its success Disney planned another park in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. His company purchased some 25,000 acres of what was then swamp and citrus groves. Walt Disney did not live to see the park open. On October 1, 1971, Disney World brought immediate prosperity to what was once only a pastoral county. As a result, Orlando became a boom town.

Article and photos by John Christopher Fine

Walt Disney would turn over in his grave at the report of one family man that took his wife and daughter to Disney World. Admission was $180 each not including parking. No food or beverages were allowed inside the park. High priced food and drinks had to be purchased from Disney vendors. The father stated they stood in long lines in Florida’s hot sun for hours. At the end of their five-hour day they were only able to get on two rides. They did not buy the $50 additional band that allowed priority on rides. He will never go again.

With prosperity from many theme parks came all manner of other exploitive venues. The Orlando Orange County Convention Center was new at one time. Skyscraper hotels, veritable concrete jungles, appeared to take advantage of America’s fascination with ‘conventions’ that provide employee perks, get aways and some business. Why not take the family, go to a tax deductible convention then theme park themselves to augment their vacation.

Orlando’s hotel towers are over-priced, charge some $24 additional per day parking, $20 for the poolside shower and fitness amenities, and an equal fortune for any extras like Internet in the room without providing the free breakfast most gracious hotels offer guests that pay one-third their tariff.

The convention center itself is getting old. Plaster fell from ceilings, carpets needed replacement its overall venue drab. Parking cost $17 per day with no in-and-out allowed. Without exaggeration there were long walks to occasional shuttles then long long walks to get to the hall where events took place.

DEMA itself was extraordinary. It went off without a hitch. A large heated swimming pool in the middle of the exhibit hall must have required imaginative engineering to set up then take down after the event. A happy mood prevailed as hundreds of exhibitors set up their booths and prepared to meet old customers and make new contacts.

The DEMA event is more than a trade show. Educational organizations and dive training agencies conduct seminars. Non-Profit environmental and conservation agencies offered insight into their work. Ocean nations around the world sent representatives to interest people in dive tourism.

The growing popularity of dive-tourism is often not appreciated by some land-locked cities like Orlando. Their tourism officials figure 75 million visitors a year do them well enough. Dive tourism supports whole nations. Divers vacation with their families, stay in hotels, frequent restaurants, seek entertainment and dive. The activity puts these travelers on a higher economic level than most other activities. Diving is not inexpensive, certainly more costly than golf and other leisure time activities.

That said there are hidden gems in and around Orlando. One is the Dr. Phillips House. This 1893 mansion is set in a circle right in the inner city. The mansion, once the home of Dr. Phillip Phillips a Columbia Medical School graduate and successful citrus grower and real estate entrepreneur, now offers luxury lodgings in original family rooms.

Prices at Dr. Phillips House are far less than what one would expect, far less than an ordinary room in an impersonal hotel tower. Each guest room has a large separate bath room with modern stand up showers and amazing large whirlpool tubs. Rooms in the Dr. Phillips House are lighted with chandeliers, have ornate fire places, modern comfort designed mattresses in dark wood four posters. WiFi is free and a convenience nook provides coffee and beverage service as well as muffins and assorted snacks.

The garden at Dr. Phillips House attests to its use as a venue for weddings and parties. Nestled inside a web of roadways that were built around this landmark, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, are live oak trees hung with Spanish moss. Luxuriant plantings accent a quaint gazebo. Parking is free in the circle that forms entrance to the mansion.

There is nothing like an Irish pub for friendly service and grand hospitality. Renown for its food under the direction of Executive Chef Joe McFadden, direct from Ireland, ‘An Tobar’ is such a place located just north of Orlando inside the Sheraton Orlando North Hotel. Parking is included. The hotel embarked on a total modernization program. Room rates are more than reasonable. Their club level offers snacks and business work station adjustable tables as well as hot free breakfasts.

The bar at ‘An Tobar’ is reminiscent of Dublin’s pubs. All manner of Irish libations as well as other drinks are available. Chef McFadden and his team offer a shepherd’s pie that is as perfect as any country pub would serve on the Emerald Isle. It is a bit of Ireland in Orange County. Rooms in the hotel are named for places and events in Irish literature.

“This is the 1904,” Orlando Sheraton North Manager Josh Schoggins explained. “The menu describes the origin of its name. It was the year Leopold Bloom, the main character in James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses,’ traveled around Dublin and met the woman he would marry.”

Josh showed off the Oscar Wilde Ballroom and other quaint features of the hotel. Renovations included modernizing rooms to include ample plugs everywhere with many at bedside. There is free WiFi in every room and public space. A fine swimming pool and club are perfect amenities without additional charge. Modern mattresses and pillows assure comfortable sleep. Rooms are available with large stand up showers. There are rooms with tubs for those that prefer or for families traveling with children.

Many new products were unveiled at DEMA. Emmanuel Tosi, Manager of Beuchat in Marseille, France, described newly created colorful wetsuits for snorkelers. “The colors and patterns appeal to children as well as many that are not ready to get into Scuba, yet, wish to enjoy snorkeling. We are trying to attract new divers and children to get interested in ocean exploration,” Tosi said.

SeaLife Cameras unveiled their new Sea Dragon lighting and camera innovations. Carl Shuster from SeaLife’s New Jersey headquarters was on hand to explain technical features of the equipment as well as to guide dive shops in selecting inventory.

Dive training agencies were well represented. The National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) held programs and award ceremonies and brought members together with headquarters staff at a gala party at a pirate themed dinner-theatre. PADI, SSI, IANTD and other diver educational organizations held seminars and programs in continuing education.

Opportunities at DEMA events are unlimited. No one can do it all. No one can see it all. “I love the opportunity to see friends,” Captain Spencer Slate said. Captain Slate had a booth that became a meeting place for divers he took on his ‘creature feature’ experiences over the last forty years teaching diving in Florida’s Keys. “By the end of DEMA my legs ache from standing and walking. It is worth it. I see so many people that I’ve met over the years.” That too is important. Diving has grown in popularity and where once most instructors knew other members of their teaching organizations global expansion has created far reaching memberships.

