This article goes out to all of my fair-weather divers, my fellow professionals and to those of you who live far from or are currently unable to travel to any tropical diving destinations (thank you global pandemic). If like myself, your diving history predominately consists of perfect visibility, salty bath-like warm waters and only needing a rash guard for thermal protection, then here is where I’m going to open your mind to a new way of diving.
In July I made the drastic decision to move away from my serene Caribbean island home to further pursue my diving career here in Canada. Just last month I completed my dry suit diver specialty; the outside temperature was -10°C, the water temperature was a breath-taking 4°C… and it was snowing. Though I myself am new to this exciting approach to diving, I would like to share why I think dry suit diving is beneficial to every diver.
[Gearing up for our dry suit course at Two-Jack Lake (Banff, Canada) in the snow!]
1. Thermal protection:
Now, I’m not going to dedicate one of my points to the blatantly obvious benefit that you remain dry, because that’s literally in the name. But, I can confirm that it does what it says on the tin: from neck to toe, your undergarments remain bone dry (given you have a properly fitting suit and don’t fiddle with you seals underwater). So instead I shall connect this with the fact that dry suit diving keeps you warmer for longer. Even in tropical waters your body temperature will eventually cool, especially if you’re doing multiple dives in a day. Speaking from experience I have surfaced from my fourth dive in 30°C waters with blue lips and numb toes – here is where a dry suit would help!
Furthermore, if you’re planning a deep dive or you’re diving in an area where there are thermoclines, wearing a dry suit will not only make you feel more comfortable but will also allow you the option to plan for a longer dive (gas and deco permitting of course). This would prove useful for recreational divers wanting to explore wrecks, commercial divers working underwater for extended periods of time or technical divers wanting to discover new depths.
2. Cold water diving destinations:
One of the most appealing benefits to dry suit diving is that it opens up countless opportunities for you to comfortably explore epic dive sites in colder regions; one of the most famous cold water dive destinations being Silfra Fissure in Iceland, where you can dive between the European and American tectonic plates. Some of these places you may not have even considered to explore yet as a diver, such as encountering basking sharks in Scotland or orcas off of Vancouver Island. Then again, maybe you’re wanting to visit regions not knowing that you may require a dry suit to be more comfortable, such as diving in South Australia and South Africa. If you've ever considered adding ice diving to your repertoire of dive specialities, then you would want to consider becoming a dry suit diver and ideally logging an adequate amount of dives prior to seeking out ice diving destinations.
3. Expands your skillset and knowledge:
Similar to all the other dive specialties you've taken, dry suit diving is exciting because it allows you to learn new skills whilst utilising those that you already have. However, the unique benefit of dry suit diving is that you must learn how to master your pre-existing skills whilst wearing new gear. The dry suit course requires you to control your buoyancy using your suit rather than your BCD, which introduces novel problems that you learn how to prevent as well as solve underwater. The PADI Dry Suit Diver course places a lot of emphasis on how to care for your equipment and repair any minor issues; this is extremely beneficial for any diver and why the specialty not only widens your knowledge about scuba equipment but makes you a more well-rounded diver overall.
4. Options to dive locally:
For those of you who live far from any coastal area, in cold water regions or don't have the option of travelling to a tropical dive destination several times a year to satisfy your scuba cravings, you may not have to! Being a dry suit diver opens many doors in terms of accessible diving. This may be news to some of you, but you don't need warm water, tropical fish, 30 meters of visibility and even salt water to be able to go diving. Granted, diving in a lake or a quarry may not be your first dive location of choice, but it's still an opportunity for you to explore your back yard, practice new skills and you never know what sunken treasure you may discover. Those of you who do have access to the ocean in cold water regions, this is your opportunity to become familiar with your local species and encounter marine life that would may not be possible in warmer waters (sea lions and seals in California or weedy sea dragons in South Australia for example). No matter what body of water you are nearest to, there is always the opportunity to integrate yourself into your local dive community and meet a whole new circle of likeminded enthusiasts!
5. Diversifies your dive resume:
Speaking of becoming a more well-rounded diver, personally this is my final and most significant benefit of dry suit diving for those of you who are professionals: it diversifies your dive resume and makes you stand out. This was one of the main reasons as to why I moved to Canada, to challenge myself as a diver and gain more experience within my field. I want to always be expanding my knowledge, skillset, familiarity with dive equipment and have the opportunity to teach new specialties wherever I am in the world. Even if you’re not teaching a dry suit course or diving in one yourself, you could be guiding a diver who is wearing a dry suit. Becoming a dry suit diver yourself and having that experience enables you to help students with any minor equipment issues and how to confidently handle problems underwater.
[Two brand new PADI dry suit divers!]
Failing all of the above, if I still haven't convinced you to try dry suit diving, then you can sign up here for an once-in-a-lifetime dive trip to the Maldives, to satisfy all of your tropical water needs.
Abigail Smith is an editor for Dive SAGA MAGAZINE and a PADI IDC Staff Instructor. You can follow her on Instagram @abigailsmiff