Here are a few items you can include in your logbook to help you stay organized and honest, track progress, and work on self-improvement as a diver.
With any sport or hobby, there are certain unwritten rules of etiquette we should all consider.
Cold water diving is not the best concept for everyone out there. But for some, cold water brings the best visibility, solitude, and a very unique aquatic environment.
We get questioned a lot on what the difference is between SDI, TDI and ERDI courses, so we decided to put it out there where it’s easy for everyone to find when they start doing research.
by Dr. Thomas Powell:
Divers of all types often worry about thermal protection and water temperature. No one wants to be cold when they hit the water. This fact is especially true if a diver is planning a long dive. Temperature is definitely something that can cause a diver to complain. The surface weather may be too hot or too cold. The water temperature may drastically change as a diver crosses thermoclines. Despite these issues, divers will still brave the elements and hit the water.
One thing divers rarely complain about is having feet that feel too warm. The truth of the matter is that no one likes cold toes, but warm and cozy toes in the water can make for a pleasant dive. Every day in dive shops around the country, divers often buy the standard boots that the shop has on display. What many people do not realize is that there are more boot types out there than you can really count.
First, you have standard neoprene boots. Just like wetsuits, they come in different thicknesses based on what a diver prefers. Just like a wetsuit, the thicker the material the more thermal protection a diver will get from the boots. A secondary thickness factor that many divers do not think about is fin sizing. I do not mean the size of your typical recreational fins for warm water, but instead, the size of the fins a diver would wear with his or her dry suit. In many cases, wearing a thicker boot for wet diving will help fill the space in a pair of larger fins worn with a dry suit. Remember that dry suits often call for a diver to wear a shoe size larger than normal. This space allows for added insulation layering if needed. I have discovered that if I wear 6mm wet boots with the larger fins I use with my dry suit, I only need one pair of fins for both types of diving (dry or wet).
Second, dive boots may come in low-top or high-type design. Remember that the objective of any item used for thermal protection is to trap water against the skin creating a pocket of water at body temperature. High-top boots often provide more thermal protection since the boot is constructed to sit higher on a diver’s ankle. Simultaneously, if a pair of high-top boots is too tight, calf cramping may ensue. Any boot that is too tight can cause foot cramping. High-top boots may also have zippers or fasteners to allow the diver to put on the boot with greater ease. Low-top boots are better designed for warm water and minimal thermal protection needs. Low-top boots are designed for comfort, foot stability, and to provide support while wearing open-heeled fins.
Soft or thin
Soft or thin soles are found on many typical inexpensive booties used for scuba. These soles are glued or stitched to the neoprene foot pocket. This type of sole provides basic foot protection, but more than anything provides traction beneath a diver’s foot. Most low-top booties and some high-top booties are designed with thinner soles.
Hard or thick
Hard or thick soles are one boot factor that a diver should consider if you have to trek any considerable distance to the water, or will spend any time on uneven ground. For instance, if a diver is carrying cylinders through the wilderness to a dive site, and is forced to make multiple trips, foot protection is critical. Similarly, if an entry point is located on a rocky beach, like many entry points in Bonaire, hard soles can prevent stone bruises. Essentially, hard soles are more like the ones you find on a typical shoe. They provide a higher level of protection and support, but also cause boots to be more rigid.
Another type of boot that many divers use is an over-boot. Not all dry suits come with mounted boots. Many individuals purchase dry suits with soft feet so that an over-boot can be worn over the soft foot pocket. Over-boots may be made of many different materials. Some lace up like tennis shoes and some have different forms of straps. The goal is to choose what is most comfortable and suits your needs.
There are many different types of boots a diver may choose to wear. Different boots are designed to provide different values and even to be worn in different environments. When you purchase boots for diving, you should look at where you will be diving, and what needs may be prevalent. Then look for a boot design that meets those needs.
