It is amazing how fast freediving is growing as a sport. Every year more new freedivers are joining the community, opting for long-blade fins over scuba fins, choosing low-volume masks over their bulkier counterparts and grabbing snorkels instead of tanks.
At the moment I’m just sitting at the airport on my way home after speaking at ScubaPro’s annual Platinum Pro Dealer conference in Key Largo. And why on earth would a company that’s never been involved in apnea before invite a freediver to their event? Because everything we know about Scubapro and their (lack of) freediving gear is about to change.
Scubapro recently revealed their new apnea line under their Subgear brand name. At the moment they’ve only got a few basics- one low-volume mask, one type of plastic long-blade fins, one style of snorkel- but it’s obvious they’re beginning to test the waters of the freediving market.
What does this mean for us freedivers? Well, at the moment it’s just another gear brand to choose from, but the fact that scuba gear giants like Scubapro are embracing apnea goes to show that we as a community are growing, becoming influential enough to impact gear lines in new markets.
I wouldn’t say that we’ve moved out of our niche (freediving) within a niche (scuba), but just like snowboarding grew from a few guys trying to get skiiers to share the mountain to Red Bull endorsements and films like The Art of Flight, freediving is evolving and reaching more people everday.
So it’s fair that companies that were once exclusively scuba-oriented are now trying to branch out. This could be the beginning of a larger trend, which would end up giving freedivers more gear options in the long-run. Now, I’m not saying that I’m not happy with most of my options. I’m not about to drop my C4 fins and switch to Subgear, but I would welcome enough competition in the market that competitive companies end up doing things like making new foot pocket molds in order to make full-foot freediving fins that fit a wider range of women’s feet. Currently the smallest size long-blade footpocket that I know of fits about a women’s size 9. It could bring more competition to the market in freediving computers, giving Suunto’s D4 a run for its money. It could mean that more companies make women’s stock-sized wetsuits.
Now, none of that’s happening just yet, but I can be optimistic.
Looking specifically at this new Subgear equipment, I’ll tell you what little I know of it so far. I haven’t actually handled it yet, but it seems like it’s going to be very-affordable, basic/introductory equipment. You probably won’t see it at competitions for now, but for the scuba diver who’s trying his hand at freediving, it could be a good transitional purchase.
The fins have plastic blades and currently sell in a single stiffness for around $120. The mask is a simple, low-volume spearfishing-style mask. The snorkel is a soft, purgeless style, similar to Cressi’s Corsica. Didn’t get prices on those pieces of gear yet. They’re also introducing freediving modes to more of their watch-style computers.
All in all I’d say Scubapro (Subgear) is making a positive move towards the apnea market with some good, standard gear. I doubt popular freediving specialists like Omer, Riffe, and Beauchat are shaking in their long-blades just yet, but more variety and options is never a bad thing for the individual freediver.