One of the most sentimental events during the week of DEMA is the presentation of the NOGI awards. Created in 1960 as the result of an award ceremony for spearfishing, the New Orleans Grand Isle (NOGI) is now undertaken by the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences (AUAS). The NOGI is the highest distinction divers, educators, scientists, conservationists and artists can receive. The award is a statuette reminiscent of the Oscar. The NOGI ‘Oscar’ wears fins and a dive mask, however.

Dan Orr, former Director of Divers Alert Network, now president of the Academy, organized the event with officers of the Academy. The formal gala was attended by Zale Parry. Zale co-starred with Lloyd Bridges in the Sea Hunt television series. Many famous people have been inducted into the Academy as fellows. Philippe Tailliez, the father of diving and the man that brought Jacques-Yves Cousteau into diving when he was Cousteau’s senior officer in the French Navy, Cousteau himself, Frederic Dumas, Albert Falco, John Stoneman, Wyland, Guy Harvey, Andre Galerne, Dimitri and Ada Rebikoff to name only a few NOGI recipients.

Non-profit organizations like the History of Diving Museum had booths at the DEMA event. Reef conservation groups, shark protection societies, Florida’s Department of Archaeology were present to guide attendees into areas of interest in hopes of preserving and protecting the marine environment.

There is no reason that an event in Orlando should break a budget. A little advance research, a group renting the Dr. Phillips House for the week to have their parties there or take advantage of modern amenities at places like the Sheraton Orlando North Hotel to savor fine Irish fare in ‘An Tobar’ restaurant and pub are ways of enjoying Orlando without being gouged.

Walt Disney was a visionary. Could he have envisioned the Orlando Airport with its maze and sprawl and traffic? Could he have thought it would take one-and-a-half hours to get to the convention center from the airport? That Orlando’s highways were built to modern specifications only to be overcrowded and rebuilt many times to snarl motorists on their daily commutes? Maybe. What he wouldn’t tolerate was the father’s disaffection with his family’s overall experience. Walt Disney wanted people to laugh, enjoy, play and have fun. To seek out his vision takes a little pre-planning. Do not count on arrogant tourism purveyors to make it easy. You are one in 75 million. Plan for yourself and do it long in advance to make your next DEMA Orlando experience or any visit to Orange County thrilling as well as one that will not break the bank.

Emerald City Signals the New Year with Polar Bear Plunge 2020

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Dipping into chilly waters off Matthews Beach in Lake Washington, Seattle for its 18th year is the Polar Bear Plunge: an opportunity for locals and visitors to ring in the New Year while testing their determination. Slated for January 1, 2020 at noon, the event builds on previous festivities, offering fun, games, prize, and more with a community-oriented flavor.

Article by John Tapley; photos courtesy Janet Wilson

The Polar Bear Plunge is hosted by the Meadowbrook Pool, one of eight pools within Seattle and under the umbrella of Parks and Recreation, and a mainstay of the Emerald City since 1975. The plunge has been a Seattle tradition since its inaugural event in 2003, as Janet Wilson, Aquatic Center Coordinator at Meadowbrook Pool, explains:

“A neighbor came to the pool and said she had been going to Mercer Island with friends and jumping off someone’s dock. It occurred to her she lived close to Matthews Beach in Lake Washington, and wouldn’t it be fun to have a neighborhood gathering? She came and approached me about doing it for the community. It was a person just saying, ‘This would be a fun community event. Would Parks and Recreation be interested?”

Lucho Libre!

Matthews Beach has been the venue of choice since year one, largely because of its easy accessibility and viewing.

“One of the things that’s nice about Matthews Beach is that it’s on a bus line and is accessible from the Burke-Gilman Trail, and there’s quite a bit of parking,” says Wilson. “It’s a pretty dense neighborhood and is accessible from all areas of the city. It has a cove shape, making a natural spot for people to have nice viewing points on the lawn. A lot of people come with family and friends: a support group, bringing blankets and towels.”

Prior to the park plunge, guests can enjoy community activities such as games, photos, props, and music, and purchase t-shirts and sweatshirts cherishing the event. Warm refreshments will be available, including hot chocolate and marshmallows, coffee, and, curiously, warm tang.

“We tell people that’s the beverage of choice by polar bears,” laughs Wilson. “We also have big chubby marshmallows, which we tell people are polar bear vitamins. It’s being silly and making it fun.”

Daring participants who brave the chilly waters up to their necks can receive a commemorative badge of courage, emboldened with the year of the event: a collectable for repeat polar bear plungers.

Beyond the fun and local revelry, the Polar Bear Plunge urges safety and caution to prevent accidents and conditions such as hypothermia. Participants are asked to stay in the waters no more than 15 minutes, abstain from alcohol, and change into dry clothes immediately afterwards. Changing rooms and hot showers will be available.

Jellies!

Parties interested in ringing in the New Year with the Emerald City community can register at 10 a.m. prior to the event’s launch.

For more information, including tips to stay safe during the festivities, visit parkways.seattle.gov.

DC Dive Show Hosts Second Scuba Extravaganza in 2020

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Returning to Washington DC early next year is the DC Dive Show: a weekend celebration of all things aquatic. Slated for February 22 and 23, the convention offers a wide range of activities, events, and displays that spark the imagination and sate that hunger for the sea.

By John Tapley

DC Dive Show – February 22-23, 2020

The DC Dive Show will feature a bevy of presentations headlined by luminaries in scuba diving, maritime history, travel and adventure, and other relevant subjects. Exhibitors representing dive manufacturing and retail, travel, environmental and social groups, will be available throughout the weekend; as of this writing, 52 exhibitors have signed up for the show. Show visitors will also be able to participate in raffles and a silent auction. Money raised from the auction will go toward Dive Hope: a fundraiser operated by show organization US Dive Shows, which garners donations for breast cancer patients.