– Dr. Thomas Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC
by: Jim Lapenta SDI/TDI Instructor
Much of the advertising one sees for diving involves warm water and divers in swim suits or thin wetsuits. It can be a bit of a shock to those divers who were certified in warm water to make a pilgrimage to a cold water location. For those of us who dive and teach in much of the northern hemisphere, talking about the differences is much like talking about how to choose a mask.
We are often asked about the differences between diving wet and diving dry. Other than the obvious answer – “you don’t need to dry anything but your hair after the dive” – there are some key differences.
- Warmth. This is probably the most important reason to decide to dive dry. You know that neither a wet suit nor dry suit actually keeps you warm. What they do is slow the amount of heat loss. Wet suits do this using a layer of neoprene and a thin layer of water trapped between that and the skin. Dry suits use air and a combination of undergarments. No water to take heat away if a seal is lost and allowed to flush through the suit. With dry suits you can add layers of insulation to slow the loss of body heat.
- Buoyancy. Wetsuits compress with depth and lose some of their inherent buoyancy. Dry suits allow the diver to add air and compensate for the increased pressure at depth. As the wet suit compresses, it gets thinner and loses insulating capacity. The dry suit does not.
- Weighting. Once a diver has become proficient with a dry suit, over-weighting is not as much of a concern as it is with a wetsuit. As a wetsuit loses buoyancy at depth, a diver can become seriously over weighted due to suit compression. With a dry suit, the amount of buoyancy the suit offers stays more or less constant since the diver has the means to adjust for the increased/decreased pressure.
- Varying conditions. A large benefit of a dry suit is the ability to use the suit in various conditions. A wetsuit does not offer the flexibility of a dry suit to add or subtract undergarments to suit the water/surface conditions. Many divers use their dry suit year round, from warm water locations to under the ice in winter.
- Purchase cost. At one time dry suits were prohibitively expensive for the average diver. One could purchase several wetsuits for the cost of one dry suit. They often had to if diving in a wide range of water temperatures! With the introduction of new materials and manufacturing competition, a quality entry level dry suit can be had for roughly the same price as a higher end wet suit. By varying the undergarments the diver can also avoid having to buy several different thicknesses of wetsuits. One dry suit will work in numerous environments.
- Cost of ownership. Once a diver buys a wetsuit there is very little maintenance other than proper rinsing. Dry suits require seals to be replaced, leaks attended to, boots or socks replaced, and maybe even the zipper. These costs may be offset by the life of the suit. Dry suits, with proper care, can last 15 – 20 years or more. This is using the suit on a regular basis- say 100 dives a year. A wetsuit seeing that much use may last five years. In the long run, a drysuit may actually be less expensive. Dry suits often hold their value for resale. Used wetsuits get tossed. Used dry suits are sold to offset the cost of a new one!
For more on the differences/ benefits of dry suit diving, contact your SDI/TDI/ERDI Instructor to see if it’s a wise choice for you.
by Dr. Thomas Powell:
Comfort is one of the most important factors that can influence how often a scuba diver gets wet. In the middle of winter, the warmth and protection provided by dry suits are often the only reasons that many divers are willing to accept cold temperatures. Conversely, the summer is a time when more layers come off and divers look forward to warmer temperatures. Despite the change in the weather, many divers choose to use one exposure protection suit for every type of diving and wear a dry suit year round. If a person chooses to wear a dry suit throughout the year, some considerations must be made, and certain factors must be recognized. These factors may include temperature, comfort, general maintenance, and basic physiology.
The first thing to remember is that a dry suit is designed to encapsulate certain parts of a diver. The diver must then choose what thermal layers are worn underneath, unless the suit being used is neoprene. Despite thermal needs, any type of encapsulating material with no breathability can cause a person to perspire in the summer heat. For this reason, a diver must monitor the temperature outside and his or her own core temperature to ensure that he or she does not overheat preparing for a dive or waiting on a dive buddy. One suggestion would be to don the dry suit halfway and then finish prepping any other dive gear. Then, do not finish donning the suit until the time to gear up and get wet arrives. The goal is to stay relaxed and to prevent overheating.
