|Jacques in his wet suit|
When diving you need thermal protection of some description no matter where you dive, after all - have you ever seen a naked diver? I have. I couldn’t help myself. I got distracted one night and did a Google search for “scuba porn.” It does exist and they prefer back plate and wing over a BCD. Sad, but true, that’s the most poignant thing I remember about my investigations.
So, aside from the scuba porn industry all divers will wear a suit of some sorts. Three main types’ spring to mind - wet suit, semi-dry and the dry suit.
- Wetsuit: You get completely wet and the water more or less continually flushes through the suit.
- Semi-dry: Like a wet suit but with wrist and ankle seals that trap the water in the suit to a certain extent keeping you warmer as the flushing is reduced.
- Dry: Not like a wet suit at all. You don’t get wet and the air in the suit keeps you warm, provided you wear appropriate under garments.
I think nearly everyone learns to dive in a wet suit / semi-dry. They are cheap(er), decent fit off the peg, come in a variety of thicknesses and don’t require any additional training to use. Even ice divers (as the guys from Scuba Obsessed will proudly tell you) can, and often choose to, dive in a wet suit. Personally I believe this to me utter madness and such activity should be reserved for the clinically insane.
I too learned to dive in a semi-dry in the slightly frigid waters of Northern Ireland.
Just to be clear, I’m a skinny guy and getting a suit of any description to fit me is a bit difficult. This became apparent as soon as I started diving. My first 2 years of diving were spent diving wet. My first suit was a ‘Mares something’ that I purchased from eBay for about £40, a fetching blue and red affair. It lasted one dive. I jumped in and was closely followed by a rescue diver believing me to be drowning due to the screaming once I broke the surface. I wasn’t drowning, but merely explaining in a frantic, high pitched tone that the suit was inadequate for the 8 degrees Celsius water. I blame wife buddy for that one anyway. She bought me the suit as she too was diving Mares and, in her own words, was “toasty” after every dive. Bully for her.
So it was back to eBay with that torture device.
|My Oceanic Shadow semi-dry|
As any seasoned diver will tell you there is a point when you decide it’s time for the wet suit to go. Like many divers before me, I too ditched my wet wear and donned the dry suit. I always enjoyed the actual dive in my wetsuit and never felt like I was freezing beyond belief or possibly dying of hypothermia at any given moment. It was the getting changed post dive that finished me off. I’m not sure I know the precise moment, exactly what happened or when I decided I’d had enough of being wet. Perhaps it was the day that wife buddy glanced over as I was balancing precariously against the car drying my man bits and asked, “Awww, poor love. Are you cold today?”
Yes, maybe that was it. My very manhood had decided enough was enough and if I didn’t increase the core temperature a full retreat was inevitable.
As a result I had to get a dry suit. Great – I got to go shopping!
Ignoring all my previous experiences I took a risk and bought a neoprene dry suit from eBay for £50. It fitted reasonably well and was actually pretty dry, bar a bit of a drizzle at the wrists. One dive later I found, again, that eBay suits and I don’t agree. Buoyancy control appeared impossible. The suit was too thick I could hardly bend my extremities and I needed all the lead from the local metal works to get down. My weight belt began to resemble a track from a Panzer tank. Back onto eBay it went and selling for £68 I actually turned a profit on it. A welcome change from my usual eBay practices.
Now that the man shaped mattress was gone there was only one thing for it - I had to buy myself a brand new suit. Being skinny has always made buying clothes a problem and I knew a dry suit purchase was going to be exactly the same. This ironically made the whole process a bit easier. I knew I couldn’t buy a suit off the rack as it simply wouldn’t fit me. Sizing is paramount when it comes to a dry suit. If it isn’t a good fit you will suffer a heap of problems, not perform correctly, probably not keep you dry and therefore not insulate. A made to measure suit was my only option.
There are a number of companies that offer MTM suits but you really pay for the service. DUI do fantastic suits apparently, but at roughly £2K a touch I’ll never, ever, ever find out first hand. Unfortunate, but true nonetheless. After my usual 10 hours of internet research I came up with the most amazing solution – Seaskin. Mentioned on many forums, primarily DIRx and YD, Seaskin suits are the only viable solution for those on a budget seeking a MTM suit. To be honest there is nothing budget about the suit itself, just the price.
So off to the Seaskin website I went. All you have to do is fill in your personal measurements, select the bells and whistles you would like, and then hit ‘submit.’ It’s an extremely simple process and any Muppet with a measuring tape can size you up and you will have your suit in about 8 weeks. The options are purely personal preference so I’ll not go into it. I have a full description of my suit here. At £536 (I think that’s I paid) it was a complete bargain.
In hindsight the problem was I didn’t know what I was doing. Neither Kerri nor I took a dry suit course. That was stupid. Taking a course would have solved a lot of our initial problems when we started diving dry. I would strongly advise anyone who is thinking of getting a dry suit to take the appropriate training. We did try to get an instructor to take us out, but the timing always went wrong and we never got around to it. So we simply jumped in and ‘had a go.’
I don’t know how many dives it took me to sort myself out but I was eventually able to control the air filled beastie. I got my suit a week before a planned diving trip to the UK. My second dive wearing it was in front of a PADI instructor when doing a nitrox course. I think the added pressure of concentrating on something else made inadvertently relax and just dive. As a result everything seemed to fall into place. 8 dives later I had it nailed, well, relatively speaking.
I love my dry suit now. It has changed my diving dramatically. With the correct under suit I can dive all year round, nothing can stop me from getting in the water. I still have skinny wrists and I doubt I will ever stop water seeping in the channels that open when I flex my fist if I wear wet gloves. That said I have recently switched to dry gloves and I can honestly say my suit is 100% dry every dive. The suit itself is that awesome that wife-buddy also ordered herself a Seaskin, although it does appear to be on MY credit card….
So, in conclusion;
- If you dive in cold water – get a dry suit. Anyone that says different is cold.
- If you are an abnormal shape get a MTM suit, it will be money well spent.
- Buy a Seaskin suit – they rock. (I am not endorsed, although I would gladly be)
- Take dry suit training. It’s safer and will add to the enjoyment.
- Dry suits ARE dry, anyone that says different needs a suit repair.
- Don’t pee in them.
- If you're getting into scuba porn get a backplate and wing.
Dive dry - dive safe!