Originally published @ Scuba Scoop 14 January 2014
For Bryan Pennington, scuba diving with vintage gear wraps up childhood memories, history, freedom, ease of movement and simplicity, all in one package.
“For many of us who grew up watching Jacques Cousteau and Sea Hunt it was the gear our heroes used so that’s what we wanted,” says Bryan, whose business, Vintage Double Hose, in Wesley Chapel, Florida, serves vintage diving enthusiasts. “Diving with vintage gear is driven by your skills, not your equipment. It’s very liberating and gives you time to focus on what’s around you, as opposed to what’s strapped to you.”
He underlines freedom associated with vintage gear this way: “Think about the times you dive in just a shorty or a swimsuit and then you put on a seven-ml with a hood. Now, imagine going without the cumbersome BCD.”
Bryan says if a diver has good water skills and a great grasp on buoyancy and how to achieve it, he or she is ready to go. “The equipment is far simpler to operate and understand than a lot of modern equipment. You are diving for the sake of diving, not for that sake of using all the latest and greatest stuff you can strap to yourself. “
He got into vintage gear because a two-hose was given to him as a child and that was his first dive experience. “One day, I wanted to dive again with one and found out there were no parts.”
The only vintage-gear parts were left-over originals. “I set out to change that and have reproduced almost 100 per cent of the parts you would need to rebuild, service or restore your U.S. Divers or Voit double-hose regulator. I have specialty companies that reproduce all my parts.”
For the most part, says Bryan, Voit regulators are the same as those of U.S. Divers, with some cosmetic differences. “Voit regulators were used by Mike Nelson (the role played by Lloyd Brydges in Sea Hunt) and are very desirable to the collectors out there.
Interest for vintage dive gear has evolved to the point that the National Association of Vintage Equipment Divers (NAVED) has members around the world.
That has spawned business for the parts he produces as well as for his repair work. “I also buy and restore regulators so people who are interested can buy one right from my store and go diving. We also have a tremendous ‘do-it-yourself part of the community and my website hosts all the manuals and technical information you need to service one yourself.”
Bryan dives only with vintage gear. For operations that require a BCD, safe second-stage and pressure gauges, the vintage enthusiasts as a group have built gear that meets the criteria but keeps with the vintage equipment configuration. “I am currently working with a few vintage equipment divers who are also skilled draftsmen and design engineers to introduce a 100-percent brand new double hose regulator with some modern features that will appeal to a whole new group.”
Some of the vintage-gear enthusiasts remain hard-core Sea Hunt fans. For instance, Alec Peirce from Scuba 2000 in Toronto http://www.scuba2000.com/, is the foremost authority on Sea Hunt and has the largest collection of the show’s memorabilia in the world.
“He was a great resource and helped me when I was getting started,” says Bryan. “There was a large celebration at Silver Springs, Florida, in 2011 where many of the Sea Hunt episodes were filmed as a 50th anniversary celebration. For two days the group dove in Sea Hunt-period correct gear, thrilling the passengers on the glass bottom boats with re-created knife fights with the bad guys, underwater torches and attacks by sea creatures.
“Another person is Phil Nuytten of Nuytco Research http://www.nuytco.com/ and Diver Magazine http://www.divermag.com/ in Canada. Phil is an expert on the early days of the Aqua-Lung who also has a vast collection. Without his help and continued support I doubt I’d be here doing this today.”
Diving with vintage gear is also less intrusive to fish. Jonathan Bird of Jonathan Bird’s Blue World TV show…http://www.blueworldtv.com/ has two double-hose regulators Bryan built specifically for him. He uses them during much of the filming of his show because the exhaust bubbles go behind the diver’s head and the fish scare less easily. “He is also using one of our latest designed plate and wings specifically used with double hose regulators.”