Summer heat and perspiration go hand in hand. If a person is wearing a dry suit, that person must remember to take in fluids and calories. Even floating on the surface of the water on a lazy sunny day can cause a person to grow warm and sweaty. Over time, fluid loss and excessive caloric burn can cause many issues that everyone learns about during basic open water training. To prevent this problem, during surface intervals, a diver should drink water and consume a snack. Time on the surface can also equal a period during which the dry suit seal can be opened and the diver can cool off by removing the top portion of the suit as needed.
One factor divers seem to have a habit of forgetting is basic equipment care. In the winter, divers often protect their dry suits because it is the only thing letting them get wet. In the summer, some think it is an asset to leave drying on the hood of the car, but a wet suit can be used if needed. The problem is however, the hot summer sun can damage seals just as severly as freezing dampness. Similarly, certain wax types can melt in the hot sun leaving a zipper unlubricated. The reality is that being lazy with equipment is always a bad idea. Dry suits need to be hung properly out of the hot summer sun in a manner that allows the suit to ventilate, dry, and remain protected.
Finally, diving dry in the summer must be a comfortable adventure for any diver. Sometimes, cooler waters do require undergarments of heavier thicknesses, but the diver must remember to stay cool on the surface. The process of diving should be fun. Sweating to death on the surface, but then racing to the water to cool off, and finally using the dive to properly acclimate is not fun. Dry diving in the summer is something that should planned out, and the diver should take the time to stay comfortable.
Diving dry during the summer can also allow a diver to remain well-practiced (on dry suit technique) and comfortable. Similarly, it eliminates the need for multiple wetsuits for various water temperatures. No matter what a diver chooses to do, comfort is key and the proper amounts of time and effort must be put into maintaining equipment, staying safe, and having fun.
– Dr. Thomas Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC
by Dr. Thomas Powell:
The scuba industry is one that inspires thoughts of tropical islands, warm waters, and amazing water clarity. Despite those images, there are still times and places where the water is not so pristine and a swim suit just won’t cut it with regard to physical warmth. Situations such as these make divers seek out environmental protection suits that can keep them warm in all sorts of diving conditions. Differing divers of unique backgrounds may have alternate views on the use of these suits. To show how dry suits specifically can help any type of diver, the following are the views of five different divers regarding two ideal uses for dry suits.
Jerry Davis – Dive Master
I remember diving a dry suit for the very first time. It was 1993. I was in the Navy. It was one I had checked out of the gear locker, and it was pretty close to fitting me perfectly. I received my instruction on how everything worked; what to do and what not to do. Then it was off to the pool for hands-on instruction.
I left the Navy after eight years of service and decided almost 15 years later I wanted to dive again year-round. This time, the experience was totally different. I was measured three different times for my new dry suit to make sure it would fit properly. I was able to hand pick each and every thing I wanted in the dry suit.
For me, there have been two primary types of diving using a dry suit.
- The first was the dive I had to do. I was serving my country and needed to be able to go anywhere to accomplish my job. For that I needed quality exposure protection.
- Second, there is the dive I chose to do. Later in life I have been able to go farther in the realm of diving and I choose to dive year-round in central North Carolina. Forty degree water is not fun every other day when you are diving wet. A dry suit makes year-round diving possible.
Josh Norris – Instructor/Owner – Air Hogs Scuba
When a person imagines going diving, there is often a thought of beautiful beaches and 100 ft viz through the 85 degree water. Others imagine diving in a completely different way. When I first began diving in a dry suit, I remember thinking (and saying) this is far too much work. Not only was it difficult to put on and take off, but the bulk of the suit itself made everything that was once very easy – an adventure in basic yoga skills. I swore that I would never get the hang of diving dry, and could not understand why people would want to anyway.
