I have been an avid diver for more than 30 years and in that time, have used all types of equipment including what is known in the diving community as a hookah system. Hookahs are self-contained units with a gas or electric motor driving an air compressor that feeds air through hoses to divers below. Joe Sink--of The Air Line by J. Sink, discussed some of the unique and innovative features found only on their systems with me and I was anxious to see how well they performed while doing some underwater treasure hunting throughout the Northeast. Background Diving with the aid of specially constructed bells to hold air can be traced back over 300 years when the Spaniards and other European countries used them to salvage sunken treasure galleons. Over the years, advancements in diving technology led to the development of hard-hat diving suits in which air was pumped down to the divers providing hours of bottom time. While hard-hat diving allowed divers to explore the ocean's depths, the weight of the helmet and lead weights made moving any distance quite difficult. Scuba diving was the big advancement in diving technology as it allowed divers to explore areas away from shore or ship-mounted air supplies. In the 1960's, hookah systems emerged and several distinct advantages over the use of Scuba tanks were readily apparent. These included 1) far less equipment weight than tanks and their associated gear, 2) less cumbersome for divers to use and 3) cheaper to use than refilling tanks. These benefits make hookah systems ideal for treasure hunting. The design of hookahs changed little over the next 35 years with the motor connected to an air compressor through a belt-and-pulley arrangement. In 1999, Joe Sink and Roger Lee, both experienced hookah users, got together and came up with a new design. Working with Thomas Industries (the world's leading air compressor manufacturer), they developed a hookah system that featured an air compressor mounted directly to the motor. This resulted in a system that was lighter and more reliable than anything else on the market. An important fact regarding this design is that due to the unique and proprietary design of the new compressor, Thomas granted The Air Line sole distribution rights for the compressor/engine unit developed for the diving industry. Not satisfied with just the new engine / compressor design, Joe and Roger looked at other ways to improve the reliability and performance of their hookah systems. The first area they tackled was that of corrosion resistance. Since hookahs are intended to be used in both fresh and salt water, they needed to be able to stand up to the elements without a lot of time-consuming maintenance. All of the systems built by The Air Line have the compressor housings & heads, piston rod tops and valve plates treated with a unique cold-dip process called Acrylic E-Coating. In addition, the vented covers and internal deflector plates are treated with a powder-coat finish. The net result is that all of The Air Line's systems require only a brief wash-down with fresh water after a day's diving is over to provide for years of trouble-free operation (the specific procedure is detailed in the owner's manual). Additional improvements are detailed in the Features section and further demonstrate The Air Line's commitment to producing the highest quality equipment possible for today's hookah divers. Features The R260-4 arrived in a single box via UPS measuring 30x 20x 19! Considering that this unit as shipped contained everything necessary to supply two divers down to depths of 75 feet, I was quite surprised at the small size of the box. Unpacking and assembling the unit was a snap with the detailed directions contained in the owner's manual. A recent upgrade made to the R260-4 was the replacement of the original 2.5 HP Honda with a newer 4 HP model. (This is now represented by the designation, -4, after R260-4.) This allows the new model to run quieter, longer (3+ vs. 2 hours) and have more universally available parts if needed. In addition to the corrosion-resistance enhancements described above, The Air Line's compressors feature a unique built-in cooling fan resulting in reduced operating temperatures and extended service life. As a result, the time between any required compressor servicing is approximately 500 hours when used in a salt-water environment and 1ê¯ hours for fresh water use. The compressor also features a Quiet Valve which greatly reduces the typical noise from a compressor that has to load & unload as the diver's air demand changes. Hookahs from other manufacturers without this feature tend to be considerably louder making them awkward to use in areas where people congregate such as beaches, boat landings or marinas, all proven productive sites. Both the air hose and the regulator have been manufactured to The Air Line's specifications. The new Slim-Line air hose features a thinner wall that results in less drag when towing the hookah, yet it just as strong and kink-resistant as heavier hoses used on other systems. The regulator is fully adjustable so you can be assured of receiving plenty of air no matter how strenuous the activity you are engaged in. Even people with an apartment can now store dive gear capable of handling up to 4 divers in a hall closet. Transporting this much dive gear no longer requires a full-size pickup or van, everything fits in the trunk of an economy car with room to spare. Field Test Timing of field tests never seems to work out for me and this one was no exception. The weather took a turn for the worse and we were going through several weeks where the temperatures stayed below the freezing mark. Realizing that the weather was not going to warm up before the spring thaw, I reluctantly made plans to take the R260-4 to several sites and see how it performed. The first site I visited was a swimming hole on a nearby creek, located about one half mile from the road with access via a narrow path through the woods. I had searched this