First Look -- Spare Air Extreme Sport

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Spare Air for scuba divers, as outlined in my review for That’s why I was anxious to check out the Spare Air Extreme Sport, the new product from Spare Air manufacturer Submersible Systems. More on the Extreme Sport model later, but first a little background on Spare Air for divers.

As an avid scuba diver, I’m often asked what happens if I run out of air when underwater. The standard answer is that divers are taught ‘buddy breathing’ during their certification process, which basically teaches sharing a tank of air until you get to the surface. But in real life, buddy breathing isn’t always the best answer.

Spare Air solves this problem with their mini hoseless self-rescue system. It’s been saving lives since 1979 and more than 200,000 of the miniature breathing systems are used worldwide by recreational divers, as well as for military and commercial uses.

Submersible Systems recently introduced a Spare Air package, which includes the Spare Air unit in neon yellow, a covered holster to attach to a diver’s BC, a safety leash to prevent loss, and a new and easy-to-use refill adapter (patent pending). All these items purchased separately would have cost $350, but the package price is just $299. It’s a great deal for safety-conscious divers, I think.

My experience with Spare Air in diving led me to try out the Spare Air Extreme Sport. This new model was developed for whitewater enthusiasts, so they’d have a way to get a few breaths of air if they happened to get stuck in a ‘hole’ or some other rough water. My first look tells me the new product is a keeper for what I’d call ‘average’ boaters like me.

My kayak rolling skills are not what I’d call ‘bombproof’ by any stretch of the imaginations, so there’s honestly a little ‘backup’ when my roll fails or I get in a hole that won’t let me go. I may never have to use it (I’ve never used my Spare Air during diving, other than testing), but it’s nice to know it’s there.

I also think it would be great to wear during my varied rafting adventures with Class VI River Runners up in West Virginia. There’s always the possibility of being tossed from the raft and ending up in a hole or pinned underwater by rocks--I think this new product would be perfect for grabbing a few breaths until I surface or a rescue can take place!

The Spare Air Extreme Sport comes attached to a neoprene vest that you put on under your PFD. This positions the mouthpiece so that’s it’s within reach of your mouth simply by tilting your head down to it or, alternatively, using a free hand to push it toward your mouth. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s well-designed and would work well under most conditions.

In theory, you’d get about a dozen ‘normal’ breaths out of it (assuming I’d be breathing somewhat normally). Of course, when I’m getting churned in a washing machine-like hole, I’m not sure I’ll be calm enough to easily use it. But it’s still nice to know it’s there, just like the original Spare Air!

The Extreme Sport is in the final testing phase. When it is released later in 2004, I think it might be a great investment for moderately-skilled boaters or other ‘extreme’ watersports enthusiasts (like surfing) who want a little extra backup for their fun.

By Lynn Seldon, who writes for Rodale's Scuba Diving, Playboy, Hooked on the Outdoors, Paddler, and many others.

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Top Kayak Photo by Lane Jacobs.