In my diving life around parts of the world I have worn an array of underwater attire, from long johns underneath a dry suit in water that was 4 degrees to rash vest and board shorts in 27 degrees. Depending on the air temperature usually makes my decision as to whether I wear more or less. However, nothing beats the freedom and ease than the minimal amounts.
Recently I made my first shore dives in Timor Leste. Due to lack of experience and weather conditions, I managed to get ‘wiped out’ by waves on entry and exit. As I was wearing my usual rash vest and board shorts combo, I had no protection from the hard rocks beneath me. Therefore, I managed to scrape my knees several times. Ouch!
I later learnt that when shore diving, like all diving, you can come up against unexpected currents, which you need to swim against to avoid a long stroll back up the beach. To do this you stay close to the bottom to avoid the stronger current and as a last resort hold onto the hard rock on the bottom. This was my first introduction to fire coral, and man does it sting.
After repeating both of these incidents a number of times, leaving my knees looking like I had been involved in a motorbike accident, I decided that I’d wear a full wetsuit to protect myself from further incident. It worked! My knees healed and I gained a psychological safety net preventing me from falling over in the surf. However, where there is yin there is always yang! I soon grew frustrated with the wetsuit dance before and after every dive and also the immediate rise in temperature once fully rubbered up. I missed the ease of shorts and rash vest, plus the waters of Timor were never too cold. So, when I felt more confident with my shore exit and entry I decided to switch back. So far so good!
Wetsuits have lots of benefits from maintaining your body heat to protecting you from stings and bumps, but they are not for everyone… unless diving in the UK, of course!
by Denise Hooley