We often get asked at this time of year, from November to January, when rain fall is more prevalent on Utila and throughout the Caribbean Bay Islands, what time of exposure suit should I use.
We have a selection of wetsuits at Utila Dive Centre for our divers and students, from 3mm shorties, to 3mm and 5mm full length one piece and two piece suits. Most divers taking a PADI Divemaster or Instructor internship with us tend to like to have their own wetsuit, for comfort and good fit, and whilst a 5mm full length wetsuit might be excessive most of the year, when you’re in the water every day for several hours, ten in the cooler months it can make a big difference to your comfort levels. This post is a guest post from writer Paul Tomlinson in the UK on how to choose a wetsuit.
How To Choose the Right Wetsuit For Your Dive Location
Getting the right wetsuit is the first part of enjoying any diving experience. Diving would be impossible in some situations were it not for the vast array of wetsuits available to suit the unique requirements of different dive locations. Whether you’re dive is in the sea, a lake, a river or in caves, a wetsuit will be your best friend whilst diving so it’s important to choose the right one.
Warm Water VS Cold Water Diving
Warm water diving is the most common, as it simply means diving in water which is above 6 degrees Celsius. Staying warm becomes a factor when cold water diving, as temperatures can drop quite low and the body will lose heat 25% quicker when in water.
Different Dive Locations
Here is a short list of some of the most common types of diving, and what to expect from them.
- Reef Diving is the most common type of warm water diving and is usually suitable for divers of all levels. Reefs have good visibility, high temperatures, light currents, and tend to be relatively shallow.
- Kelp Diving – swimming down amongst thick beds of kelp or seaweed – is performed in cold water and can be quite tricky for inexperienced or claustrophobic divers. This is a dark dive, but not as dark as night diving.
- Wall Diving – this is a challenging dive, and anyone attempting it should make sure that their buoyancy is under control. Strong currents are a risk factor.
- Technical Diving – this type of diving is certainly not for beginners. Specialist gear is required, as the dive is often very deep.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Wetsuit
Different locations will always demand different wetsuits. UK locations tend to be colder, meaning that a full wetsuit with hood is often advisable. Temperature is often the overriding factor when choosing a wetsuit, however visibility, manoeuvrability and even wildlife will all play a part. Some factors may be unanticipated, such as the higher rate of cases of hypothermia in warm water locations due to the increased discrepancy between body temperature and water temperature. Visit the Secret Spot site today to consult a professional before you purchase your new wetsuit.
On Utila our temperature varies year round from averages of 24-28c/78-84f and for dive times up to 60 minutes, a 3mm shorty is sufficient from April to September, and then we recommend a full length. Divers who are just on a weeks diving vacation may find they feel colder towards the end of the week due to the body core thermal temperature being lowered after daily multiple dives, and so a hood can make a big difference. For dive times over 60 minutes, usually with our PADI training sessions on Open Water courses, and for divers who are interning on our PADI Divemaster and PADI IDC programs, in-water sessions can often be 2-3 hours, and although much of this is at the surface, the body is still loosing heat so we recommend a 5mm full length for the cooler months of the year, October to March. Of course this is a rough guide and will vary individual to individual based on surface area and body mass index.
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