In the 1940s, Jacques Cousteau and engineer Emilie Gagnan were successful in creating a self-contained underwater rebreathing device. Within a decade or so, recreational diving became a very popular activity – and a sport shared almost exclusively among men (with some very notable exceptions, such as Zale Perry, third underwater instructor in the world).
Since the invention of scuba and the early, rapid growth of the sport, female divers have increased from just a hand full to over 35% percent of the present diving population. They have contributed much to the overall current growth and popularity of the sport as well as establishing organizations, publishing magazines, and writing books.
Unfortunately, while scuba gear has continually been improved, dive gear designed specifically for women has lagged behind. For decades, women wore ill-fitted gear specifically designed for men. While much of the gear women wear is not gender-specific (such as regulators, snorkels, and tanks), other gear, such as wetsuits, really need to be specifically cut for women to both fit properly and function optimally.
Another piece of gear that requires a custom-designed fit is the BC. A BC that doesn’t fit correctly creates more drag in the water, makes trim difficult, and has poor flotation characteristics at the surface, to name a few. Fortunately, dive equipment manufacturers caught on, and began designing BC’s specifically to fit women.
TUSA isn’t exactly a newcomer in the dive business – they are literally one of the world’s first scuba equipment manufacturers. TUSA was founded by Kazuo Tabata in Tokyo, Japan in 1952 (keep in mind the first official scuba certification course in the U.S. wasn’t held until 1959). Since then, they’ve established themselves not only as manufacturers, but they also have a solid track record of being innovators in diving. TUSA was the premier manufacturer to introduce crystal (premium) silicone mask skirts (with their original Liberator model) and introduced the first range of vibrant colors to diving equipment, to name a few. In short, TUSA knows diving, has a track record of innovation, and knows what they’re doing.
TUSA’s Jasmine BCD is their latest model BC built specifically for women, and it’s built with TUSA’s solid track record of building great gear and a solid understanding of the needs of women divers. The Jasmine incorporates many design considerations and features specifically to benefit female divers and help them dive more comfortably, efficiently, and safely underwater.
Let’s take a look at some of the key features of the Jasmine.
Custom fit for women
All BC’s are not created equal, and the TUSA Jasmine is a BC that’s custom tailored for women. It’s a wrap-around style jacket BC that hugs and supports, including extra padding on the shoulder straps and back pad for more support and cushion in those areas. The backpack on the Jasmine is engineered to hold the tank tight in place, avoiding the unnerving feeling of having the tank swim around on your back. It’s traditional enough in design where it’s easy and intuitive to use, yet incorporates several key features to make diving safer and more enjoyable.
The Jasmine is a weight integrated BC, with two pockets in the front for carrying primary weight and two smaller weight pockets in the rear for adjusting trim. First, let’s take a look at their front weight integration system.
TUSA weight integration system is called “AWLS” (Advanced Weight Loading System). On the Jasmine, two removable pockets in front can be loaded up with as much as 10 pounds each then easily inserted, sliding in from front to back, into the BC. While top-loading weight pouches can be difficult to load when wearing the BC, the front-loading system here makes it easier for the diver to insert herself, if needed, in the Jasmine, or when someone is assisting the diver.
The Jasmine incorporates a newly designed ergonomic handle grip and quick-lock feature. If needed, the diver can easily release the weight cartridges by simply turning the handle grip vertically 90° in either direction. Doing so unlocks the weight pouches and pushes them forward, allowing them to be easily removed as needed on the boat or underwater. This unique quick-lock feature makes sure that weights are easy to release in an emergency, but the safety lock makes sure that they do not release accidentally.
In the past, some divers have added a few weights onto their tank to help adjust their trim underwater. The Jasmine has a better solution for this. On the back of the BCD, to the right and left sides of the backplate, are two pouches which allow the diver to add up to 5 pounds of weight (each) to help adjust trim. If you’re a diver who feels like you’re rolling forward while at the surface, adding some trim weights will help balance out the BC’s attitude in the water and allow you to maintain a vertical position at the surface, and more horizontal position underwater. Using these pockets are optional of course, but they’re there if you need them.
At maximum capacity, using both front pockets with 10 pounds of eight each and both trim pockets mixed out with 5 pounds each, the BC will carry 30 pounds of weight.
Buoyancy and Inflation
Naturally, a BC needs to be easy to inflate and provide the buoyancy you need at the surface and underwater. The Jasmine has a low profile wrap-around air bladder that is made from heavy duty 500D Cordura nylon for strength and durability. The inner bladder is urethane laminated, and the bladder is radio frequency (RF) welded for airtight integrity – simply put, it’s not going to leak or likely ever wear out.
Buoyancy on the Jasmine is controlled by Tusa’s patented O.P.E.V. quick inflate/deflate system, and like other BC’s it can be manually or power-inflated at the surface and underwater. The Jasmine has two dump/overpressure relief valves (one on the shoulder where the inflator hose connects to the BC, and one on the lower right with a pull cord dump), and provides 19 to 32 pounds of lift, depending on the size. It also comes equipped with a standard 3/8″ threaded low pressure quick-disconnect hose.
Holding the tank
One of the annoyances many BC’s have provided us with over the years are mounts which fail to hold the tank securely and without swimming around during the dive. Those with many dives under their belt can relate to the feeling of having a loose tank and even having them slip out of the BC while diving.
Fortunately, the Jasmine has a better system in place to all but eliminate both. The Jasmine’s Rite Tite Buckle is a 2-position cylinder cam strap for quick-and-easy adjustment. While the strap is being looped through the buckle, the buckle stays in place without needing to be held which allows for more control and stability. TUSA’s Ultimate Stabilizing Harness (USH) completely virtually eliminates tank roll and delivers a secure and comfortable fit. The system securely holds the air cylinder in place with precision placed rails that actually bring the tank closer to the body, increasing control while reducing weight.
While holding the tank securely is important, so is the ease of getting into and out of the BC. On the Jasmine, torso-adjustable shoulder and sternum straps provide excellent comfort along with an adjustable waist strap and cummerbund that provide precise adjustment of harness. All straps are equipped with squeeze-style side-release buckles for easy donning and doffing. Sternum strap buckle is also equipped with an integrated safety whistle for signaling your buddy or attracting attention on the surface. As mentioned, the Jasmine Jacket also has a 3-dimensional foam padded lumbar and back pad area for additional comfort. This is especially helpful when diving in warmer waters without a thicker wetsuit, or shore diving where the tank will spend more time against your back.
The Jasmine has two zippered pockets on the front for carrying accessory items. As with many jacket-style BC’s, they’re adequate for carrying small items. If you like to clip on accessories, the Jasmine also comes equipped with one stainless steel and four resin D-rings for attachment.
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The TUSA Jasmine BCD brings together the latest in technology, ergonomics, comfort, and fit from a company who has been designing dive gear for the industry since 1952. Female divers who are looking for a BC that is comfortable, secure, and efficient underwater should definitely take a look at the Jasmine. It retails for around $360 and can be found at any TUSA dealer.
For more information on the Jasmine, visit TUSA‘s website.