As with last year’s DC Dive Show, 2020’s event will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, located in the heart of the city. This venue was selected for its centered location, easy access and parking, and closeness to DC’s most prolific locales. DC Dive Show is managed by US Dive Shows, which has operated successful scuba diving and adventure travel expos throughout the United States.

The show floor plan has been designed with four large screens that will showcase short videos donated by industry media producers, including Behind the Mask and Brent Durand. Featured in the eastern section of the show room will be “Treasure Island”: an aptly named section that showcases aquatic imagery donated by artists as well as artifacts recovered from historically important Atlantic Coast shipwrecks by acclaimed wreck expert Gene Peterson.

“We’re using two ballrooms this year that are surrounded by classrooms, so it makes it real easy,” says show organizer and US Dive Shows head Brian Miller. “Our exhibit floor is all carpeted and it’s a very nice facility – it’s beautiful.”

DC Dive Show – February 22-23, 2020

The DC Dive Show opens on Saturday, February 22 with a focus on seminars and presentations that cover a wide range of topics. Participants can dip into history with presentations on ancient Greek wrecks, Great Lakes finds, and World War II-era discoveries in the Solomon Islands; travel alongside presenters to exotic destinations such as the Caribbean, Fiji, and the Arctic; and take in environmentally focused subjects such as shark conservation.

As the evening begins to settle in, local dive clubs will hold their February meetings throughout seven specified seminar rooms. Later, from 7 to 11, the DC Dive Show will feature a Caribbean-styled Saturday night social, in timing with Carnival. The social will be managed by members of The Underwater Adventure Society, and will include food, accessories like Mardi Gras beads, and Carnival-themed amusements.

Sunday, February 23 will mark DC Dive Show’s workshop day, which will include its own variety of presentations with a hands-on approach. Workshops slated for Sunday include a four-part program on citizen scientists, sustainable travel, Spot a Shark, coral restoration, a rebreather demonstration by Jill Heinerth, health and aging as a diver, and an ocean pollution portrait, which will cover water pollution throughout the world. A wreck diving workshop will cover shipwrecks in a variety of destinations such as the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and the Great Lakes, and will be headlined by seasoned scuba diver and maritime historian Erik Petkovic.

According to Petkovic, who has attended shows managed by US Dive Shows, the DC Dive Show fills a much-needed niche in the region.

“It’s really the only dive show that’s in the mid-Atlantic states; there’s some small ones, but the bigger, well known dive shows are in the northeast or down south in Florida,” he says. “It’s nice to have a local one in the DMV: DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Brian made a smart move when he moved the [Baltimore show] to DC. Everyone likes DC and there’s a lot of other stuff to do besides the dive show.”

“It’s a great location,” he adds. “The venue is superb. It’s easy to navigate to, easy to get to the hotels, and easy to go anywhere else in the city. It has a great feel to it. In previous years, it was one day: an in and out on Friday or Saturday. There’s been so much demand for it, it’s effectively been doubled.”

Tickets for next year’s DC Dive Show cost $25 for two-day general admission and $15 for Sunday only. Parties who order tickets in advance online can save $5 and get a free raffle ticket. For more details on the DC Dive Show, including a comprehensive list of seminars and workshops, as well as lodging and travel accommodations, visit dcdiveshow.com.

2019 Registration Open for NAUI Workshops at DEMA Show

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Diving Equipment and Marketing Association

ARTICLE BY TIM WILLIAMS, NAUI MARKETING

Registration is now open for NAUI Worldwide’s exhibitor-sponsored workshops and seminars at DEMA Show in Orlando, Florida! Qualified dive industry professionals looking for training opportunities in First Aid Instruction and Training or Course Director and Instructor Trainer Requalification can now register online or by phone.

DAN and NAUI Partner at DEMA

Are you interested in teaching and administering First Aid courses to your students? Or, have you met all the prerequisites to become a First Aid Instructor Trainer in the NAUI First Aid – Powered by DAN curriculum? NAUI is offering two, two-day workshops: First Aid Instructor Workshop (FAIW) and First Aid Instructor Trainer Workshop (FAITW). Both will be held on Nov. 16-17 at 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Room W206B of the Orange County Convention Center at 9800 International Drive.

Full details and registration information can be found at https:/www.naui.org/events/dema-show-2019/.

Due to pre-requisite requirements, on-site registration will not be available for the FAIW and FAITWs. Completion of the online Instructor Modules is required prior to attending. The deadline to register for both workshops is three weeks prior to event date.

NAUI members are encouraged to register for the NAUI Instructor Trainer/Course Director/Course Director Trainer Requalification Workshop being held on Tuesday, Nov. 12 in room W206A. Completion of this periodic training is required to maintain these designations. Instructors who successfully complete this workshop will be requalified at their current designation through Dec. 31, 2022.

For full details, access NAUI’s DEMA Show Program at: https:/www.naui.org/media/2304/dema-special- section_2019.pdf

Interested individuals should direct questions to the NAUI Training Department at training@naui.org or by calling NAUI Headquarters at +1 813-628-6284. Additional FAIW, FAITW, and IT/CD/CDT Workshops will be held throughout 2020 with updates posted to www.naui.org/events/.

ACT NOW AND REGISTER TODAY! Stay tuned to the NAUI Events Page for the latest details on NAUI and exhibitor-sponsored seminars, show-related activities and news, NAUI Member Reception, and otherinformation as the DEMA Show approaches.

DCDiveShow Launches Guest Line Up for Polar Regions Presentation

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By Brian Miller and John Tapley

In recognition of the world’s climate changing, particularly how these changes affect oceans and polar ice caps, the DC Dive Show will focus on polar regions during its featured presentation. Scheduled for Saturday, February 22, 2020 at 2pm EST, the exploratory showcase will feature two of scuba diving’s most prolific polar explorers, who have explored the region for many years: Jill Heinerth, who was the first diver to cave dive within an iceberg; and Amos Nachoum, the first to photograph polar bears from underwater.

