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The DEMA Experience

So many of you may be wondering what exactly is DEMA?  DEMA stands for the Divers Equipment & Marketing Association, a premier trade exhibition for scuba diving, snorkeling, ocean sports, and adventure dive travel products. It is one of the largest trade events of its kind in the world.  

DEMA is open to dive industry professionals (i.e. Divemasters and higher), dive operators, centers, resorts, certifying agencies (i.e. PADI), equipment manufacturers, exhibitors and people sponsored by such organizations (i.e. retail staff).  DEMA is not open to the general public.

Because of who is in attendance at DEMA, it is the premier event that equipment manufacturers wait for to reveal their newest products or new manufacturers make their debut.  It is also a place where dive professionals get a chance to meet people face-to-face from their respective certifying agencies, where dive professionals and centers have a chance to gather travel information from dive resorts and live-a-boards, where dive professionals have the opportunity to meet other industry professionals (some even legendary), and so much more.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the DEMA Fall 2002 show held October 22-25, 2002 in Las Vegas, NV USA.  I traveled with Lance Hansen who recently joined the ranks of dive industry professionals by completing his divemaster program with me shortly before DEMA (Congratulations Lance!).

For your amusement and interest, following is my trip report:

MONDAY (10/21/02)

In hopes of attending the PADI Member Social evening event, Lance and I catch an early evening flight.  We arrive in Vegas and are greeted with great weather.  The sky is clear and the non-humid temperatures are in the mid-to-low 80s.  After collecting our luggage, we boarded a downtown shuttle bus, destination: Circus Circus!

The shuttle bus was packed so Lance sat right up front and I made my way to an empty seat almost in the last row.  When the driver came on board he looked back in my direction and said, "I can see you're going to be a troublemaker."  Lance turned and gave me this what-did-you-do-already look!  The driver wasn't talking to me.  He was actually saying that in jest to a woman behind me.  Sheesh, can you believe he automatically assumed the driver was talking to me!!??  Give me a little credit.  I'd only been in Vegas for 15 minutes.  I need at least twice that time to get myself labeled as the troublemaker.    

Although Lance had spent time in Las Vegas before, this was my first Vegas experience aside from layovers in the airport.  I was excited to see "the Strip" first hand instead of from the sky and anything to get away from those tortuously repetitive WHEEL *pause* OF *pause* FORTUNE *audience screams* slot machines in the airport terminals.  If you've even been stuck in Vegas, you know what I am talking about.

Unfortunately due to the numerous shuttle stops made we were not able to make the social.  So, we checked in. I tried to hang out my hotel window as far as I could to see the whole Strip. Lance stayed back a safe 10 feet and suggested the we actually just walk down to the Strip.  Hey, good idea (at the time).

So 2 days later after we found our way out of the hotel (OK just kidding, but the place is monstrously huge), we were on the Strip, walking and walking and walking and oh, then there was more walking.  We walked and took in the sights for over 4 hours.  Hobbling back to Circus Circus, we realized we had just done our feet in and we still had 4 days of walking around DEMA ahead of us.  Gee aren't we brilliant? 

TUESDAY (10/22/02)

Luckily for us after our long night of walking, we didn't have to arrive at the DEMA show until 10am. The remainder of the week we had seminars starting at 9am, but today's plan just involved taking in the exhibits at our own time frame. So Lance found a coffee shop in the hotel (although I heard him muttering under his breath that it was no Starbucks!) and we headed to the convention center....via WALKING! The convention center was only a little over a mile from our hotel.

We arrived, took care of our DEMA passes with Registration, and entered the show. They weren't kidding about it being big. We spent our day simply walking down every isle taking in all the various exhibits, chatting with dive operators from all over the world, and of course involving ourselves in a little nonsense here and there. Hey Lance, who's your friend?

I also picked up marketing material from places I was interested in diving and places I felt many of our divers might also be interested in. Since returning, I have cataloged this marketing material by region. All materials are available for our divers' use, so if you are interested in planning a dive trip, just let me know where!

WEDNESDAY (10/23/02)

Ok, so I learned that 9am can come very quick in Vegas. So reaching back into the recesses of my college memories, I pulled out a well used skill: the art of rescheduling! Besides, this left us with time to swing by the Starbucks we saw on our way to the convention center yesterday. Two lattes later, the day began.

