Aurora Founders Reflect on DEMA 2019
Updated: Feb 28
As you’ll know from our recent blog, Aurora Wetsuit Founders Eliska and Jordan Griffiths took a full range of women’s shorty wetsuits, women’s long wetsuits, and women’s diving leggings to the DEMA (Diving Equipment & Marketing Association) trade show last month. They had a great time, made some great connections and met a whole heap of amazing women divers. But maybe it left you wondering a bit more about the show itself, and if you are a professional diver or fellow dive industry trade member, perhaps you’d now like to go yourself next year? So the rest of the team put together some questions for our founding members to give you some more in-depth information, and to help you get to know them, and the Aurora Wetsuits brand, a bit better…
Q: OK, so putting aside the fact we were all a bit jealous, where exactly was this year’s DEMA held and how easy was it to attend?
A: The show was held at Orange County Convention Center in the sunny state of Florida, USA. It was a great location close to Orlando International Airport, with easy highway access. The convention center itself was just a short walk from a multitude of hotels, meaning it was easy to get backward and forwards during the event – except for the fact we were carrying several kilograms of women’s scuba wetsuits and scuba dive leggings at any one time of course.
Q: What was the convention center like?
A: Amazing. All the stalls looked fantastic and outside we found beautiful gardens filled with blossoming flowers and ponds, which created a really nice atmosphere for our walk back to the hotel after a long day at our booth and exploring all of the other stalls. Even though we were heavily laden with a full range of our women’s wetsuits. Did we mention that bit?
Q: We think you might have done, yes! Was the show what you expected and did you get out of it what you intended?
A: Honestly, getting such amazing reactions to our presence, meeting so many amazing women divers, and making some great contacts with other industry traders was simply amazing, and definitely surpassed our expectations. We didn’t really know what to expect, but we were delighted with how it went for Aurora Wetsuits at DEMA 2019. We also learned a lot from the marketing seminars we went to and also had a great time checking out all of the other stalls and booths.
Q: What other kinds of businesses were there?
A: The variety is endless! From dive shops from all corners of the earth, oceanic charities, other retailers and even scuba diving video games. But if you were looking for a diving vacation, this is the place to go! Isles and isles of wonderful scuba based providers, all providing the opportunity to speak with dive center and liveaboard owners and their dedicated teams. We found them all very helpful in answering our questions. For us, when we are planning a trip, getting to know who we will be diving with is a very important aspect of the process. We found ourselves asking lots of questions about group sizes, equipment, what was included, and most importantly their safety policies and procedures.
Q: Wait, so you essentially just booked your next holiday then? We thought you were working?!
A: Don’t worry, we were! It was an exhausting few days meeting so many different people. But we felt it was part of the experience to check out all of the other stalls. One dive operator, in particular, did stand out though, so we’ll definitely be hitting up West Bay divers in Roatan, Honduras at some point! We spoke with their sales executive Wayne and main instructor Mayghan, and it was clear that scuba diving was their love and passion. They were so open and friendly but at the same time highly professional and organized – all things that we strive to be ourselves. So we definitely hit it off, and already felt we were on Roatan’s beautiful reef and soaking in the happy island vibe just through our short conversation.
Q: That did not convince us that you didn’t just book your next holiday…
A: Not quite yet, we have so much we want to accomplish with Aurora at the moment before we think of any personal trips! DEMA isn’t just about travel bookings though. There was a lot on offer in terms of marine awareness and educational opportunities too. Plus, all the big diving agencies were there to offer the latest updates on their safety and training standards in the seminar halls. This year featured PADI’s official release of their new IDC (Instructor Development Course) program in the Americas region. Course Directors and Staff Instructors had the chance to receive the updated program information and all the materials required for its launch. As PADI pros ourselves, this was really interesting to see.
Q: What was your favorite booth?
A: Aurora Wetsuits of course!
Q: OK, but apart from yourselves!
