One of the first questions on the mind of a new scuba student is "How do I know what equipment is right for me?" Well, here I will attempt to answer that question for you.
First of all, we must recognize a few basic facts. Scuba diving is an equipment intensive sport. If we are to become good at it, we must be using the same equipment each time we do it. Otherwise, it would be like playing golf with a different set of clubs each game, or skiing on a different set of skis each time we went skiing.
Secondly, you must realize that the technology changes rapidly and the only people who can keep up with that are those who deal with it constantly. We all have friends who dive and we feel comfortable asking their advice. Unfortunately, most of our friends have been using the same equipment for several years and are probably not familiar with what is currently available. It does not make sense to buy 3-year old technology, today, because we have a friend who is happy with their 3 (or 5 or 15) year old equipment..
So, what do we do? Magazine articles are often biased. Remember that a dive magazine is paid about $8000. for a full page ad. They virtually never bad-mouth anything. They get paid to make the advertiser happy. Our staff, on the other hand gets paid to make you happy.
Our philosophy, at Underwater World, is that we are looking for a long term relationship. We want to be able to take care of all your diving needs; travel, service, training, and equipment. It is important to us that the equipment you get is the right equipment for you and that you are happy with it. Our staff constantly receives training in the latest equipment available, and they are very aware of any problems that may develop in certain equipment. They are the experts on diving equipment and their job is to keep you happy and diving.
So, the best a. fro thedvice we can give you about buying equipment is to find dive store people that you are happy with. Hopefully, that is us. And then take their advice. If you choose the right people, they will choose the right equipment for you.
It is important to remember that this is life support equipment. You want to be well-informed when you make your purchase. You can't do that from an online description. When you are dealing online, you don't get to speak with a real person and there is even a good chance that the person handling your order is not even a diver. They are just selling boxes. You tell them which box you want. It does not even come assembled. Also remember that unless you are dealing with an authorized dealer, your warranty may not be valid. None of the major manufacturers, i.e. Scubapro, Aqualung, Oceanic, and Mares, offer a manufacturers warranty unless you purchase the equipment from an authorized dealer. You can find if they are an authorized dealer by going to the manufacturers web site. If they are not, I would not purchase anything from them. We had a woman come in with an $800 regulator that she was having a problem with that we could not resolve. We called the manufacturer and were informed that she did not purchase it from an authorized dealer and that there was nothing they (or us) could do. Expensive paper-weight.
The other thing about ordering on line is that it is usually not any cheaper. Especially if you compare apples to apples. People will say to us, "but they have $40 diveskins". Well, we have had $40 diveskins, but when they hang next a $55 diveskin and you can feel the difference (not just look at a picture), then almost everybody picks out the better skin. You are not getting a $55 diveskin for $40. It just doesn't work that way. Plus if it is apples to apples, and our price is higher, we will match or beat that price as long as they are an authorized dealer. Today the dive industry have MAP's most of their products. These are minimum advertising prices which no dealer is allowed to advertise a product below that price. Well, we normally sell at that Minimum Advertised Price and sometimes lower. We just can't advertise it lower. So you should not see it for a lower price.
Also, if you are dealing with another dive store, you will also want to make sure that they authorized to sell you the piece of equipment that you wish to buy. As we said before, you can only get a valid warranty when you have purchased your equipment from an authorized dealer. Some stores will get equipment from another store in order to "make the sale". This can present a real problem for you since the store where you purchased may not be able to service it properly. They probably do not have the parts, the manuals, nor the personnel who are trained on that equipment and can perform proper service on it for you. You can be sure anytime that you buy a piece of equipment from Underwater World, it comes with a valid warranty and we are an authorized dealer for that piece of equipment.
"Now", you ask, "what, specifically, should I buy?" That is a question that we cannot answer in a letter, a telephone call, or even in a magazine article. To properly answer that question, you need to come into Underwater World and talk with our equipment specialists. In conversation with you, they will help you determine the kind of diving that you are likely to be doing, what your budget should be, and what type of equipment you would like to own. Are you a BMW or a VW type of person? Do you like top-of-the-line or is it only function that matters? Once we answer these and several other questions, we can recommend the right equipment for you.
Although I wouldn't recommend a specific piece of equipment off the cuff, I can give you some good guidelines. First of all, when you are purchasing regulators, BCs, gauges, and computers, stick with the name brands (Aqualung, Scubapro, Oceanic). This type of equipment needs regular servicing. You need to be able to get it serviced wherever your travels and career may take you. It is not unusual for someone to bring us a regulator with a problem, two days before they leave on a trip. If you had a Performance regulator, it needed to be mailed back to them for service. The problem now is that Performance is out of business. Where do you get it overhauled now? Dive stores have neither the parts nor manuals for them. At this point, it's just a scuba paperweight. Or if you have a GSB regulator, I have no idea who might have parts for them. And remember, also, that a bc is a fit-item, and you should try on several different styles and sizes to make sure that you get the right one. You can't do that online. If you do not think that there is much difference in which bc you wear, then you have not had the right one on yet. Again, with this type of equipment, stay with the big names. They have the best hardware anyway.
As for your other equipment (masks, fins, wetsuits, boots, etc.), fit is more important than brand-name. The name will often guarantee you quality and should not be ignored, but it is fit that is most important. If you think a large is large is a large ...... Come in a try on a couple of different brands of wetsuits, and you will find that not all larges are created equal. You want to come to a store that can offer you enough variety to find the proper fit. At Underwater World, we carry 12 different fins, 30 different masks, 10 different snorkels, 7 different boots, and 4 different brands of wetsuits. Add in all the different sizes and different colors, and you can see why no one else can provide you with this kind of selection.
At Underwater World, our goal is to meet all your scuba diving needs. To provide you with the right service and the right equipment, at the right price. We have met these needs for over 40,000 customers during the past 40 years. We can help make scuba diving a safe and pleasurable pastime for you for years to come.
See You Down Below,