The first seminar we attended was Diving the Three Cayman Islands. We also attended similar seminars on Costa Rica, Fiji, and Belize. In between these seminars we spent time at the PADI booth putting faces to names and voices. To end the day we went to an incredibly informative medical seminar hosted by DAN (Divers Alert Network). The seminar focused on marine life injuries and the speaker, a British DAN professional, was so knowledgeable and humorous. It certainly reinforced for me just what a great organization DAN is.

We capped off the end of the day listening to some live music in the Hammerhead Lounge, discussed which casino buffet we would try out later that evening and planned out our seminar schedule for the next day.

THURSDAY (10/24/02)

So, can you guess by now what time our day started? That's right 10am. The first seminar we attended was PADI Standards presented by PADI professional Dave Wall. It was a special treat for me as Dave Wall was one of the examiners at Janna's and my Instructor Exam. In fact, one of my more distinct and humorous memories of Dave at our IE was during one of our timed written exams. We were allotted 90 minutes for the exam and 20 minutes into the exam, Dave hollers out, "Time's up!" There was a collective gasp in our very tense room and he started to giggle. Looking back, I appreciated his compassion in trying to help relieve our tension.

Although I know what a great speaker Dave is, the room was packed for another reason as well. One of the goals at DEMA for PADI professionals is to attend a certain number of PADI seminars to receive Member Forum credit. Among other annual requirements for instructors to maintain current teaching status, Member Forum updates instructors as to new teaching programs and materials available, changes in standards and programs, and more.

The next seminar I attended was the Course Director Training Course- Questions and Answers. The day before, I had met Johnny Weinstein, one of PADI's top Course Director trainers, at the PADI booth. From our conversation, he suggested I attend his course and I was happy that I did. I learned a great deal about what it takes to become a Course Director and it definitely gave me a new respect for the training and commitment of current Course Directors. I met up with Lance afterwards for lunch and we compared notes as Lance had attended a Florida reef and wreck diving seminar.

We then attended a great seminar hosted by Sporasub about removing the myths and misconceptions of freediving and spearfishing. The speaker was David Sipperly, a three time All American Freediving Champion, author, and NAUI Instructor Trainer. After that we attended a short seminar on diving the Yucatan. The last seminar we attended for the day was another PADI seminar, No Risk - Risk Management. Pat Fousek, the director of PADI Legal, appropriately lead the seminar.

After we seminars were over, we made our rounds to the exhibitors, paying particular attention to the gear exhibits plotting our purchases for the final day of DEMA. We then left the convention center as the sun was setting in search of a good prime rib dinner.

FRIDAY (10/25/02)

Being the final day of DEMA, we did arrive early to attend as many seminars as possible and to pick up various pieces of gear we had been eyeing the past few days. The first seminar was PADI New Teaching Tools presented by PADI professional, Leslie Alexander. Leslie was Janna's and my Examiner at our Instructor Exam, so it was great to see her again and she is just a phenomenal speaker.

From there we attended a Mock Trial presented by Rick Lesser & Associates, a law firm well known for dealing with diving incidents. Then we went to a really great shark seminar, The "Shark Whisperer": Analyzing Shark Behavior - "What We Really Know About Sharks!" We ended the day early with one last seminar, The Basics of Kayak Diving. It proved to be interesting and something I might try next summer.

So with all the seminars out of the way, it was time to swing by the exhibitors and pick up the last of the marketing materials and of course all the gear we had been eyeing all week! We both picked up some versatile dive knives and safety signaling devices. Lance went his separate way to pick up some other things and I stopped by a booth I had visited earlier in the week to pick up a beautiful dive float and flag and a spare air unit! Now, just to figure out how to get our loot back to the hotel!


DEMA was quite the experience. I met divers from all over the world and learned so many new things about the dive industry. I also discovered many new places that I look forward to visiting one day for dive trips. It was also wonderful having the opportunity see Dave Wall and Leslie Alexander again and to additionally meet many other PADI professionals that I had only read about or talked to on the phone.

For those of you interested in going pro, I highly suggest planning on attending a DEMA show. I am already planning on attending DEMA 2003 in Miami, Florida. Will I see you there?

Nicolle Pratt
(503) 287-5328
Portland, Oregon