Repeat after me, 'Diving in cold water is fun when wearing a drysuit.' Really,
it is. Drysuits like the Bare
Nex-Gen Pro Drysuit, available along with many others at Scuba.com, make
diving cooler waters comfortable year-round. When you are warm and enjoying
the underwater world, your anxiety level drops, your positive attitude is accentuated
and your loved ones may actually encourage you to go diving more often!
Drysuits are easy to use but require training before you plunge into the open
water. When researching those available, factor in the cost (if any) and the
convenience of the orientation and training classes that will be needed for
that particular brand of suit.
Drysuits may be fabricated from several types of material. Some look like rubber
sheeting, others like nylon canvas and a few look like heavy duty neoprene,
similar to a wetsuit like the Pinnacle
Black Ice 7mm Neoprene Front-Entry Drysuit, available at Scuba.com. To keep
you dry, all have neck and wrist seals and usually have attached boots. Some
hoods are attached and have a face seal. Other hoods are separate.
As with most scuba equipment, there is no 'best choice.' The prime pick for
you depends upon how or where you plan to use the suit, your tolerance for don/doff
contortions, tight neck seals and which model suits your physique the best.
Talk to people who have different types of suits. Ask them if they are happy
with their suits and why they bought that style versus others on the market.
Owner comments are amazingly informative and will likely hit on the features
and benefits you've been thinking about.
Once you have found a suit that best meets your needs, it is time to get in
the water. In training, you will learn how to effectively dive in a drysuit
and stay out of the dreaded head down, feet rocketing to the surface position.
You will learn how to fine tune your buoyancy, wear less lead and have confidence
in your ability to safely dive dry.
When ascending intentionally, remember to vent both your BC and suit. Some
drysuit divers add D-rings to their BCs so they can clip cameras, lights etc.,
on and have both hands free for buoyancy control. Other divers vent the suit
first, then the buoyancy compensator, then back and forth as needed. The air
in the drysuit is for a comfortable, non-binding feeling, it is not a substitute
for a BC or a liftbag. There really should be a minimum of air in your suit;
it is not a good idea to turn yourself into a human liftbag.
Unplanned, feet-first rapid ascents are not cool. They are hazardous to your
health and should be avoided. If you rise to the surface feet first, it is possible
to trap air in your lungs and you risk an air overpressure diving malady. Here's
how to correct a feet first ascent:
1. If you are close to properly weighted and feel your feet rising, turn on
the power kick, tilt your head toward your back and kick your way to a head-up
position. Then, vent your suit.
2. If you are slightly positively buoyant, tuck your body into a ball, roll
upright, then untuck and vent your suit.
3. If you are positively buoyant but can still control your body position and
have bottom time available, consider a hard power kick, driving yourself toward
the bottom to compress the air in your suit. When you get to the bottom grab
something;a boulder, kelp stalk, anchor;and pull your legs down toward your
chest, then lift your head upward, stabilize and vent your suit.
4. If the bottom is flat sand, do a hands-first power kick crash into the bottom.
When you bounce off the bottom, whip your legs up toward your chest and regain
a heads-up attitude. Once repositioned, vent your suit. Wait until you practice
If all attempts to power yourself out of the feet up position fail, flare out
like a sky diver. This creates maximum drag and slows your ascent.
Sticky Vent Valve
Other great moments in drysuit diving occur when a valve sticks open or shut.
Regular, manufacturer recommended maintenance helps prevent this. Not dragging
your suit through the sand or storing it in the bottom of a sandy dive bag are
also preventive measures.
When a low pressure inflator valve sticks in the open position, it is a rare
but invigorating experience. You feel like a party balloon being inflated on
a helium tank. The simplest solution is to disconnect the inflator hose from
An exhaust valve sticking shut is another rare occurrence that a drysuit class
teaches you to handle. If the valve will not vent air, a damp alternative is
to hold both arms above your head and use one hand to stick a finger under the
seal of the other wrist. Excess air in the sleeve will vent out.
Remember to have the seal you plan to open as high on your body as possible.
The air goes to the highest part of the suit. It is easy to forget this simple
principle. If you do, and hold your arm at waist level, you're in for a shock
when the water rushes in!
The textbook term underpressure is commonly called strangling. In the vertical
position, drysuit divers can experience a pressure differential between the
neck and feet. Depending upon your height, it could be as much as two psi. Having
less pressure at the neck, compared to the feet, causes air to migrate to the
upper part of the suit. This causes an uncomfortable (at the least) or strangling
feeling (at the worst) on the diver's neck and carotid arteries.
To reduce this choking feeling, select a neck seal no tighter than is needed
for a watertight bond. If you feel like gagging on the surface because a neck
seal is too tight, it is only going to get worse underwater. Limit the amount
of air in your drysuit while underwater. Try to maintain a neutrally buoyant
swimming position while diving, rather than continually going vertical in the
water. Remember, use your BC for surface buoyancy, not your drysuit.
Once you master the techniques, drysuit diving is no big deal and it opens
up a whole new world of comfortable, cold water diving. No buoyancy drysuits
make neutral buoyancy diving easy and achievable by a beginner.
Drysuit training is frequently free with the purchase of a new suit. Even if
you have to pay a small fee, it is a tiny investment for your safety and underwater
enjoyment. Drysuits make multiple, comfortable dives per day possible. They
open up new seasons and locations for diving. Most important, drysuits enhance
the comfort and joy of being underwater.