site previously with Scuba tanks; however, it had required three trips to get all of my gear to the bank. This time I packed all my dive gear, a metal detector, air hoses and float in the carrying bag that comes with the system and snapped the cover over the motor-compressor assembly. Picking up the bag and case, I walked down to the swimming hole in a single trip and with a lot less effort than on my previous visit. It took me less than 5 minutes to inflate the tube, connect the air hoses and get the rest of my gear ready to start detecting the deeper part of the hole. My wife opted to take pictures of my adventure rather than taking a dip in the 45F water, so I put on my mask and slid under the surface. I towed the R260-4 behind me almost effortlessly and I immediately noted the lack of the customary weight of a tank and weight belt as a big plus for the use of a hookah system. I spent more than an hour searching along the bottom and when I surfaced, was quite impressed to see that I had used less than one quarter of a tank during my dive. Packing everything up took a little longer, maybe 10 minutes, but the walk out was just as easy as the walk in had been. I placed the bag and case in the back of the truck and we headed for home. What could be easier? The next site I hit was an abandoned quarry that was quite popular with the locals during the hot summer months. This site would be a good test of the R260-4 since it ranged in depth from a few feet to more 60-plus feet. I convinced one of my dive partners to join me since this site had some old cars and other debris on the bottom and I wanted to have someone along on the bottom in case one of us got tangled up. Since we were able to get the truck fairly close to the water I had left the tube inflated. Connecting both sets of air hoses and connecting the regulators to the dive belts, we got the rest of our equipment ready and waded out towards the drop-off. With a full wetsuit, we needed a weight belt to stay under. Per the manufacturer's recommendation, we used a separate belt so that if required, we could drop the weights and surface with air still being supplied from the hookah. We swam around the first ledge at 30 feet and after ensuring everything was working correctly, we descended to the bottom at just short of 50 feet. We picked up a few soda bottles from the 1940s and 1950s eras, along with a tackle box (which later turned out to be empty), a rusted fishing pole and a street sign. Even though we were both swimming around at that depth, breathing was not difficult and the freedom of not having a tank strapped to our backs was a welcome change. Heading back to shore, we refueled the R260-4, picked up our metal detectors and swam over to an area where kids jump from a 20-foot high rock ledge. The water was about 15 feet deep so we headed in separate directions scanning the bottom for lost goodies. Signals were plentiful and not having a heavy tank strapped to our backs, we lost track of the time. Finally I glanced at my watch and after seeing we had been down close to two hours, swam over to Rick and pointed back to shore. We both agreed that unlike past dives with tanks, the only tiring part of this dive had been recovering the targets located with our detectors. My partner had been a little skeptical about using a hookah; however, after a few short hours, he couldn't stop talking about it on the ride home. I used the R260-4 at several other sites over the next month (before the water got a little too hard to dive in) and found it to be both a pleasure to use and extremely economical to operate20-plus hours of dive time had required less than $10 worth of gas. Summary Selecting a manufacturer of a hookah diving system requires a little more consideration than if you are buying a search coil, pair of headphones or a digging tool. After all, you're counting on the equipment to supply air to you up to 75 feet beneath the surface. The Air Line by J. Sink is a company that has demonstrated their acceptance of the responsibility to produce high-quality, dependable equipment at a cost that won't break the household budget. Rather than simply re-using 30-plus-years-old technology, they developed a new concept that has enhanced the reliability and performance of today's hookah systems. Remember the saying Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Well, Joe Sink and his team must have done something right since the competition has tried to copy what they developed using private-label parts that can only be serviced at the manufacturers service center instead of the 900+ Thomas service centers worldwide that can work on a hookah from The Air Line. The ability to search underwater sites for hours on end, even if you are miles from a dive shop with just a few gallons of gas, greatly expands the number of sites that can be hunted effectively. It is compact enough that it can be checked as luggage on your next vacation giving you an edge over even the local competition. So, if you're a treasure hunter looking for equipment that will allow you to reach areas 95 percent of the competition can't, you need to take a close look at the entire line of surface-supplied dive systems from The Air Line. They offer exceptional value and are designed to provide years of trouble-free operation. My overall experience with the R260-4 was extremely positive and I found it very easy to transport, setup and use even to some fairly isolated sites. For more information on the innovative line of hookah systems and related accessories produced by The Air Line by J. Sink, contact them at P.O. Box 190, Summerfield, FL 34492, call them toll-free at (877) 207-3235 or visit their informative website at http://www.AirLineByJSink.com. NOTE: The use of any dive equipment including a hookah requires that the user(s) receive basic training on its use. If you are not currently a certified diver, contact a local dive shop, YMCA or community college in your area and ask about taking a basic certification class.