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August 2003 Vol. 18, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Getting Into Dry Suit Diving

from the August, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Usually, a dry suit certification is required to buy or rent a dry suit. Because you inflate a dry suit to keep warm, buoyancy control is the major skill that must be mastered. The trick is to keep the air in the suit from rushing to your feet if you become inverted and then correcting the problem if it occurs. My SSI course consisted of reading a 99-page book, taking an open book quiz, practicing in my dive shop's pool, and then making a two-tank boat dive in Monterey, CA. My dives were unsupervised; just a chance to get used to the suit in open water. I recommend more open water experience before going on a cold water live-aboard like the Nautilus Explorer.

Renting a dry suit can be tricky. Only a few dive shops carry them, and when I went to reserve one at the shop where I'd been certified, all they had left was a large size, loose-fitting, trilaminate suit, which created a lot of drag when I tried it in their pool. I decided to rent from the Nautilus Explorer. They were offering a crushed neoprene suit that I hadn't tried before; neoprene dry suits fit like wet suits, and require less in the way of undergarments but more weight than trilams (I carried 13 pounds more weight than I do with my 7 mm wet suit). Also, I didn't have to transport a bulky dry suit to Vancouver and back. And I saved $20 over the local rental rate. Finally, I figured the Explorer crew would have a bigger stake in fixing any problems with their own suit; nothing went wrong, but Mike Lever did cluck over me like a mother hen each time he saw me putting it on or peeling it off.

Over the phone, Lever took my measurements (basically height and weight) and selected one of four neoprene suits for me he carries on board. He suggested that I bring my wetsuit as a backup, which I did, but I never needed it.

On the Explorer, there was no standing around wet between dives, partly because the cool, drizzly weather drove us inside. As soon as we rinsed our suits, we hung them up, then went back to our cabins to change into "street" clothes until the next dive.

D.L.

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