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Appeared in DIVER March 2006
DIVER AWARDS 2005
Success breeds success!
WE'RE ALL CONSUMERS, and consumers grow cannier all the time. Divers today, we like to think, are less likely to walk blindly into a transaction than they might once have been. Before parting with their dosh, they want to know who they're dealing with, whether they have a good track record and whether they will provide good value.
You can't beat a recommendation. The idea of the diver Awards is that if enough consumers get together to endorse a company, product or place, it must have something going for it. And once the winners take possession of their frankly handsome bronze diver statuettes, they become a commendation to be taken seriously by the next set of consumers.
That's why we tend to get previous winners coming back to collect further prizes in later years - success breeds success. As long as it doesn't go to their heads!
The voting for the 2005 diver Awards was on coupon and online, and it came in thick and fast. You were keen to let us know who and what you reckoned counted in the diving world, and the results are here for all to see.
|BRAND OF THE YEAR
The award for your favourite brand of diving equipment was dominated by the same three names as last year. Scubapro came first once again, but
with Suunto this time knocking Mares into third place.
On hearing that his company was outright winner, Andy Shears of Scubapro (right) said: "Henry Kissinger once claimed that each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem! But we're confident. We've got some blindingly good products coming out in the coming months and Scubapro hopes to be in this happy position again the same time next year. In the meantime, where do we put all these trophies?"
PRODUCT OF THE YEAR
The Apeks ATX regulator, a product that first won a diver Award back in 2003, has done it again. Why? "Obviously the special versions we've done, including the Black Pearl and the Tungsten, have rekindled interest with voters for this product," said Tony Gallagher, speaking on behalf of his company
"It's a lovely surprise and we're delighted to have the loyalty of our customers underscored in this way. It's really good news. Let's hope that the recently launched XTX range gets the same reception.
"Our products are an example of evolution rather than revolution in the design. We don't believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Apeks will continue to invest and develop the best-performing regulators money can buy."
Suunto took both second and third places, as it did last year, but this time the most votes were for its advanced D9 multi-function computer, with the ever-popular Vyper close behind that model.
RETAILER OF THE YEAR
It's your favourite dive shop yet again! SDS Watersports of Sheffield has won Retailer of
the Year for the sixth time and the fifth year in succession.
Margaret Balderson, partner of Arthur Balderson (right, who on hearing the news had taken a last-minute holiday in the Maldives), observed dryly that, contrary to what the Editor of diver had said at last year's Awards ceremony, it really does sound as if everyone shops in Sheffield!
"It's nice that we've won again," she continued. "It proves that we're doing something right. We recommend everything we sell because we know it's good, and we don't sell anything else! With so many diver Awards bronze statuettes now in the shop, it does mean that we're going to need to get a bigger shelf, though."
Simply Scuba and Tony Backhurst Scuba Centre were second and third respectively. Simply Scuba, the online store, has moved up a step - a further tidemark in the development of web-based shopping?
TOUR OPERATOR OF THE YEAR
Tony Backhurst Scuba Travel emerged top among tour operators in your estimation - a rapid return to the winner's podium for Tony.
"With the fiercely growing competition we feel really honoured to receive this coveted award for the second year running," he told diver. "All our staff-members are either instructors or dive enthusiasts, which we hope comes across in the detailed planning and operation of our holidays.
"We know what the diver wants and likes, and endeavour to make it hassle-free and easy with a twist of luxury, from first enquiry to landing back in the UK. Travel to some destinations can be fraught with difficulty but we like to think we can take the trauma out of it."
Two previous winners, Regaldive and Explorers Tours, took second and third places respectively.
DIVE CENTRE OF THE YEAR
It's a name synonymous with UK inland diving - the all-time British favourite, Leicestershire's Stoney Cove (below), triumphed again in this category. Red Sea Diving College came in at a run to take second place, with another Sharm el Sheikh centre, Emperor Divers, in the running as usual in third.
