My First Drysuit Dive

If you haven’t donned a drysuit before, you are probably wondering what it is all about.   What does it feel like to put one on, do they really keep you warm, how do you dive in one, and why are they so expensive?

I am a tried and true warm water diver, but living in Seattle, Washington, I miss out on so many great diving opportunities that drysuit diving would offer.  My husband and friends dive locally and love it, so I keep wondering what I am missing.

I was recently offered the opportunity to try out a DUI (Diving Unlimited International) drysuit at a demo event in Tacoma, Washington.  Well, needless to say, I jumped on it.  After being measured for my neck and wrist size in order to be fitted with the correct latex or silicone seals, I was sent to the station where someone helped me put the whole suit on.   The seals, of course, are the most critical item in  staying dry.

 First you start with the undergarments, then put the drysuit on, and in this case, the suspenders, then with your hands in the gloves, wrestle your head through the neck seal and zip yourself in.   This  requires some flexibility in your shoulders, for sure.  Next come the boots.  Zipping up can be challenging at first, so your dive buddy may have to help you.  Finally, you put your hood on and with your BCD and tank on your back, you are ready to go!  Don’t forget to grab your mask and fins.  How does it feel to be secured inside all of this gear that is designed to keep you warm and dry?  It feels pretty darn cumbersome, especially compared to diving with a 3ml wetsuit…kind of like wearing a space suit!  The thickness of the gloves makes it much more challenging to press buttons.  The hood feels confining, but also offers a nice secure feeling.  The neck seal is probably the toughest to get used to.  It needs to be tight enough to not let any water in, yet not so tight that it cuts off your circulation or gives you a headache.  Fortunately, I felt good about the fit of my gear with the professional help of the DUI reps that helped fit me.  Hey, I was up for the challenge!

This particular dive was a shore dive with a very easy entry.  Good thing, since walking with the extra weights necessary to offset the added buoyancy required some stamina.  Fortunately, it was only a blazing 60 degree (F) day, so I was actually quite comfortable, but some of the other divers were already cooking in all of that gear!  The water temperature was 46 degrees (F), which for some divers, probably felt good!

My biggest apprehensions about drysuit diving were 1) would I feel cold,  2) how would my buoyancy control be, and 3) what if I had to “pee”?  Well, after the initial chill on my face and head, I quickly adjusted to the water temperature.  I was really surprised and pleased at how comfortable I was in this cold water.  Since I tend to get cold easily, even in a full length 3 ml wetsuit in the tropics, I wore the thickest undergarments that DUI had available, as well as “dry” gloves, vs. neoprene gloves.

Probably the biggest difference between wetsuit and drysuit diving is that you have an extra air bladder (your suit) to control.   You want to use your BCD on the surface, and use your drysuit to make adjustments underwater.  Of course, you will need significantly more weight than you use with a wetsuit to offset the added buoyancy of all of the extra garments that you are wearing.more divers

As far as my buoyancy control went, it was more challenging for me than I had expected.  At first I was seriously under-weighted.  After adding 10 more pounds than I use with a wetsuit, I continued to have some issues the whole dive.  DUI drysuits have vents on the left shoulder (some others have vents on the arm and ankles too).  If you open your vent all of the way, when you roll the left shoulder up, you should exhaust excess air.  If you think that you have air trapped in the drysuit, then you give yourself a big hug and try to squeeze the air out.  In my situation, in retrospect, we think that because my waist strap on my BCD was not really long enough, it was pretty tight, thus trapping some air in my lower body.  Had I thought of that underwater, that situation could possibly have been remedied underwater.

The issue of having to “pee” in the drysuit may seem kind of gross, but let’s face it, many divers do “pee” in their wetsuits and you cannot do that in a drysuit!  This is a topic for another blog article.  I will say that it is a lot more work getting out of the drysuit than unzipping and getting out of a wetsuit.

With the help of my dive buddy, I managed to stay down and enjoy the dive, even with only 3-5 foot visibility!   We saw crabs, starfish, and anenomes and I was thrilled to be diving in my own back yard and to be so warm and comfortable!

Am I ready to run out and buy a drysuit!  You bet!  I want the opportunity to dive more frequently,  now that I know that I can stay warm and dry.  The expense of a drysuit is something to be considered.  DUI makes a great suit, but I am definitely going to shop around for a suit that really fits me and my budget.  Since I am 5’2″ and petite, I most likely need a custom suit, and that will be more expensive than buying a standard-sized suit.  A drysuit is an investment, just like any other piece of dive gear, so it is worth finding the right one.
If you are looking to try one out, you can ask at your local shop if they rent drysuits, and if you are lucky, there will be a rental in your size!  There are so many beautiful dives just waiting for you if you are adventurous enough to make the investment in drysuit diving.

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