November 27, 2019

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press
Dive business representatives step in to staff the Florida Keys and Key West booth at the 2019 DEMA Show, hosted by the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association in Orlando. Among Keys professionals at the world's largest dive trade show were (front, from left) Dan Dawson and Jeff Knapp of Horizon Divers, Jackie Bobick of Amoray Dive Resort, Gary and Brenda Mace of Conch Republic Divers, and (back) Yves Vrielynck of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press Dive business representatives step in to staff the Florida Keys and Key West booth at the 2019 DEMA Show, hosted by the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association in Orlando. Among Keys professionals at the world's largest dive trade show were (front, from left) Dan Dawson and Jeff Knapp of Horizon Divers, Jackie Bobick of Amoray Dive Resort, Gary and Brenda Mace of Conch Republic Divers, and (back) Yves Vrielynck of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

ORLANDO — Florida Keys diving professionals mixed underwater business with pleasure during the 2019 DEMA Show, held Nov. 13 to 16 at the Orange County Convention Center.

Keys dive shops and local nonprofit groups like the Coral Restoration Foundation joined the 630-plus exhibitors from around the world on a sprawling show floor that showcases exotic destinations and the latest diving gear.

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press
National Marine Sanctuary Foundation representatives attended the recent DEMA convention.

About 65 ocean-related businesses from the Keys belong to the host Diving Equipment and Marketing Association.

The Monroe County Tourist Development Council continued its support of the Florida Keys and Key West travel booth staffed by dive operators from several operations.

“I think it was a good show,” said Brenda Mace, co-owner of Conch Republic Divers in Tavernier. “We always run into a lot of people we know, and others search us out. We handed out a lot of group-rate information to dive shops that don’t typically dive with us.”

Staff with Deeper Blue, a popular online media site “for people interested in diving and the ocean,” spoke with Keys representatives at the TDC booth. They reported that two years after Hurricane Irma, “Life has returned to ‘normal’ for an area used to the challenges of Mother Nature. Though the storm changed the landscape above and below the water, conditions have never been better for diving.”

Rainbow Reef Dive Center of Key Largo had its own booth where staff described its 43-year history following a recent acquisition of Ocean Divers.

“We’ve got the largest instructional training facility in the western hemisphere,” Kell Levendorf said of Rainbow Reef. “You can go to just about any resort or large dive business and find one of our alumni there.”

Spencer Slate of Capt. Slate’s Scuba Adventures on Plantation Key was inducted into the DEMA Hall of Fame for his long involvement as an advocate for diving education. Previous hall members from the Keys include Lad Akins and Dick Rutkowski.

The History of Diving Museum and the Boy Scouts’ Florida Sea Base, both in Islamorada, were among Keys nonprofits raising awareness. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation spotlighted the group’s “Goal: Clean Seas” program that originated in the Keys.

An estimated 10,000 people attended the trade-only show that also includes professional educational sessions on training and successful business operation.

After stops in New Orleans and Las Vegas in 2020 and 2021, respectively, the DEMA Show returns to Orlando in 2022.

kwadlow@keysnews.com