Desert Diving with Design
story by Denise Mattia
A bathing suit is standard issue when I prepare for a trip, even if my destination is in the middle of the desert. Little did I know when I unpacked my bag in Las Vegas that not only would I wear it, but I’d also make history while scuba diving, wind up in The Guinness Book of World Records, and help those in need as well.
I walked into the pressroom at the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association Show 2005 to gather information about the innumerable countries, scuba gear and accessories and periodicals on exhibit. That’s when Candy Adams and Marie Rosa, public relations executives for the organization, asked me if I wanted to dive. ”Got my suit,” I thought. ”Fill me in.”
I was told I’d be among 14 other divers participating in the largest underwater press conference, designed to inform the public about DEMA’s forthcoming fundraising auction for hurricane victims of Katrina and Rita.
Al Hornsby, president of the DEMA’s board of directors, would act as the Master of Underwater Ceremonies and would conduct the event at noon on Oct. 7 in the Olympic-size pool of the Riviera Hotel and Casino. ”Anything to get wet,” I thought, and agreed.
We met two hours before the appointed conference and donned wet suits, scuba tanks and cutting-edge communications equipment, which included Interspiro Divator MK II full-face masks on loan from Emmy Award-winning Ocean Technology Systems. The masks were easily custom-fitted to our faces, and we practiced breathing at the bottom of the pool. On cue, we rose to the surface, where communication cords were attached to our masks. We sank below, looking more like astronauts than scuba divers. With our freedom limited by the cables, we used the remaining time to talk and hear each other underwater — an unusual feeling since we¹re accustomed only to the sound of our own bubbles.
“Five, four, three, two, one.” Suddenly, we were in place on the bottom of the pool and on the air, being broadcast over Nevada’s local stations, and being taped by the DEMA Scuba Tour Pool Director, Dave Reidenbach. Bubbles from our regulators escaped into the pool and added a sparkling, magical quality to the event. This was no ordinary press conference!
Al Hornsby dropped down (literally) in front of a podium and announced the construction of the new DEMA-sponsored website, www.demaauction.com, through which association members can donate items to be auctioned to the public, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to aid hurricane victims.
The pool floor was turned over to the press and through our questions we learned that the on-line auction, in conjunction with the American Red Cross, is expected to go live on Nov. 1. More than $100,000 in items such as dive gear, electronics, eyewear, T-shirts, trips to exotic destinations and marine-inspired artwork is expected to be up for auction.
When the conference ended, 15 intrepid members of the diving press rose to the edge of the pool, beaming from ear to ear. I hadn’t expected to feel this elated. Breaking a record and getting wet in a pool had been fun, but knowing that being here was designed to help those who needed support and comfort was a dive I’d do any day.
For more information, call 858-616-6408 or visit www.dema.org.
Photos by Mike Hughes, courtesy DEMA, Diving Equipment and Marketing Association