Spring is such a cruel season. It teases us with bright sunny days that are 20F, then turns up the heat, but only on days that are cloudy and raining. I know there are plenty of divers out there who have keep active all year with travel or ice diving, but most are just waiting hopefully for the warm days to come.
Given that we’ve had one of the longest and coldest winters in years, the lakes will certainly take their sweet time warming up. I guess that is why so many people are pulling the pin and purchasing a drysuit this year. I’ve written about drysuits and drysuit diving before, but if you missed it, a drysuit acts like a big ziplock bag that has seals around the diver’s neck and wrist to keep water out. Boots are attached as well, so the diver’s feet do not get wet. Under the suit, the diver wears his regular clothes and an undergarment that is like a snowmobile suit or a thick fleece. Underwater, air is added to the suit for buoyancy, to counteract the squeeze from the water and to keep the diver warm. The only parts of the body that are exposed, then, are the head, usually covered with a hood, the face and hands, either in neoprene or dry gloves. The whole get up makes for a pretty toasty dive!
If you don’t have a drysuit, though, it does not mean you can’t dive early or late in the season. It just means you will prepare differently. Of course a thick wetsuit, 7-8mm, as well as thick hood, gloves and set of boots are a must. If these items fit properly, the diver need only suffer an initial shock as the cold water seeps into the suit. Once in there, the body warms the water and there should be little exchange of water after that. One technique that also can help is starting with warm water in your suit. Bring a cooler with warm water to the dive site and pour a cup or so into your suit. This will keep some of the cold water out. Be sure that the water is not too hot, or you will be colder in the long run. It is nice to use the warm water at least on your hood. I usually keep my hood in the warm water between dives, then my head always stays warm. Between dives, be sure that you can warm up. Bring a thick coat or windbreaker and a hat. Hydrating with something warm is also a good strategy. Peal your suit down and get dry. Stay out of the wind.
I am anxiously looking forward to diving this year. I hope you are too. Now is the time to get ready. Check out your gear, order that drysuit and maybe get time to practice in the pool. Spring is in swing and summer is not that far off!