Fast forward five to ten dives into the future, and my opinion quickly changed. A basic reminder in manning up and admitting that I was not going to automatically be great at every type of new diving I tried was the first, and hardest step. As a diver who is used to having a certain degree of self-perceived skill in the water, flipping upside down and having air rush to my feet was clearly not my fault. The folks who were not having this problem in their dry suits were obviously using some sort of witchcraft to master this waterproof sac. Once calm in the water however, there was no looking back. After five dives, I felt very comfortable in the water. After ten dives, I swore that I would never go back to using a wetsuit. With the suit itself being just another tool in the scuba “tool box.”
- In my opinion, the best dry suit dive is one that is accomplished on the coldest of days. Bear in mind that the water itself may not be dreadfully cold, but the risk of hypothermia comes in, and out of the water. One of the biggest flaws in strictly wetsuit diving may be that a diver cannot sufficiently warm up during their surface interval to complete a second, or third dive in the same day. A dry suit allows you to never get that cold to begin with, and also allows you to never have to expose a wet core to the cold. On that coldest day of the year you can keep diving when others cannot.
- Another facet of the dry suit that I love is the cost associated with it. While I understand that there is no wetsuit out there that costs $2000, I would also say that there is no wetsuit out there that can be perfect in any condition. If you dive all year long in different waters, you may find that it can actually be more cost effective to dive dry. I went from having a closet filled with wetsuits to having one suit, and one set of cold-weather undergarments. As an added bonus, the dry suit does not smell like an old gym sock after a year of use. Everyone knows that smell. My second type of dry suit dive is the dive I do at any place at any time using the same type of exposure protection year-round. There is no picking what suit to use and no full closet of options.
Rob Bradish – Instructor- Air Hogs Scuba/Blackbeard Scuba
With over thirty years of scuba diving experience, over the past three years I have advanced into a role as an Instructor with SDI, TDI, and ERDI in the eastern North Carolina region.
When considering the various technical improvements to diving over the past few years, dry suits come to mind. With improvements such as zippers (yes, I remember when dry suits didn’t have them), latex seals and hybrid materials, comfort, fit, and ease of use have all dramatically improved.
- Before, a long stay in a cave system that used to become uncomfortable after 60-70 minutes, now, I can remain comfortable long beyond that.
- Second, any dive where the air is colder than the water is now a comfortable option. Walking back to the car in 35 degree weather, I have a warm core during changing, as opposed to remaining cold for an hour or more after the dive has ended.
Bear Yates – Dive Master Candidate
I’m a rescue and recovery diver working towards becoming a public safety diving instructor. I am also a disabled Veteran living with issues most people could never imagine having to deal with. Diving has been one of the best therapies that could have ever helped me.
What I’ve seen so far is that the benefits of dry suits are too numerous to mention, but I’ll break down a few. There are many situations where a dry suit is a good idea, and then there are times when it is the preferred choice.
- Ideally, dry suits can expand the experience of diving to times and places that most people would just rather pass by. Let’s face it, there are some times when a wet suit just will not do. Especially in those colder months when those of us who still want to dive are still looking for places to do so. Some of these places include lakes, rivers, quarries, even the ocean, and others some wouldn’t even consider, such as caverns and caves. Essentially, the first ideal dive for a dry suit is in your own backyard swimming hole.
- Recreational diving is just the stepping stone to a vast world that most of humanity will never get to experience other than seeing it on their television or in a movie theatre. If you are one of the lucky few that get to go see this world in a wet suit, but you don’t feel you get enough of it, try a dry suit. You may discover that all of the things you thought you knew were just scratching the surface of another wonderful experience. Dry suits can allow you to remain warm in the water for a longer period, thereby making your second dive situation one where you stay down in chilly water temperatures long enough to truly max out your bottom time and enjoy the experience.
Dr. Thomas Powell – Instructor Trainer/Owner – Air Hogs Scuba
There are many ideal situations for diving dry. Dry suits can allow a person to stay down longer, remain warm for a longer period, and dive during harsh conditions. Dry suits are an essential piece of a dive “kit” that can allow you to remain active in the sport during the most unique conditions.
