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Expanded Blue Wild has lots to offer

U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers and pilots will share their stories and safety tips at The Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo.
(U.S. Coast Guard / Courtesy)
Sun Sentinel

Getting to see and put your hands on the newest in dive gear is one of the major attractions of the Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo.

The ninth annual event, which is April 23-24 at the Broward County Convention Center, also is a great source of information on everything you can do under the water.

This year’s Expo has grown so much that it has moved downstairs to the main floor of the convention center.

The more than 150 exhibitors at the show include South Florida dive shops and dive boats, equipment manufacturers, dive resorts and marine artists.

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The South Florida Underwater Photography Society will display photos by its members and the club also has the Ocean Adventure Photo/Video Contest, which is free to enter (visit thebluewild.com/photocontest.htm) and offers $5,000 in prizes. The entry deadline is midnight Sunday and winners will be announced April 23.

Contender Boats will have several of its models on display inside the convention center and Nautical Ventures Marine in Dania Beach will have its 40,000-gallon pool there for demonstrations of stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, as well as freediving safety seminars.

Other seminars will cover spearfishing, lobstering, freediving and underwater photography, including Chris Gillette’s presentation on how he takes photos of sharks and crocodiles.

One of the most enlightening seminars that Expo organizer Sheri Daye has each year is conducted by U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers and pilots, who share their stories of finding stranded boaters and divers as well as tips to help yourself get found quickly.

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Something they always emphasize is the importance of having a light so they can find you at night.

At a previous seminar, they said that something as simple as a white chemical light stick or a waterproof strobe light makes it easy to rescue a person after the sun sets. Without one, you might be in the water until the sun rises.

That brought to mind former Miami Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad, who fell into the water while fishing by himself and, over the next 16 hours, swam nine miles back to shore.

Konrad said he saw a Coast Guard helicopter searching for him that night, but he was never seen. Had he put a cell phone in a plastic bag in his pocket — another Coast Guard tip — he could have used that to get the helicopter’s attention.

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If you don’t have a light source but hear a Coast Guard helicopter or plane overhead, splashing water over your head can help because the water will reflect light.

During daylight hours, the reflection from a small mirror can be detected from a distance by a pilot.

The rescue team also stressed the importance of staying with your boat if it’s still floating, even if there’s fuel in the water, because the boat is easier for them to see.

Having an EPIRB — Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon — or a Personal Locator Beacon is the best way to get rescued in a hurry.

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The devices are activated by boaters when they’re in trouble and send a signal to a satellite so rescuers know that someone needs help. Some units send GPS coordinates, which allows the Coast Guard to head directly to the location when the device was activated.

Most important: Don’t give up. As the Coast Guardsmen like to say, “Hope doesn’t stop until we arrive.”

In addition to the seminars and exhibits, there are fashion shows both days as well as Blue Wild charity raffles with prizes that include everything from spearguns to artwork.

Show hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 23 and 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 24. The Blue Wild After Party is 7:30 to 11 p.m. April 23 at the Marriott Courtyard Fort Lauderdale Beach.

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Tickets at the door are $25 each day (admission is free for children 12 and under) and discounted early bird tickets are available online at thebluewild.com.

swaters@tribpub.com or Twitter @WatersOutdoors


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