Jill Heinerth hosts Rebeathers 101 Workshop

The DCDiveShow is dedicated to the promotion of scuba diving retail in the Mid-Atlantic. At this show we take local divers on adventures to the Polar Regions, the Caribbean, the South Pacific and the local diving areas of the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes.

The Mid-Atlantic diving reaches up into the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River shipwrecks, Rhode Island shark diving, Civil War artifact diving in rivers and bays. The New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina “Shipwreck Alley” has more than 5,000 shipwrecks off the coast.

Speakers will tell stories about their scuba diving and travel adventures from around the world. For example, Amos and Jill will be sharing adventures of the polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctica. Others will share experiences diving on the many shipwrecks of the region and still others will share stories of pirates, sharks, the environment and even the food culture of the Caribbean.

On Sunday, these presentations expand into workshops on rebreathers, diving medicine, the environment, researching the National Archives for shipwreck information, and more. DCDiveShow offers something for everyone!

The DCDiveShow takes place at the Walter E. Washington (DC) Convention Center on February 22 and 23, 2020.

The show will feature equipment specialist and retail and training experts from the local area as well as liveaboard boat operators and resort representatives from around the world. Non-divers attending the Show will receive coupons for a FREE Discover Diving experience.

The DCDiveShow takes place at the Walter E. Washington (DC) Convention Center on February 22 and 23, 2020.  For more information, visit DCDiveShow.com or contact organizer Brian Miller at brian@usdiveshows.com (or (410) 458-0260) after October 14, 2019.

Underwater Pumpkin Carving: Spooky, Spirited Scuba

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Courtesy Marker Buoy Dive Club

With Halloween quickly approaching, scuba divers are raring and ready for one of their most favorite, and uniquely eccentric, fall activities: underwater pumpkin carving. Using deft skill and precision, aquatic devotees showcase their creativity in their favorite environment: the gourds gluttonous with gooey guts are given ghoulish, garish, or goodly grins; and beyond these typical depictions, pumpkin artisans have merged their passion for the undersea world with the craft with orangey dioramas displaying sea life. Throughout October, water-related organizations the world over facilitate freaky and fun fall festivities fit for family and friends.

Article by John Tapley

For Mystic Aquarium, located in Stonington, Connecticut, entertaining children and families is the core of underwater pumpkin carving. This year’s Sea Scare event, scheduled for October 26 and 27, is a celebration of the season and the sea. During Sea Scare, visitors can watch the aquarium’s dive team carve pumpkins within an expansive coral exhibit replete with tropical fish; a friendly costume contest rounds out the event.

“We get a lot of interaction with kids anytime we’re in an exhibit or cleaning or having these other events,” explains Sharon Teel, Mystic Aquarium dive safety officer. “We get close to the glass and we have this cool skeleton costume the diver wears. It’s a huge photo op for the parents. We end up being in so many pictures.”

Courtesy Marker Buoy Dive Club

A 501(c)3 non-profit in operation since 1973, Mystic Aquarium’s overall mission is, per PR coordinator Stevi Bramich, “to inspire people to care for and protect the ocean planet through education, conservation, and research.”

Three time zones away, Seattle’s Marker Buoy Dive Club has hosted an annual pumpkin carving contest for decades, with 2019’s event taking place at Alki Beach Park on October 26.

“It’s an unusual activity,” says Fritz Merkel, Marker Buoy Dive Club webmaster. “It’s something completely different from what you’d do while diving. In our carve, you can draw on the pumpkin, but it cannot be otherwise altered until it’s at 10 feet at depth.”

One of the oldest dive clubs in the United States, Marker Buoy Dive Club has been in operation since the early ‘60s. The club is over 200 members strong and highlights Puget Sound as a diving destination while hosting and participating in community engagements.

Carving a pumpkin while maintaining the demands of scuba diving is not a simple undertaking. Pumpkins are known to be floaty vegetables and keeping them sedentary can be a challenge.

Volunteer diver and pumpkin – courtesy Mystic Aquarium

“Handling the pumpkin is the hardest part,” says Teel. “Everything else is pretty normal for the dive routine. What we do ahead of time is hallow out the pumpkin then… get a bit of weight in there to help it to stop floating up towards the surface. Then we’ll draw whatever we need to carve out ahead of time… keeping it looking like it’s cool and not too crazy.”

“You have to get a floaty pumpkin down to 10 feet before you can open it, get the air out of it, and start carving,” says Merkel, referring to the Marker Buoy carving contest. “It requires some skill. We’ve had people completely fail with that portion: if you could imagine trying to sink a basketball by hand. You have to have an assortment of carving tools depending on how elaborate you want to be, and then you have to pull that whole thing off with a buddy underwater within an hour, then get the whole mass back intact.”

See more examples of underwater pumpkin carving in our digital magazine.

Dive for a Cure Continues Charity through Scuba

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Dive for a Cure

On September 15, scuba divers, friends, and family will gather at Woahink Lake in Florence, Oregon for a day of fun, food, and fundraising: the Dive for a Cure event, organized by Eugene Skin Divers Supply of Eugene, Oregon. Now in its 12th year, the day has become a hallmark for scuba diving events in the central Oregon region – it’s ultimate purpose to garner funds for breast cancer research.

By John Tapley; photos courtesy Dive for a Cure

As in previous years, the all-day charity will be hosted at Woahink Lake in Dunes City, Oregon. Dive for a Cure 2019 will provide a bevy of activities for participants of all ages. Key to the event for divers is the underwater poker run and while topside events include: the OctoToss, a fin race, a silent auction, speaking engagements, and other inclusive activities. Refreshments will be served at a family BBQ and will include hamburgers and garden burgers, hotdogs, chips, salads, beverages, and desserts.

“It’s a state park so we can make reservations and use the area,” says event organization and Eugene Skin Divers Supply co-owner Diana Hollingshead. “It’s very close to Eugene – about 50 miles away – and the lake is easy to dive in: a nice, controlled environment for divers of all levels.”

Founded in 2008 by Diana and husband Michael, Dive for a Cure serves as the largest grassroots fundraiser for the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, which researches and treats breast cancer. To date, Dive for a Cure has raised over one million dollars in funds to the institute, and has helped share the message of breast cancer prevention and treatment.

