I had heard mixed stories about dry suit diving – some had mentioned the benefits of diving in the cold (I even know of an instructor who gives pool training in his dry suit)! Others again had mentioned difficulties with maneuvering…so when my dive guru asked me whether I wanted to try his dry suit on a casual dive and then attempt my dry suit specialty, I was very doubtful. I had visions of bobbing around in the ocean like an Oros man…but, always being willing to try something new, I decided to give it a try…and I’m glad that I did!
My transition to dry suit diver began on a rainy, cold afternoon in May – after doing two of the coldest dives that I had ever done. Theo, being a little taken aback that I had been cold in the water, suggested that I take his suit for a fitting in the shop to see if it was comfortable.
For those that have yet to dive in a dry suit, you will soon discover that the secret to dry suit diving is how you enter the suit followed by the exit – the diving in between is just a bonus! It’s not easy to enter a dry suit for the first time – unlike with a wet suit you need to position your feet in the “boots” – easier said than done, but if you can get that right, the rest follows relatively easily.
At first it was a very strange feeling being aware of being in a scuba diving suit but at the same time still wearing your clothes. My first impression of the dry suit was that (bearing in mind that I was still on land) it was like being in a one of the Tintin spacesuits from “Destination Moon”, the only items missing being a glass helmet and a two way radio. This, however, was soon replaced by the feeling of comfort through space – yes, size does matter. With the correct size dry suit on you actually feel quite comfortable! Removing the suit proved to be a bit of a challenge in that one has to take great care at all times not to damage the seals of the suit - one tiny tear in a seal can severely compromise the dry suits’ effectiveness. Fortunately I had the help of the Into the Blue crew on the day, but it does get easier the more you gather experience.
Walking into the water was one of the weirdest feelings I have ever had. I was within the water, but I wasn’t getting wet! You know that familiar cold tingle you get up the spine, as the cold water comes flowing into your wet suit? None of that this time round.
We descended (descending is a bit different in a dry suit, because you also have to let air out of your suit in order to go down) down to about 6 meters. When I reached the bottom, I added some air into the suit, to make sure that I was warm and comfy.
And warm and comfy I was! I did a full dive, without even being aware of the cold. It did not even cross my mind. I can honestly say that it was the best dive of my life up to now. Not only because of the suit (we were diving at Castle Rock, and the marine life there is in pristine condition), but in a large part because of it. On that day we saw lots of Red Romans, and sponges, and I was able to look at them without the stress of being cold.
Was it difficult? For my 1st time, no. It was quite easy, but I will see how I do in the remainder of my course, as we are heading for some deeper dives then