Ok, so you have arrived at the dive shop and it is time to try on your equipment. Most things go on pretty easily, boots, BCD, mask and fins just slip on, no fuss. Then there is the wet suit! At this stage your inner contortionist comes into play, nails splinter, knuckles get bruised and potential hernias pop!
Meanwhile, your divemaster or instructor just seems to glide seamlessly into their rubber straight jacket without even breaking sweat, goes off for a cup of tea, has a chat, answers a few emails and yet your wretched suit still has not got over your knees! How do they manage to do this I hear you ask.
The first thing is to have a suit that is the right fit. Strange it may seem but men and women do not have the same body shape. Men’s suits are more generous in the shoulders and women’s suits are more generous in the hips. If your dive shop has both male and female suits then you are very lucky indeed! Suits are generally sized from XXS to XXL and will stretch to accommodate a wide variety of height and width fittings. However, there is a limit to how much they will stretch! You want the fit to be comfortable but snug. Remember, the idea is to trap a little bit of water inside the suit and then have your body warm that water. If you have a bath full of water swilling around on the inside of your suit, then you ain’t going to warm it up, likewise, if you have huge gaps at your neck, wrists and ankles, then all that warm water will wash away!
You have found what you think is the correct size for you, so how can you glide into you rental suit like a pro? Solution one is plastic bags. Place a bag over your foot before sliding into the leg of your wetsuit and you will find that your foot does not snag half way through the foot hole. The same with your hands going into the sleeves of the suit. Solution two is to carry a bottle of shampoo or conditioner with you. Lather yourself up all over your arms and legs with shampoo or conditioner, wet the inside of the wet suit and you will find that the suit slips on like a second skin. If you wish to remain friends with your dive shop, do not use sun tan lotion or oil. This trashes the wet suit in next to no time. Third, try to pinch the wetsuit with your thumb and fingers rather than grabbing a fist full of neoprene and tugging like a person possessed. This will save your nails and knuckles. Ease the suit up a little bit at a time. Finally, get your buddy to help. They can ease the suit over shoulders and also help pull up the zip. Tears form in divemasters eyes as they watch divers playing tug o’ war with wetsuit zip cords, just waiting for the inevitable ripping sound as the zipper pulls away!
A final though. You may wish to invest in a wet suit of your own, that means you try on a range of suits and get professional advice of what would be right for you. You can even have your suit tailor made…
”Rubber? Rubber? Suits you sir!”