Last month, Dive for a Cure worked with a longstanding local partner, Fast Track Car Wash, for a weeklong fundraising event wherein 50 percent of proceeds went to the cause. Fast Track Car Wash has been involved with the charity for the past seven years.

Dive for a Cure logo

Dive for a Cure is operated by volunteers who gift their time to the cause, and sponsors who finance the event through pledges and donate items to the silent auction. Event organizers are looking forward to next year, and encourage dive shops and organizations to participate.

This year’s Dive for a Cure is sponsored by leading companies in the scuba diving industry, including AquaLung, DUI, USIA, PADI, SCUBAPRO, Huish Outdoors, TUSA, Blue Green Expeditions, Deep Blue Adventures, and Big Blue Lights.

If previous’ years are a meter, Dive for a Cure 2019 will prove to be another successful event; Dive for a Cure 2018 enjoyed over 250 attendees. As of this writing, over 200 have registered.

“There’s still time to sign up,” says Hollingshead. “We have people coming from across the country again – the East Coast, California, the Seattle area – and everyone is welcome: family events; lunch provided. Even if people don’t want to dive, the silent auction is huge.”

For more details on Dive for a Cure, including sponsorship, volunteer, and donation information, and to sign up, visit www.diveforacure.org.

REEF FEST 2019 CELEBRATES MARINE CONSERVATION – Florida Keys Community

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Reef Fest Celebrates Marine Conservation

By John Tapley ; Photos courtesy REEF

October is a month that bridges the residual warmth from September and the chilly conditions brought on by November. For many scuba divers, depending on locality, it marks the end of the busy dive season: transitioning into winter before the electrified energy of diving returns full swing in spring. Florida, with its consistently balmy and warm temperatures, both above and in the waters, is a lauded destination during these colder months. REEF Fest 2019 invites visitors of all ages to celebrate all things ocean from October 17 to 20, opening warm, watery worlds within southern Florida.

Managed by the Reef Environment Education Foundation (REEF), REEF Fest is a four-day exploration of marine environments and conditions throughout the Florida Keys. REEF Fest recognizes and honors successful education and marine conservation programs and initiatives, and includes a bevy of activities and events, including, according to its website, “educational seminars, social gatherings, diving and eco-adventures along side some of the most prestigious names in diving and marine conservation.”

REEF Trips Program and Communications Manager
Amy Lee

“One of the goals is to get REEF members and other ocean enthusiasts physically down to the Keys to participate in diving, snorkeling, and kayaking… to really appreciate the beauty of the Keys’ marine environment,” says REEF Trips Program and Communications Manager Amy Lee, “and hopefully get people engaged in our program and learn ways they can make a difference for conservation.”

“Individual empowerment. Spreading the message of what we do and why it’s important,” she continues. “And continued engagement with
our members. Even though we are based in Key Largo, we have members from all over the world. A lot of them have not physically been to ourheadquarters… we try to offer an individualized level of communication… like a big family.”

REEF Fest celebrates the hard work and dedication of ocean stewards and scientists, along with the Keys community, which has made these effortspossible. A social event will be presented each day of the festivities, allowing guests and presenters a venue to mingle and discuss pertinent topics concerning the ocean environment.

Reef Environmental Educations Foundation Headquarters

On Thursday, 17 REEF Fest will provide a sunset picnic, located at the Murray Nelson Government Center in Key Largo, with a welcome message
and opening seminar to follow inside the center’s auditorium. The next evening features an open house at REEF HQ where celebrants can tour the building, enjoy the Native Plants Trail, and experience the Interpretive Center; complimentary appetizers and local beer and wine complement the occasion.

For the Love of the Sea Banquet

The festival’s premiere social event, the For the Love of the Sea Banquet, starts Saturday evening next to Quiescence Diving Services, and offers a variety of appetizer, entrée, and beverage choices, live music, and a silent auction that benefits REEF’s marine conservation mission: an experience enhanced by the iconic southern Florida sunset. Each ticket for the banquet costs $70. Lastly, REEF 2019 will come to a close with a farewell brunch late morning on Sunday, 20: the final opportunity to meet and mingle before next year’s festival.

Alli Candelmo – Lionfish Collecting and Handling

Throughout the opening day, visitors will interact with REEF experts who will impart valuable teaching tools through three workshops: Lionfish Collecting and Handling Workshop, by Alli Candelmo, Ph.D., “Tropical Western Atlantic

Janna Nichols

Fish ID for Beginner Surveyors”, presented by REEF Outreach Coordinator Janna Nichols, and“Tropical Western Atlantic Fish ID for Intermediate/ Advanced Surveyors”, taught by Lee.

Cementing the festival’s focus on reef and ocean environment conservation will be a series of engaging seminars hosted by luminaries in oceanography, scuba diving, marine biology, and other related subjects.

REEF Fest’s opening evening features “The Future for Sea Turtles on a Warming Planet”, presented by Selina Heppel, Ph.D., Professor at Oregon State University.

Ben Holt – Reef Fish Behavior

Friday afternoon, visitors can enjoy presentations “The Power of Marine Citizen Science”, headlined by Ben Holt, Ph.D and Director of the Rock Pool Project; and “Reef Fish Behavior, 2nd Edition: Twenty joy-filled years in the making” by REEF trustees and co-founders Ned and Anna DeLoach.

Larry Brand, Ph.D

REEF Fest’s seminar series concludes on Saturday afternoon with “Blooms of Blue-green Algae in South Florida: Ecological causes and human health consequences” by Larry Brand, Ph.D. Professor of Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami;

Christy Pattengill-Semmens

“Lionfish and Nassau Grouper: A tale of two fish and how stakeholder collaboration leads to conservation success” by Alli Candelmo, Ph.D. and REEF Director of Science and REEF Invasive Species Program Manager, and Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D.; and “Marine Heatwaves: What 5,000 citizen scientists can tell us about 85,000 beached birds”, presented by Julia Parrish, COASST Executive Director and Ph.D. Professor of the University of Washington.

