About six weeks ago, Ben and I attended the Delaware Divers Club meeting at Leaird’s Underwater Service. People were starting to stream in with food for the pitch in, shaking hands and striking up conversation. We moved in and out of a couple conversations and talked about the cold water diving we’d been doing since last fall and asking our friends if they’d been diving as well.
As the group began moving to the classroom so the meeting could officially get underway, I noticed a drysuit hanging on the used rack. A Whites Fusion complete with thermal protection and zippered bag. It looked brand new and the seals around wrist and neck looked unused. I looked at the shoulder width and height of the suit and put the boot sole against the bottom of my shoe. I knew then it would be mine.
Over the course of the next several weeks, I saw Brooke from the shop off and on at different events. I’d ask if she had sold the drysuit yet but I already knew the answer. She kept telling me to try it on but I hadn’t been by the store during business hours in a while. Finally, I just asked if Ben could bring it to me one night so I could try it on and make a decision.
Ben brought it over last week, giddy as kid at Christmas. He showed me the finer points of readying the suit to hop in and I fumbled my way into a perfect fit. We attached the inflator hose and pumped air into it. No leaks and everything worked as it should. The only problem was the brand new neck seal. My eyes were bugging out, face turning purple, veins in my neck and head ready to explode.
The next day he took it back to the shop. This turned out to be unnecessary because I called Brooke and gave her my credit card number. As soon as we hung up, I called Randy Smith and asked if he was available the coming Sunday to run me through the course. The time was set for 1130am Sunday morning at Philips Outdoor Center.
Ben got the inside track on how to make the neck seal more comfortable without trimming. The secret is to stretch it out over an air tank and let it sit overnight. Since we had a few days till the weekend, it got a nice long stretch.
As many of you already know, I dove a wetsuit all winter long. There were a few dives where I started getting full body shakes as we ascended. This isn’t recommended and I was careful not to push past this point. Cold water isn’t something to be trifled with. After doing it for several months, I have no problem admitting that it was uncomfortable at best and downright miserable the closer it got to 32 degrees fahrenheit.
Sunday finally came. With excitement, I loaded the truck and headed to Muncie. Ben was waiting with the suit and Randy had just finished some checkout dives with a handful of new divers. We geared up and got our briefing. The neck seal was comfortable from the recent stretching. Randy laid out the dive plan. I wasn’t sure what to expect at the water’s edge. I just did a back roll in as usual. Once I bobbed up out of the water though, I felt relieved. The immediate difference the drysuit makes in how you experience the temperature is night and day. Diving cold water is fun again.
To be continued….