Recent technological innovations in gear have made it easier, more comfortable and more fun to be underwater. To prove it, I scoured the marketplace and tried out the following gear, which is among the best you can buy.
Come on in-the water’s nice.
The secret to the Volo fin is a pivoting blade design that makes it 30 percent more efficient than traditional fins, according to the company. Its hinge-like blade bends as you kick to optimize each stroke, which means you can dive longer with less effort. In my opinion, the ultra-lightweight Volo is one of the most comfortable fins on the market. A soft foot pocket and ski binding-like heel adjustment system make it easy to snug your fins down tight, eliminating foot slop and ensuring all your energy is transmitted straight to the blade. The Volo must be worn with booties, but is also available in a full-foot version called the Volo Race that can be worn barefoot and is best for warm water diving. Price: $195. Volo Race: $100. Mares, (800) 874-3236; www.mares.com.
SCUBAPRO TITANIUM REGULATOR
The most essential part of a scuba setup is your regulator, a complicated valve system that breaks down the pressurized air from your tank and delivers it to your mouthpiece. All regulators work the same way, but some, such as the Scubapro S600T, do it better. Try a low-quality regulator and it can feel like you’re breathing through a straw. Not so with the S600T. Whatever the sea conditions, this high-performance regulator delivers air smoothly and comfortably, mimicking your natural breathing rhythm. It’s made with titanium that is lightweight yet strong and safeguards it from corrosion in salt water. Bottom line: This is one of the smoothest, most durable regulators on the market-and it comes with a lifetime warranty. Price: $1,220. Scubapro, (800) 467-2822; www.scubapro.com.
Think of it as an underwater moped. Snorkeling and diving can be tiring, especially if you only do it a few times a year. But if you have a personal water propeller, you can explore the reefs all day with ease. The Sea-Doo SeaScooter’s propeller-safely encased in a tough plastic grille-can pull a swimmer through the water at more than 2 mph for up to 60 minutes. Although the company claims the SeaScooter can work no matter how heavy the diver, I felt it might not be powerful enough to pull one who is fully equipped. Point the SeaScooter toward the bottom and you can descend faster and deeper (down to 65 feet) with fewer kicks. If you let go of the SeaScooter, the propeller stops and the scooter floats to the surface. It’s less than 15 pounds, so even kids can use it. And since it uses a rechargeable battery, the SeaScooter is environmentally friendly and can be plugged in and powered up overnight. Price: $399. Zap World, (800) 251-4555; www.zapworld.com.