Drysuits are fun (except when they’re not)

I have three drysuits because the ocean is wet and it’s cold. When I first started diving in 2000, we learned in wetsuits – 7mm neoprene suits that overlapped on the torso to give 14mm. I felt like that tire mascot and could hardly move. The first dive was nice, the second horrible (because you were wet, cold and evaporation on the surface interval chilled you even more).

On my advanced course we did a drysuit dive; I bought one the next week.

Fast forward to today, where I now own 3 very high quality (a.k.a. expensive) drysuits. All are from DUI, a very good manufacturer. Two are their TLS350 suits (nylon tri-laminate shell suit) and the newest one is a Flex Extreme (polypropylene tri-laminate shell suit). I also have expensive dive underwear.

When the suits don’t leak, they are wonderful. I still have trouble with cold hands as I have never really found glove liners that are really warm, but overall it’s great.

But – when the suits leak, they aren’t fun at all. Leaks range from seeping due to very small holes (usually in the feet) to full floods due to suit failure (i.e. zipper needs replacing) to wrinkled neck seal. Full floods can start anywhere during the dive, but you really notice it at the end when you  stand up to remove the gear – and all  the water accumulated in the suit rushes in a chilly torrent to soak your legs and feet.

Finding the leaks (if it’s not the zipper or the neck seal) is even less fun than being wet. There are numerous methods to finding leaks, and all of them work about equally well, which is to say poorly. My experience is that any leak “good enough” to show itself in a normal leak test is a BIG leak. Most  leaks are of the weeping/seeping kind, and are almost impossible to accurately locate.

My current (as of today’s post) situation is all 3 suits are “questionable”. The oldest  suit (2003) needs a new shoulder exhaust valve, as that leaked quite well on the last dive. I was also very wet on my rear end; it may be a leak or it may be a wrinkled neck seal. Of course the leak testing was negative for finding any leak, so I’ll just have to replace the valve and dive it to see. (yay, maybe dry, maybe wet).

The second suit (2009) was my teaching suit, and it had two rather large holes in the feet. The holes were large enough that I found the leaks easily, and have now patched both with aquaseal. All that remains is a test dive. The feet were getting so soaked from the first step in the water that I’m not really keen on the test dive. Maybe next course.

The last suit was just bought this year, and is essentially perfect… except twice now I’ve managed to wrinkle the fancy silicone neck seal and end up with a FULL suit flood. Last Sunday was the worst, as water poured in from the moment I entered the ocean. Of course I did a dive anyway, but it was short and very wet and very, very cold. As I thought I was very careful donning the neck seal, I’m really puzzled at this time as to what’s going on.

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