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Why do I need a Drysuit Specialty Diver course?
By Randy Bayne
There are lots of dive specialty courses out there. These courses can teach you the techniques and equipment you need for a specific type of diving. Some teach fine-tuning techniques; others teach completely new skills. Some are purely fun and some you need to conduct certain types of dives.
Photo by: Richard Groo jr.
Then there are those which are in between. For example Drysuit Diver. We require an
Advanced Certification or Deep Diver certification for dives past 30 m/100 ft. Why don’t we require Drysuit certification for drysuit dives?
I have worked dive boats for years. In my experience, if someone comes on board with a drysuit, we assume they know what they are doing. (I know you are saying, “Not me!”) However, as a Carolina deckhand and divemaster for 15 years, I speak only from my own experience.
I’ve seen it all…
Here are some examples of what you see working a dive boat:
A first dive in a drysuit bought used online and which has yet to be tested.
“I’m an Advanced Diver. I don’t need a Drysuit course.”
A “trust me dive” where one buddy is Drysuit certified and believes this makes it okay for an uncertified buddy to drysuit dive under his supervision.
Unfortunately, I have seen all of these scenarios play out. Most of these scenarios exposed themselves during the suiting-up process. Others just after entering the water.
However, I have a friend who is a very talented diver. Even he fell into the I am an advanced diver and I have seen it done a thousand times group.
My friend purchased a drysuit online (it was too good of a deal). He took this suit out for its maiden dive. When he attempted to vent the suit on ascent, he realized the exhaust valve was defective. Since he’d never taken a Drysuit Diver course, he had no clue what the emergency procedures are for this scenario. Thankfully, he survived.
If drysuit diving is so dangerous, why do it?
Let’s look at why you might want to dive dry.
Countless divers make safe drysuit dives every day, just like any other type of diving. It’s not difficult. It just requires a small sacrifice of time and money to learn to do so properly.
Second, drysuits can extend your dive season greatly.
Even warm water becomes chilly if you spend a long period of time in it. An example would be technical dives requiring decompression stops.
Some breathtaking dive sites can still be cold, even in warmer months.
Drysuits are essential in public safety diving. (ERDI) sometimes requires a drysuit to protect divers from contaminated water.
As you can see, a drysuit can be a very beneficial tool in anyone’s dive locker.
Photo by: Pete Nawrocky
Additional Air Space
Drysuit diving requires managing an additional air space. This air space can be significantly larger than others you must manage.
During descent, you must add air to your drysuit to prevent a painful drysuit squeeze.
During ascent, you must vent expanding air to prevent coming up too fast.
To equalize a drysuit, you must have a means of adding gas and venting gas from the suit. That is done through a low-pressure inflator, usually mounted on the front of the suit. To vent air, you use an adjustable vent, typically located on the upper left arm. This means managing two additional valves you didn’t have before.
These valves have to be inspected, maintained and cleaned by both equipment technicians and the diver. If one of these valves should fail during a dive there are special emergency procedures. You will learn these in a Drysuit Course in order to abort the dive safely.
More new skills
So, if I have to equalize my drysuit by adding gas to it, do I use my drysuit to help control my buoyancy? Do I use my BCD to control my Buoyancy or do I use a combination of the two? Again, this is a new skill that you need time to master. During your Drysuit Course, you should have ample time to master this skill. You will also learn emergency procedures to follow should the BCD or the Drysuit fails.
A drysuit’s air space is relatively large compared to other air spaces you learn to manage. Among the first things I learned in my Open Water Diver course was air added to my BC at depth must be vented during ascent. This prevents the air from expanding and causing a runaway ascent.
I also remember struggling to vent air from a BC while upside down. Physics has a way of reminding you air will rise to the highest point underwater.
Because drysuits can have a lot of air inside, descending head-down may cause problems. Doing so can cause air to become trapped in your boots. To vent this air, you must be able to turn your body so the upper-arm exhaust valve is at the highest point. This is another technique you will practice in your Drysuit course.
By taking the Drysuit Diver course, you get the knowledge and experience of a professional Instructor. This helps prevent problems.
Photo by: H. Kajitani
So how about that course?
Today’s divers can buy anything online. No one confirms they have the training required to use this equipment safely. If purchasing a used drysuit, how do you know it was properly maintained? Do you have the knowledge and experience to safely test the suit?
Again, drysuits are a great tool. Just make sure you’re trained to use them. The Drysuit Diver course is fun and informative. Do not cheat yourself out of this experience.
Remember also, a certification is not a license. It’s a learner’s permit. This applies to every level from Open Water Diver to Instructor Trainer.
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