Scuba divers interested in experiencing REEF’s mission up close and personal can join up with participating dive charters in the Upper Keys on Friday, October 18 and Saturday 19. Each expedition will include a REEF representative who will provide and cover fish identification materials. REEF Fest dive partners this year include Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort, Horizon Divers, Quiescence Diving Services, and Key Dives. On both days, Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort will offer opportunities for snorkelers; Florida Bay Outfitters Kayak Tour will provide three-hour guided kayak eco-tours with a focus on wading birds and nearshore marine life. Parties interested inthese events should register with REEF directly. REEF Fest has been a mainstay program since its inaugural event in 2013, which coincided with REEF’s 25th anniversary.

“That event went so well that starting in 2015, we decided to make it an annual thing, [and] it was the first time we called it REEF Fest,” says Lee. “It’s been held annually since 2015, and something particularly exciting is this year’s event is the first year we have a title sponsor. We’re happy to have the support of Capital Bank Foundation.”

All REEF Fest events are open to the public thoughpre-registration is requested. For more details on REEF Fest, including registration and banquet tickets, visit www.reef.org/reeffest.

Shark Con 2019: A Jawesome Weekend in Tampa

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On Saturday, July 13 and Sunday 14, Shark Con will return to the Florida Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa, Florida for its sixth consecutive year: promoting shark conservation, demystifying stigmas surrounding the animals, and hosting an entertaining weekend for visitors of all stripes.

Article by John Tapley; photos courtesy Shark Con

Shark Con 2019 offers a bevy of shark-themed amusements and educational opportunities, packed into just two days. Visitors can engage with over 15 exhibits, ranging from movie memorabilia to interactive aquarium displays; from mermaid encounters to marine rescue missions.

Weekend Overview

The living sharks museum exhibit is a two-part display, which features shark fossils and teeth (including some from gone but not forgotten species) and several props and pieces from Jaws, including the movie’s iconic “Beach Closed” sign and a prosthetic head from one of the film’s grislier scenes.

Shark Con celebrants will dive alongside (and through the eyes of) sharks and witness their day-to-day lives in simulated, virtual reality environments provided by three separate groups: Discovery’s Shark Week, Florida Aquarium, and Sharks4Kids. Each VR experience shows a unique outlook on sharks, providing a variety of perspectives and angles.

Submersible watercraft hit the center stage through the Sea Breacher exhibit with a special vessel decorated like a shark. The submersible spectacle also promotes Shark Allies and their mission to promote legislation benefitting sharks and their natural environments.

In addition to the VR exhibit, Florida Aquarium will present a large swath of shark info, ranging from megalodon teeth, trivia games, and more.

Discovery’s Shark Week exhibit will highlight shoots and details on the popular program, and will include show stars Joe Romeiro and Dr. Neil Hammerschlag. Dr. Hammerschalg’s University of Miami Shark Research and Conservation Program team will be in attendance, and booth visitors should be on the lookout for giveaways.

A shark tooth sand dig, courtesy SeaWorld, is designed for adolescents and will let young marine biologists and paleontologists dig for discoveries and allow them to return home with a souvenir. At a separate exhibit, kids can also enjoy a 22-foot shark slide, bolting through a large, toothy grin, and a Spongebob-themed obstacle course.

Shark Con encourages non-divers young and old to adopt scuba diving and expand their horizons. The Go Dive Now Pool unveils the world of scuba through a safe, confined experience within a 30-foot, 15,000-gallon pool; a whole assortment of the latest scuba diving gear will be available, and the pool will be operated by a staff of professional instructors and dive leaders from nearby dive centers. The Go Dive Now Pool experience is open to visitors 10 and older.

“For me, it’s one of the most important things to have there,” says Steward. “As an avid scuba diver, to me, the easiest way to get people interested and passionate about the oceans is to get them underwater and diving. It’s hard to appreciate and want to protect something that you’ve never really experienced – more so than watching it on TV. Scuba diving has always been an integral part of the show.”

The Ocean’s Daughter Conservation Alliance exhibit will highlight facts and figures on the world’s oceans, presented by Marcelline (French for “Defender of the Seas”) Mermaids. The alliance raises money for ocean conservation and education to local communities, making a partnership with Shark Con a natural fit.

Marine mammals are the closest related sea creatures to humans and rescuing them from peril is a critical part of many ocean-driven organizations. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium will present a display and demonstrations highlighting marine mammal rescue operations, including the rehabilitation process.

Mote Marine Aquarium and Laboratory representatives will present all sorts of artifacts and fossils while answering questions at the booth. An aquarium and touch tank for kids rounds out the experience.

Throughout Shark Con, visitors can participate in a treasure hunt activity centered on the show’s partnerships with over 20 conservation organizations, which include Sharks4Kids, Shark Allies, Shark Angels, Fins Attached, SCUBAnauts International, Wildlife Voice, Sea Shephard and The Shark Conservation Fund.

Steward explains:

“We put together a treasure map that has the points of the non-profit conservation groups with we work with. The person has to go to that booth, complete whatever activity they’re asking to do – trivia, how to dig plastic out of the ocean, beach cleanups – and once they do that, they get a stamp. Once they’ve collected all the stamps, they can bring them back to the front, turn in their treasure map, and get a treasure: all sort of things from Save the Sharks bracelets to Shark Con stickers and magnets.”

Eckerd College’s Shark Conservation Center will explore the inner workings of sharks through dissection exhibits, using the same specimens used in the classroom.

Similarly, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will provide a tactile experience with a touch tank and aquarium, and also present the biology of sharks through dissected examples.

New to Shark Con 2019 will be the Zephyrhills® Water Adventures exhibit, which teaches the importance of water conservation and how run off affects aquatic environments.

“I think it looks really interesting,” says Steward. “It’s a large exhibit that goes into a lot of depth. A lot of times people, especially those living on the coast, don’t realize the things we do and how they affect the oceans, estuaries, and even the water we drink.”

