Friday, January 9, 2015

Why vintage equipment in scuba diving anyway?

One of the things that many of us run into when we dive vintage equipment is a rather simple sounding question:

What is the appeal?

On the VDH forum this very question invokes passionate responses. I would like to humbly provide my personal reasons for why I enjoy diving vintage equipment, and for what specifically got me into diving old scuba gear.

For me, diving vintage scuba gear started out with a simple idea. I wanted to learn how to service a scuba regulator. It couldn't be that hard, right? As it turns out, it really isn't if you have some mechanical aptitude and some basic academic knowledge. I began servicing my Aqualung Conshelf XIV regulator set, which was fun, simple, and a great confidence builder. No longer was I beholden to the dive shop for getting my regulator set serviced. One day, while I was looking around on Ebay for another used Conshelf regulator, I stumbled across the Aqualung Conshelf VI. This was the first regulator of the Conshelf line, manufactured and released by Aqualung in 1965. I simply couldn't believe that it was only 30 dollars for a complete first and second stage. It seemed like a real piece of history. Heck, it pre-dated the personal computer. I purchased it, bound and determined to see what made old regulators tick on the inside.

Remarkably, a Conshelf VI from 1965 is almost identical to a Conshelf XIV from 2010 on the inside. You can literally use the same parts kit for a modern regulator to rebuild the first stage of a conshelf made in 1965. For me, the voodoo was gone. After purchasing a copy of Regulator Savvy, and learning a little bit more about what made most regulators tick, I realized that regulators in general are not particularly difficult to service with the right tools and a little patience. It made me wonder if I could realize value in other components of my diving. I had a mint condition regulator, freshly serviced, and I had invested maybe 50 dollars total. Could I extend this to other areas of my diving? At the time, I was in graduate school and money was a real issue. I wanted to dive, but I wanted enough ramen to last until payday as well. I realized that since older dive gear is junk to some people, that I could acquire it rather cheap...and sometimes for free.

This lead me into examining the scuba gear of the 1960's in its totality. This also lead me to the important realization that while masks, fins, booties, wet suits, knives, and other gear looked similar to what I had seen in dive shops that people did not wear buoyancy compensators in the old days. How was that even possible? My instructor said that a BCD was "life support equipment." If that was the case, then how was everyone, children included, diving without one for the first 30 years of the history of sport diving?

This lead me to assemble a complete representative set of 1960's dive gear, and to resolve to learn how to use it. To make a long story slightly shorter, after a bunch of reading, some mentoring, and a little practice, I too was flying through the water like Jacques Cousteau did on TV. I realized that, for me, diving is a heck of a lot more fun when you do it with less gear. My wife, minimalist that she is, also really loved diving with less gear as well. We began to dive vintage equipment whenever we could, because it was really fun. It has that sense of adventure to it that is lost in an era where people will carry your equipment up a mountain for you, and four dollar coffee is on every corner.

Why dive vintage scuba equipment?

-It is a way to save money
-It is a piece of diving history
-It looks really cool
-You can learn to maintain your own gear
-It is really fun, and feels like an adventure

Stay tuned to the Argonaut Blogspot, as we continue to talk about vintage equipment diving. Don't forget to visit Vintage Double Hose, where we continue to maintain and advance the sport of vintage equipment diving. We are the makers of the Argonaut Kraken, the world's first modern production double hose scuba regulator!

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