Sunday, January 2, 2011


Hello Everyone! 

I could and probably will ramble on (and on) in this blogpost, but, hopefully you will bear with me.  This post will somewhat detail my (little) experience to date about dry suit diving and some early observations about dry suit diving.

A confluence of events occurred in November which were:  my birthday, my wetsuit needed to be replaced with a new one, and I had in mind the past few years to buy a dry suit, and winter came a month early.  Whether my wetsuit was new and un-crushed or needing to be replaced, I have always been cold in it during the months of January and February.  Cold during the dives and cold between and after the dives.   I think the reason for this is a combination of my age and that I am well acclimated to the water temps here in the Key Largo area.

So I placed a call to my friend Sasha who owns SoBe Divers ( and is a Bare dealer and Bare makes both wet and drysuits.   Sasha quoted me a heck of a price (ask me personally as he said he would do the same for any of 'my guyz') so I went ahead with the purchase and called it my birthday present to myself.   For anyone curious the cost was around $800 yet the suit retails for over $1100.

Ordinarly I buy some piece of UW photography equipment, lens or camera.... 

So, I had this dry suit coming and never having dove one, I put the study cap on and read the PADI Dry Suit Specialty course instructor's manual, trying to be a good student of SCUBA.  Did that homework and then counselled with several PADI instructors who both dive Dry Suits and teach dry suit diving.  Thanx Pam Wooten , Georgia Hausserman, Tom Witmer, Mike Waters,  Joe Thomas for all your tips, pointers, advice and suggestions.

When the suit arrived the first step after unpacking it was to read its manual.  I bought Bare's NexGen Dry Suit and substituted its built in boots with ankle seals.  The suit is bilaminate suit rather than any of the neoprene versions of dry suits.  The next step was trimming the seals with the neck seal being the most critical.   Thanx to Dan at Horizon Divers, for his help in getting my neck seal properly trimmed.

Book work done and seals trimmed, the next phase in this grand expirement was the pool training.  Armed with the Dry Suit and an instructor slate full of performance requirements, off to the pool I went, where I spent the better parts of two mornings getting acclimated to the suit and diving in it.  Tom W was pool side and keeping an eye on me and for my safety :)   Friend Mischa was there with a camera to photograph any comedy or tragedy that may have arisen while I sort out diving in this type of suit.  

Finally, got the weather and opportunity to do (now) 7 dives in the open water in the dry suit.  Including a staff dive with Ocean Divers, thanx OD, for the invite  Obviously it is 'different' (than diving in a wetsuit).  The DS itself does not keep you warm, only dry.  So undergarments are worn and enough to keep you warm.  The kind, numbers of layers, of these you wear affects how much weight you need to wear when diving in the DS.  I normally wear around 8 to 10#s of weight diving in my wetsuit and wear anywhere between 16 and 22 #s of weight diving in the DS.  I dive with a minimal amount of air inside the suit.  Just enough to keep the 'squeeze' off.  More on this later.

I use my BCD for buoyancy control both on the surface and UW.  The suit that I bought was not so bulky as to require me to buy a larger BCD than the one I own.  And because I ordered ankle seals I can still wear my full foot fins when diving 'dry'.

A person can buy undergarments made specifically for dry suits.  I chose not to for a number of reasons, and one was cost.  I have a 'darlex' dive skin made by Body Glove that I wear and when necessary I layer tee-shirts, fleecies, or polartech underwear, depending upon the water temps.  Most of the DS specific undergarments that I have seen are thick and therefore hold a lot of air and therefore require additional weights to be added to my weight system.  Although these undergarments are more comfortable insofar as displacing suit squeeze.

Some observations:  While I do not yet have a routine or system down pat yet, donning and doffing the DS is no more or less problematic or work than my donning/doffing my two piece FJ with hooded vest.

There is a saying:   'There are two kinds of divers- divers that pee in their wetsuits and liars'.  I am not a liar and this urge was a concern of mine when  contemplating diving in a DS.  So far I have not had the urge, and this was told to me by other DS divers (that I would not have), and that is the truth!

Given my limited experience, the suit is somewhat restrictive to move in compared to my wetsuit.  The water pressure helps squeeze the air from the suit thru its vent valve(good thing insofar as less weight being needed) but once that is done, the thick, sturdy material of the suit wraps around me.  It does not pinch me because of the layers of undergarments I have, but it does make moving in it more of an effort.  I still have full range of motion and can contort myself any way I need to do take UW photographs, but, it is still a bit cumbersome.  This is hard to explain, and, it is getting to be more comfortable with each dive I do.  I suspect then, that this is something a diver 'gets used to'.   The suit does create more drag in the water column and on the surface, so my movements are slower to prevent over-excertion.  I would not want to do a long surface swim in my DS in any substantial waves or current.  (well for that matter I could say the same thing about my wetsuit)  I am more agile, so far, when diving my wetsuit. 

I thought or expected buoyancy control to be a lot harder for me to gain some mastery of than it turned out to be.  The suit, in this regard, was much easier than I expected, to learn to dive.  Figuring out and dealing with the nuances of the DS's buoyancy was actually a lotta fun and I did a lot of laughing at myself.  

The DS is more maintenance intensive than is the wetsuit.  There is a rigid protocol involving its care and the care of the zipper and seals.  Every two or three years or so, the seals need to be replaced and this is not without cost.  I calculate replacing the seals in my suit will equal the cost of my buying a wetsuit, which I do every three years. 

The dry suit has been a joy for me to own and dive in.  It does, as advertized, keep me dry.  And I am not as cold, if at all, underwater diving it as I am in a wetsuit.  Equally important, I am warm, not freezing cold, when back on the boat between dives and after dives.  So, the trade off seems to be for now, I am warm and dry with less mobility, comfort, and agility during my dives.  I expect that with more dives I will become more comfortable, mobile and agile in the DS.  These are very early impressions and observations.

So:  For me a great trade!!  Thanx Sasha, and Everyone who had a hand in making it possible for me to dive dry. If you are diver who gets cold during dives and freezes on the boat after dives, I highly reco the dry suit.   Pics below for the fun of it:  



A special thanx to my buddies:  Rich R and Connie Z. 

Warm and safe diving to you all in 2011.  lg

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