The three directors of outright winner Stoney Cove were down a hole heaving on some cables when we called for a quote, and were consequently rather brief. Alan King, on hearing the news, used just two words, his own surname forming the central syllable. Martin Woodward said modestly that he didn't know how they'd done it.
Harry Chapman, ever the strong, silent type, just kept heaving. They were all delighted that their customers had voted for them, wanted to thank their staff for "working their socks off to keep customers happy and safe", and stated their intention to continue giving personal attention to the ongoing site improvements.
DESTINATION OF THE YEAR
No surprises here as Egypt came top, closely followed by two further-flung destinations, the Maldives and Indonesia - replicating last year's results exactly. It is quite amazing how the Egyptian tourist industry has adapted to accommodate the interests of holidaymakers in such great volumes and within only a decade or so. Despite some local difficulties last year, such as the Sharm bombing, incoming tourism was up no less than 6%.
Egypt is no longer the frontier that it used to be, and a holiday can be taken on its shores as easily as one might visit a traditional Mediterranean destination.
This is no less true of diving. Egypt has obviously learned how to welcome divers, and divers welcome a trip to Egypt.
LIVEABOARD OF THE YEAR
Stormy weather was the theme yet again in the liveaboard dive-boat category, as Hurricane took the honours for the second year running, with the newer vessel from the same Tornado Marine fleet, Typhoon, following closely in its wake.
The ubiquitous Tony Backhurst, who also represents third-placed vessel Grand Sea Serpent, said: "We're exceptionally pleased that we've taken the first three places for our liveaboards. Red Sea liveaboards get bigger and better each year, and thanks to our fantastic crew and dive guides we've swept the board.
"A big thanks to all our customers old and new, and to the forward-thinking Red Sea fleet operators with whom we are associated, who make our company the success it so clearly is!"
PUBLICATION OF THE YEAR
This is the category for books and DVDs and it was a return triumph for The Blue Planet, the DVD of the underwater natural history TV series that set new standards in its field, and is clearly of enduring interest to divers. The BBC invested an awful lot of money and time in this production, and it shows.
The DVD of another popular TV series, Channel Four's Wreck Detectives, starring Miranda Krestonikoff, came in a creditable second, while Monty Halls' Totally Wrecked, a DVD based on one of the well-known diver's Full Circle global expeditions, took third place.
WOODEN WEIGHTBELT OF THE YEAR
This category gives readers a chance to vent their spleen. Usually it goes to some product or organisation that emerges as being regarded as particularly bad (as well as the toilets at the Dosthill inland site, which have won a steady stream of votes ever since the DIVER Awards began, and have become a sort of running joke, if you'll forgive the lavatorial puns).
Because this award usually reflects many individual grievances, it gets fragmented.
However, this year we were inundated with votes for a certain mustachioed Geordie dive-trip leader who seems to have managed to offend an awful lot of people!
Whether it was alleged inaccuracies in his book, his attitudes to foreigners and the passengers of other liveaboard boats, his inappropriate claims to the proprietorship of certain Red Sea wrecks,
or his own self-importance, the list of complaints just seemed to be endless.
Who was it? It would be too cruel to name this individual, but if you're reading this you know who you are - and so, it seems, do an awful lot of DIVER readers!
JONATHAN WINS TRIP TO OMAN
Jonathan Simpson-Lee, from Godalming, is the incredibly fortunate diver reader plucked at random from all those who entered their nominations for diver Awards winers.
As a result, he can now look forward to a week-long dive trip with a companion to the Sultanate of Oman, in the Arabian Gulf.
The winners will be flown by Gulf Air to the Oman Dive Centre, a PADI Gold Palm 5 Star IDC resort. They will stay in an air-conditioned Barasti bungalow on the beach, and all they need to do for the next week is enjoy the amenities and their daily dive excursions.
For more information on Oman Dive Centre visit www.extra-divers.li, or visit the Oman Tourist Office site, www.omantourism.gov.om