Among other key factors, keeping warm is one of the top secrets to keeping your dives more enjoyable.
Ever felt that no matter how much you wear, you still feel cold to the core when you’re diving? Once you stop moving, the cold seeps in through the thick pancake layers of neoprene, past your skin and into your bones. Yeap, I know how that feels. There are better lasting (and more hygienic) ways to keeping warm other than constantly having to pee in your wetsuit- that by the way, is a myth, and only leaves you feeling even colder afterward.
First up, there could be something wrong with your wetsuit? Maybe it is the wrong size and doesn’t trap water enough. Maybe it is the wrong thickness. Maybe everything was right, until you realise that the wetsuit if 10 years old, or that you forgot to zip up- it does happen. Wetsuits and seals do wear out, and it is definitely worth it to invest in a good one and have them replaced every couple of years. Getting cold during a dive is dangerous, it increases your risk to DCS, and hypothermia. Most importantly, it takes the fun out of diving! How the wetsuit works is providing a layer of insulation between your body and the water, hence reducing the rate of heat loss via direct contact. That is only possible due to the neoprene bubbles, which wear out over time.
Another piece of equipment, that’s ugly yet incredibly useful- THE HOOD. Your head loses 20-40% of the heat, and keeping your head warm keeps the rest of the body warm. This is real, not just an urban legend. Even when blood flow is restricted to the rest of the body when you’re cold, the blood flow to the brain still functions at full capacity to keep you alive. Blood flows, heat follows- yeah, you get the point. Just as how blood flows to your head all the time, whilst in diving, it also flows to your legs. Your legs are the ones driving you around, propelling you forward kick after kick. Covering your legs would help you feel much warmer than covering any other part of the body (other than your head of course).
Another advice would be to always start your dive warm. Its always better to start the dive a little too warm than a little too cool. So, instead of squandering that body heat whilst on the dive boat, start preserving it. A little like charging your heat battery before the dive. If its windy where you dive, a nice little trick is to drape on a raincoat to block it all off.
If you know you get cold easy, don’t go to the deep waters for the sake of diving deep! Obviously don’t give up on deep diving altogether, some of the best sites/wrecks in the world are past 30m. However, a reef looks pretty much the same at 15m and 30m, in fact you probably see more when you’re shallower. It keeps you warm, and you gain more dive time, win-win. Don’t go deep diving just so you can tell people that you’ve been to 40m- it doesn’t impress anyone if its accompanied by your purple fingers and frozen body.
Ultimately, everyone is different. One can dive in a rashguard and feel fine, another might freeze even with a 3mm full wetsuit. Take some time to figure out how cold you get in different waters, and never over-estimate yourself! Once you manage to stay warm, its one more item off your mind, and you can concentrate on the 5 million other things when diving.