You don’t discard your car when one part breaks. Ivan Michael Pung feels the same way about BCDs.
“Back in 2006, my BCD valve broke during one of the dive trips that I was on, rendering it useless. I looked for solutions on the internet and among the dive shops and it dawned on me that unless I was able to develop my own solution I would need to make the unfortunate choice of throwing away a perfectly serviceable BCD, all because of one part.
“Even the dive centre that I worked for was throwing away old and new BCDs the moment the valves break. Trained as a mechanical engineer, I did a little research work and conceptualised the design. Making a few assumptions on the material and the adhesive, I produced a working prototype, which I proceeded to mount onto my own BCD.
Ivan, from Singapore, says some dive shops had argued that broken inflator or dump valves could not be repaired and even if they were they would not last. They were either thrown away or written off when the valve parent material gives way. But they are often in full working condition other than the valve. He took on the challenge to find a solution. Then came testing.
“Confident that the product will hold, I brought the BCD along for my next dive trip. Soon everyone started asking me about it. In the three years of testing with various materials, adhesive and speaking to materials professionals, we narrowed down the perfect material and engineering method. We never looked back and our valves globally have never broken.”
His product is called Scuba-Fix, which he says is the world’s first do-it-yourself repair kit. “You can carry out the repairs on your own with guidance from our instructional video. And if you are still not confident with doing it yourself after watching the video, you can send your BCD to us for repair at a nominal fee.”
He says his company has repair kits for SeaQuest, US Diver, Aqualungs, Mares, Aeris, OMS, Halcyon, Dive Rite, Frog, Oceanic, Beuchat (47mm & 51mm), Genesis, Sherwood, Zeagle, Aquatec, Seac-sub, Cressi Sub, and Scuba-Pro. Those with a BCD brand not listed above can email Kirk Scuba Gear by clicking here. The package includes one BCD valve port, a glue tube, sandpaper and an instructional video.
The business started in 2009 and there has been a year-to-year increase in sales as word gets around the diving community. “Our customers tell us that it’s one of the best, if not the best, solution to replace a broken valve. It’s a solid product that allows them to renew the life of their BCDs without too much fuss.
In the beginning his company did product introduction trips to popular Southeast Asia dive locations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. But despite warm receptions these consumer-driven exhibitions did not generate as much awareness as they had hoped, so they stopped exhibiting in 2014-15. Ivan feels their company, which has a staff of four, has a huge potential market for the product.
Ivan took up scuba diving in 1995, when he saw a poster in school offering an Open Water course. “I jumped right at it,” he said. “The course offered was a BSAC Novice Diver 1& 2 (which is our Open Water today) and it took three nights of theory, three days of pool and six Open Water Dives to be certified.”
He became an Open Water Instructor and years later he decided to complete another Instructor exam under NAUI. “I wanted to know the difference between the British and American teaching systems. Last exam I sat for was a NAUI Nitrox Instructor Exam.”
Ivan’s favourite dive location is Palau, an island country in the western Pacific. His favourite dive site is Blue Corner Palau “because the marine action just doesn’t stop.
“While diving in Malaysia Layang Layang, we spotted a majestic wall of Hammerheads. Everyone was wild and crazy as we had been trying to spot them for days and all of a sudden, we had some 30-40 of them swim right over us at close range.”
Suddenly, a 2.5-3-metre marlin came towards them. “For a split of a second I believed it was going to spear one of us. It came right within reach of our DM (dive master) at full speed and at the last minute it made a 180-degree U-turn! So the joy turned to shock and ended with years of laughter.”
Learn more about Scuba-Fix at http://www.kirkscubagear.com/shop/bcds-accessories/scuba-fix/
Written and edited exclusive to Kirk Scuba Gear by Burt Dowsett, a retired journalist.