A: Wow, that’s tough. There were so many amazing stands. But our favorites respectively were:
Jordan – A Florida based company called Shark Allies. They are currently doing amazing work in the local region, petitioning and making a huge noise to get the shark fin trade officially banned across the state. I really hope their petition is growing at a rapid rate and has a successful launch in order to banish this horrendous practice and the resulting damage to our marine ecosystems.
Eli – Infinite Scuba, who were offering scuba diving experiences via a computer simulation game, immersing yourself beneath the waves on real dive sites all around the world. With their two options of standard PC or their super cool VR diving experience, you really do feel like you are actually on the dive site! More importantly, this game can be used as an educational tool, showing the result of plastic on our reefs and oceans. Users get the chance to simulate a dive on a dive site polluted by plastic and other debris, and in other scenarios are able to monitor the effects of invasive species to a coral reef. I thought this game could go a long way to help people understand more about real-world environmental issues. Plus they donate 1 USD per sale towards helping oceanic causes.
Q: What was your favorite experience from the show, aside from meeting customers on the Aurora Wetsuits stand?
A: We were happy to see the Women Divers Hall of Fame (WDHF) had a strong presence. WDHF is a non-profit organization that recognizes pioneers, leaders, and innovators in the international diving community. It was amazing to speak to one of the world’s most iconic female divers, Gail Chapman. We spoke at length about the society itself, and about the community, and the brand identity we are trying to create with Aurora Wetsuits. It was fascinating learning from someone with so much experience and insight to offer us, and we really appreciated her time. The passion she brought to our booth that day was nothing short of spectacular and was more than enough to make us sign up immediately as an associate member. We were instantly welcomed and quickly became excited to see how we could become more involved, as it was clear that we share a mutual passion for supporting women in the diving community. We have donated a prize for their upcoming 2020 charity event, and can’t wait to see how they do. Plus, we were delighted that they genuinely loved our products so much. Each member of their board who visited our stand not only loved the designs and fresh input of color, but they also each purchased themselves one of our fun wetsuits for diving. This was a big fuzzy moment for us, knowing that we have the approval of such strong and influential women in the diving industry.
Q: Was there anything about DEMA that didn’t meet your expectations?
A: One thing that disappointed us was the rather disturbing amount of single-use plastic on show. In terms of the exhibition center itself, all vendors were serving their drinks in plastic cups with plastic straws. Worse than that, was an exhibition hall full of divers so readily using them! For us, we’d expect that a roomful of people who have seen the results of single-use plastics to our oceans first hand, would be more conscious in their own consumption. Alas no, as this was not just true of the visitors, but the exhibitors too. For us, this is not acceptable. How can we claim we are fighting for the environment as ocean ambassadors if we cannot take a stand on this issue? If everyone refuses plastic, the vendors will have to change their ways. No demand, no business! We are both big fans of taking a moment to stop and think before we purchase items that contain, or even potentially contain plastic. So for us, this was sad to see, and we feel DEMA should look into a stricter policy on this in their future exhibitions.
Q: What did you think of Orlando in general?
A: Orlando has a variety of entertainment, much of which centers on big theme parks such as Universal Studios and Walt Disney World. It’s not just for kids though, you will find plenty to do for adults too! Our favorite and something a little more dive related was a snorkeling trip just outside Orlando where you get the chance to swim alongside the local manatee’s or dolphins. A great opportunity to tick off one of our many bucket list items!
Q: Sum up your four days at DEMA for us…
A: Overall it was an amazing experience! We spent our days meeting all the beautiful mermaids, and we feel the female diving community should be really proud of the steps it’s taking to move forward and open doors for us all – and we are very excited to be part of that! We had some really interesting suggestions for future products, made new contacts and some lovely new friends. So we’d like to thank everyone who took the time to swing by our stand and chat with us. We are already looking forward to a successful show next year, where we will be showcasing our 2020 female diving wetsuits in New Orleans, the home of jazz! We can’t wait to connect again and see what amazing things have happened in the diving community over the coming 12 months!