All throughout both days (generally running at the first of each hour), guest speakers and presenters will share their work in solidifying shark conservation; Q&A opportunities will follow each presentation. OCEARCH will present recent accomplishments in its mission to promote shark conservation; and on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., will host an exclusive, after-hours VIP presentation, where the team will expound on the organization’s origins, including a panel discussion and photo opportunities. The Saturday night presentation will require a separate ticket cost beyond general admission.

Movie and cartoon buffs will want to keep an eye on key presentations during the weekend shark celebration. 

Jaws fanatics will sink their teeth into presentations with film legend Joseph M. Alves, Steven Spielberg’s assistant director and designer of the titular shark; actress Susan Backlinie, who played the monster’s first victim; and actor Jeffrey Voorhees. Adding to the jawesome panel will be the director of Jaws documentary The Shark is Still Working, Erik Hollander, and author Michael A. Smith who wrote Jaws 2: The Making of the Hollywood Sequel.

Ghostbuster and King Poseidon Ernie Hudson will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the film Shark Attack alongside a film writer and director Bob Misiorowski. Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle, who appeared in the shlocky Sharknado 2: The Second One, will be in attendance during Saturday.

Younger audiences (or those young at heart) will want to meet with two personalities from the iconic cartoon that features a sponge living in a pineapple under the sea. Spongebob Squarepants voice performers Rodger Bumpass (Squidward Tentacles) and Lori Alan (Pearl Krabbs) will be available to sign autographs, take photos, and share their talents: even recording voice mail messages for convention goers.

No convention would be complete without vendors, and Shark Con will feature representatives from ocean-themed organizations and companies. Local dive shops will showcase dive gear, classes, and trips; artists will sell their works.

“You name it! If it’s ocean-themed and there’s something to sell, we have it there!” Steward exclaims. “I go out and vet them, so we have [vendors] that are selling positive things and most of them end up contributing to ocean conservation and working with different groups. If you want something shark related, then there’s somebody there selling it.”

A Convention with a Cause

Ultimately, these engaging, interactive pursuits serve shark conservation and advocacy, which has been the core purpose of Shark Con since its inaugural event in 2013; and that message of community and public outreach continues to flourish each year.

Says Steward:

“My inspiration was to see how we could reach more people when it came to conservation efforts: saving sharks from becoming endangered and eventually extinct. How could we do that and create a community that didn’t just include professionals but enthusiasts and [everyday] people as well. I took the idea of a Comic Con aspect to bring in a new audience of people [whose interaction with] the water maybe only watching Sharknado or Shark Week. They can come in, have a fun time seeing the stars, and also stay for the scientist presentations: learning the difference between reality and the media.”

This distinction between fiction and real life is immensely important: while sharks are fearsome, mighty creatures, they’re a far cry from the bloodthirsty, vindictive killers often seen on the silver screen.

Steward continues:

“It’s important because no one is going to want to protect something they think is out to get them, and that’s what’s portrayed in the media – and don’t get me wrong, one of the things that got me into marine biology was seeing Jaws as a little kid. Knowing that fiction and reality are two different things, and teaching them the important role sharks play as apex predators (and maintaining the ocean’s) health is so important. Removing an apex predator from an ecosystem is the beginning of the end.”

With a handful of days until launch, Shark Con is shaping to be one of 2019’s most engaging ocean and conservation events in the U.S. With a wide variety of exhibits, events, and activities for guests of all interests, the convention carries a might that reflects the animal it protects.

For more details on Shark Con 2019, including a comprehensive list of vendors and speaker schedules, go to www.shark-con.com.

Why Do We Love Beneath The Sea?? (…Want the Long list or the Short List ?!)

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Beneath the Sea 2019

Ask ten people why they love BTS and you will get twenty, thirty or forty answers! BTS is scheduled after the Long Island Divers Association Film Festival and the Boston Sea Rovers, consequently we divers are now maximally pumped, primed, stoked and ready for action – which intensifies the anticipation for Beneath The Sea!

Article and photos by Gary Lehman

We walk into BTS full of ideas of what we are going to see, do and accomplish…

  • We are going to rub shoulders with stars in the constellation of characters and titans of diving!
  • Enjoy the Fish’n’Famous and Tech Wreck parties, the Diver of the Year Banquet, and the Film Festival!
  • We will admire the sea life posters (this year all those magical manatees!) created by children
  • Support the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, and knowing that the love of the marine environment is taking hold amongst those children who are being cured of their medical problems
  • Advance the sport via Marine Careers, and protect our marine environment thru Ocean Pals
  • We are going to attend intensive educational workshops, and skill-build for the new diving year
  • We will attend some fascinating lectures on all those subjects most near and dear to our diving lives, presented by subject matter experts who are passionate about their field — and equally passionate about sharing their knowledge and know-how
  • And all the new gear that we are going to check out, and blow through our slush funds (so our spouses don’t know what we spent)
  • We are excited about seeing all our friends again sharing what we love together
  • We are going to tell everyone about our great Club, and how we have fun and great diving
  • We are going to check out those exotic warm blue water dive destinations – and the frozen ones – and, the ones right here in the northeast and mid-Atlantic!
  • We are going to swing by our favorite scuba gear vendors and check out what is new
  • And… we are going to have some serious decompression time with friends from diving and new friends whom we have just made

But there’s more too… Every person from The Scuba Sports Club (and for that matter all BTS attendees) have different experiences, because we attend different presentations and might be here or there — when ‘something else’ is happening elsewhere… Some planning certainly helps structure the days at BTS but inevitably, things come up and our schedules get changed up. And that is fine.  The important thing is to be in the moment while at BTS, and be open to the opportunities, exhibits, and people we meet there.   We all have different “take-aways” from BTS, and that is welcome.

Here are a couple of items, groups, products, and services which just happened to catch my eye through sheer serendipity… and coincidence of time and place… (We would love to give a shout out to everyone and everything we encountered and all the animated conversations and findings, but it is just not possible to do so in a newsletter!)

