Elevating the Dive Experience

Shearwater Research

For fifteen years, Shearwater Research has continually proven itself as a designer and manufacturer of wearable computers for open- and closed-circuit divers, instruments that are considered to be of the highest quality and used by divers who demand more from both themselves and the dive experience.

The professionals at Shearwater Research are divers who know what divers need, and as such, the company has excelled. So much so that the company has found itself ranked on the Growth 500 list in Canada for the past two years in a row.

Founded by Bruce Partridge and his wife Lynn, both seasoned open-circuit technical and rebreather divers, there was a passion and the desire to design a dive computer that would elevate the dive experience. Today, Shearwater’s products serve air, nitrox, multi gas trimix and closed-circuit rebreather divers alike.

Shearwater Research got its start in the spare bedroom of the Partridge home. Bruce leveraged his diving experience and his background in computer systems design and embedded programming to bring a dive computer to the market that would satisfy his own needs – and it turned out to be a recipe for success.

“Bruce felt there was a need – because he had that need himself in the world of dive computers – for something better than what was available, something that was simple and had an intuitive user interface that offered reasonable choices and didn’t require a lot of button pushes – as few as possible during stressful underwater situations,” explained Jim Hartt, who has held the role of CEO since April.

In no time at all, word of Bruce’s innovation spread through the tight-knit technical dive community and soon he was manufacturing and selling dive computers to his friends. Known as Shearwater Research, in only five years the company outgrew the couple’s spare bedroom and hired its first full-time employee, who, a decade later, is now the company’s Director of Engineering.

According to Hartt, “Growth was driven then by the continuing product line evolution,” which began with the design of a user-friendly menu structure, followed by supplying trimix computers and electronic control systems for rebreathers, and eventually even the recreational diving market.

Director of Operations Aaron Heacock discussed the intuitive interface of Shearwater Research’s dive computers and how that interface was extended, simplifying it for application in the far less demanding recreational dive market. Heacock described the product as, “simple, powerful and reliable.”

Hartt went on to explain that, “What a recreational diver has to face is far less than what a technical diver might encounter, so we can simplify the menu selection and present the right information at the right time with the best looking, brightest display available on the market. To this day the company continues to hold a leading position and a reputation for the highest quality instruments in the dive market.”

Shearwater Research broke into the recreational market with its Perdix AI and Teric offerings, with the Teric being the company’s first dive watch and most capable dive computer, regarded for its intuitive nature and ranking amongst the other high-quality dive instruments the company manufactures, including the Perdix, Petrel and Nerd 2.

Further to exceptional product offerings, Shearwater Research provides outstanding service and support. “As good as our product is, our service is even better,” said Hartt of the customer-centric approach the company takes.

Shearwater Research knows diving, and this is the focus and emphasis the company has maintained as it has grown. As Hartt explained, “We’re not trying to be all things to all people; we’re focused on dive computers. We design, test, specify, manufacturer, support and dive our products ourselves,” all of which is reflected in the standard of service and expertise offered to the company’s customers.

The employees at Shearwater Research are offered paid dive training to ensure they remain engaged and interested in the products being designed, manufactured and tested. This is just one of the company’s efforts to energize its employees to succeed. At Shearwater Research there are always opportunities for continuous improvement on a professional, product and operational level, and as a result, it has built a company culture that fosters innovation, excitement and a passion for making the highest quality instruments available in the market.

Further, every product is dive tested and the tests are recorded. Quality is never left to sampling.

The knowledge and expertise at Shearwater Research runs as deep as the depths its instruments can withstand, and this is achieved through careful hiring to ensure candidates are a good cultural fit. Employees are cross-trained and span faculties including engineering, developers, marketing and sales, supply chain management, manufacturing, back office, service and support.

Culture is everything at Shearwater Research as it is currently undergoing a transition. As the Partridges step away from the roles of CEO and Vice President of Sales and Marketing, the new leadership team, under the guidance of Hartt, will work collectively to continue to embed the company’s culture and core values in all that it does.

“With that very considerable shift, part of my role is to help the organization be comfortable through that transition, ensuring the core values of the company continue to be taught, propagated and reinforced throughout the organization as we continue to grow,” explained Hartt.

On the technical side, Shearwater Research is positioning itself to continue to bring intuitive, reliable computers and instruments that simplify the dive, improve safety and facilitate optimal dive outcomes to the market and builds these instruments based on scientific data and diver feedback. Having a customer-centric approach creates a built-in feedback loop whereby Shearwater Research can better understand and better meet the needs of the dive community through product development. As Hartt said, “We typically end up having more good ideas to select from that we have capacity to be able to dedicate,” which, in his opinion, “is a good problem to have.”

As the company name implies, evidence-based scientific research also plays an important role in product development and innovation at Shearwater Research, especially considering the various risks and challenges divers face in different dive environments.

“We want to make sure that it is being done as safely as possible. We collaborate with and support researchers in the fields of diving science and technology. We have been doing so a long time,” explained Heacock of the academic and scientific relationships that were established by the Partridges.

Shearwater Research enjoys a relationship with the Defence and Civil Institute of Environmental Medicine (DCIEM), which is a world leader in decompression research located in Toronto, Ontario, responsible for the development of the DCIEM diving tables. As Hartt noted, “Shearwater Research is the only company in the world licensed to manufacture dive computers that include the DCIEM decompression tables,” which he described as being one of the world’s most researched dive computer tables. They provide divers with real-time information related to decompression, surface intervals, repetitive diving and depth corrections for altitude dives.

At its own facilities located in Vancouver, British Columbia, the company’s operations are conducted in accordance with a robust quality management system, in compliance with ISO 9001:2015. All products meet CE, FCC and IC international standards and Shearwater Research is currently working on achieving EN250 certification which will make it personal protective equipment (PPE) certified in the EU. To improve the safety and reliability of its rebreather electronics, the company has developed the internationally accepted DiveCAN® protocol and is a founding member of the Rebreather Education and Safety Association (RESA).

In only a relatively short time, Shearwater Research has managed to penetrate the global dive community and grow its market reach to include over ninety countries around the world. Built on the quality of its products and its service, it continues to grow, necessitating more room to facilitate the growth taking place.

To maintain the service and standards its customers in the dive community have come to expect, Shearwater Research will continue to identify opportunities to improve and expand its capacity and its culture to remain the leading authority on open- and closed-circuit dive computers.

The mission and vision of Shearwater Research is both aspirational and inspirational to Hartt, who stated, “We want to earn the loyalty and respect of our customers by fundamentally changing how people dive,” which is what the company does by designing and manufacturing simple, powerful and reliable dive computers for the world’s most demanding divers.

Changing Course

N95 masks. Hand sanitizer. PPE. Respirators. Plexiglass barriers. Social distance signage. Rapid Testing Kits. Contact tracing apps. Vaccine against a previously unknown Coronavirus. In January 2020, who would have thought there was a need for manufacturers to ramp up production of any of these items? Or to deal with the grim reality that more body bags were required? But by March, the need for all these items and more was real, and manufacturers struggled to meet demands amid the growing public health crisis of a global pandemic.

Past Issues

March 2, 2021, 12:28 PM EST