The Handicapped Scuba Diving Alliance had their booth close to The Scuba Sports Club’s booth, and we know that the folks who run those programs are the best people on the Earth.  The team describes with great passion how the kids’ faces light up with a beaming burst of sunshine smile – even from just putting their faces in the water and breathing through the regulator. Suddenly, they are Jacques Cousteau (in the pool), freed from the constraints of gravity and soaring weightlessly!  Of course, there is special training required. Of course, many precautions are required to assist the handicapped while scuba diving, even in the pool. Let us remember our special needs kids (autism, cerebral palsy, Downs Syndrome…), and our disabled neighbors, and the wounded veterans who are served by the Handicapped Scuba Diving Alliance – and let us support their work.  This is the highest calling we can have. Contact Stew@HSANJSCUBA.com and http://hsanjscuba.com/ for more information.   And may Providence look over all those who are in need, and all those who provide the loving kindness and care.  

Marine Education Center – Harbor Island, Mamaroneck!  I used to go flounder fishing there in the late 60’s, right off the docks. Sometimes the water would explode with froth from the menhaden (moss bunker, a bait fish) when attacked by voracious bluefish.  That was a long time ago…  But helping to restore the environment there and everywhere – by building awareness of the ocean’s challenges with our youngsters – is biologist Kyle Troy, who runs the Marine Education Center, right there in Harbor Island, Mamaroneck!  At this educational facility, Kyle runs programs for K-12 students, who attend on school field trips, learn about the wonders of the ocean, and the challenges faced. There are aquariums as well, showcasing fish local to these waters such as starfish, horseshoe crabs, flounder, northern pipefish, and sea robins. These life-long passions start small:  Dr. Eugenie Clark (The Shark Lady) famously stated that her love of the oceans, and sharks in particular, originated in the aquarium in lower Manhattan (which has relocated moved to Coney Island).  What a great place to bring your young kids, your nieces, nephews, and grandchildren!   For more information, refer to http://www.marineeducationcenter.org/photos.html  .

The New York State Marine Education Association (NYSMEA) does great work as well, and we had a chance to stop in and pow wow about the programs they offer. We learned about their mission to promote marine awareness and encourage the growth and exchange of instructional resources within the scientific, commercial, and educational communities. NYSMEA has meetings, lectures, workshops, field trips, boat trips to that end.  And a big cleanup is scheduled for May 4th called It’s My Estuary Day at Kaiser Park, NY. For more information about the cleanup and the organization, contact via their website https://nysmea.wildapricot.org/ .

We encountered Shark Research Institute while strolling through the exhibits, where we stopped and learned abouttheir advocacy programs for sharks worldwide.  Their mission is to help these fish, so embattled all over the world. There is so much we don’t know about their life cycles, and we need stronger baselines in order to be able to help them survive for the next human generations. Two expeditions in particular caught my eye, one was the upcoming whale shark study in Djibouti, Africa and the other was a tiger shark study in Hawaii.  The research objectives are generally fairly straightforward – why do the sharks aggregate there; ID’ing individuals; what are they eating; what toxins if any are in the plankton, and what happens in a day of the life of a whale or tiger shark. These are clearly building blocks of knowledge about these species, without which we can’t adequately look out for them.

Lionfish. We all know the results of the scourge of this invasive species, feeding on the freshly-hatched fish and in many cases devastating the native fish population. Many solutions been proposed, but oftentimes these are not practical for remote areas which do not have advanced logistical capabilities.  Enter Reefsave.org!  This not-for-profit has developed a simple, economical trap system.  No fancy hardware. Just basically a net, some folded rebars, a line going topside, and a white PVC mesh.  The lionfish are attracted to the white PVC, collect and gather there, and then <poof> they are all hauled to the surface in the net; non-targeted fish if any are released, and the lionfish are someone’s expensive and delicious dinner that very night!  It is really a radically simple and apparently highly successful solution, which gets around the fact that humans spearfishing can only stay underwater for a short while and only to a certain depth before having to surface.  This passive trap systems gets around human limitations!  For more information, check out http://www.reefsave.org/

Who doesn’t love whale watching and dolphin watching!  And we are so lucky to have Gotham Whale Watches and American Princess Cruises right here in our own backyard in Jacob Riis Park/ Ft. Tilden to embark on cruises to marvel at the whales and dolphins which are returning to our cleaner NYC harbor waters to feed on the rebuilding populations of menhaden (moss bunker) – a keystone species which forms the foundation for the food chain in northeastern waters.  Gotham is all about advocacy for whales. Even though we aren’t hunting them, the volume of commercial shipping in the greater NYC harbor area means ship strikes against whales on the surface. This is one of the problems Gotham is tackling in their mission to protect our area’s whale population. Reach out to find more at https://gothamwhale.org/

Who knew???  Sunscreen is good, right?  We use it to protect ourselves from the sun and potential skin cancer! Not so fast… Who knew that the sunscreen we wear to protect us from skin cancer can be toxic to the marine environments (coral and fish) we love and travel to for adventure and inspiration!  Stream2Sea reports that worldwide 4,000 – 6,000 tons of it washes off our bodies – in the very same sunny warm blue water places we so love to dive in.   Stream2sea is right in the sweet spot for biodegradable packaging, non-destructive compounds to help protect corals, and of course, protection from the sun for us – and products to keep us healthy and inviting to be around!  For more info,  https://stream2sea.com/ .  There are even training modules at their website to raise awareness about the threat of sunscreen on marine environments.  Well worth a visit at https://stream2sea.com/stream2sea-learning-center/ !  S2S are engaging and fun-loving folks, and you will enjoy visiting with them in person or on the phones.

All of which, taken together, means that Beneath The Sea is a founding pillar of our scuba diving community and helps pull together the people, organizations, product, services, and education opportunities – as well as many ways to pay it forward – for all those in our scuba diving space!  Hats off to the Beneath The Sea team for, once again, hitting it out of the park.  See you all next year, have an excellent year with lots of diving, and of course and always – fun and safe diving!

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