- One situation in which a dry suit is ideal is when you are looking at a more advanced dive profile. For instance, if you are diving a rebreather and have the gas and ability to remain underwater for three or more hours, a dry suit may hold back the chill and maximize your underwater enjoyment. The same situation applies if you chill quickly in a wetsuit and have never maxed your gas usage or no-decompression limit because of the cold.
- Second, last night I spent the evening with a group of people who needed to dive in 34 degree water to recover a weapon used to harm someone else. When there was a need for people to enter the water on a snowy cold evening, dry suits not only allowed them to do this, but kept them safe. In a situation where a diver in swim trunks or a wetsuit could not normally dive, dry suits allowed this particular group to perform a competent and safe recovery operation.
As we have seen here, there are many uses for dry suits in the world of scuba. They protect your body, keep you warm, help you maintain core temperature for surface intervals, and possibly allow for longer dives. Dry suits therefore make sense when doing longer, colder, deeper, or even penetration dives. They let you stay and see things when a wetsuit would not provide sufficient protection. So give it a try and see how diving dry can expand your year-round scuba experience. If nothing else, dry suits let you pick your own undergarments. So choose how warm you wish to be and go diving.
– Dr. Thomas Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, NC
by David Houser:
Sea Hunt, a TV series originating in the late 50’s and running until the early 60’s, captivated the audience and may have motivated many young viewers to become future divers. I always wanted to go on underwater crime – fighting scuba adventures like former U.S. Navy Frogman, Mike Nelson. Fully equipped, he always wore a VOIT green label double hose regulator.
In the early 1970’s, as an airman stationed in Austin, TX, talk would sometimes lead to scuba diving. Sears carried scuba equipment, including Navy VOIT double hose regulators (right hose for inhalation and left for exhalation), VOIT 72 cubic ft tanks, masks and fins. It didn’t take long to make a decision that would affect a lifetime. With new equipment and full tanks, our destination was Austin’s own Lake Travis. I was hooked on the first dive.
Transferring to Florida in 1972, and ready to dive, the first hurdle was learning tanks could not be filled without a certification card. Hal Watts’ store offered classes. The certification was NASDS and…WOW… did I learn a lot! My instructor quickly became a good friend and I continued diving, getting my advanced certification and experiencing Florida’s springs.
Nearly every Friday evening we would go diving. Because most of the springs (Peacock, Orange Grove, Troy, Ginnie, Blue Springs, Ichetucknee, Little River and 40 Fathom Grotto, to name a few) were privately owned, we had to hike through cow pastures and woods to reach our destination.
While diving these springs I became fascinated with the underwater cave systems, and subsequently bought single hose regulators with an alternate air source (octopus), double 72 cubic ft tanks with manifold, Atpack (to replace the horse collar buoyancy compensator), and a new SCUBAPRO dive computer. The regulator was put on the manifold in the center of the tanks. The octopus, an idea Hal Watts came up with, was put on a swivel so if a buddy needed air, he could use it.
Switching from a double hose regulator to the single hose reduced the work of breathing, which was not affected by the diver’s position in the water. Another notable improvement included, bubbles being released from under the chin instead of behind the head.
Cave divers needed three independent lights, a primary and two backups. Ikelite and Scuba Pro made several lights, most requiring “C” or “D” batteries. Other divers were making their own lights using motorcycle batteries, so I decided to design my own using plexiglass and an aircraft landing light. The burn time was around 45 minutes to an hour, which was great for the time. However, due to its large size, the light had to be carefully balanced around the neck when entering caves to avoid damaging it.
We trained with several instructors in Peacock Springs, doing appropriate skills and practicing silt out drills. The phrase “plan your dive and dive your plan” was used by Hal Watts, and holds true even today. We planned and executed dives in Peacock 1, 2 and 3, Orange Grove, Olsen, Challenge, Cisteen sinks (all part of the Peacock Springs system); as well as Little River and Ginnie Springs. During some of the dives we would post signs warning divers that cave diving is dangerous without proper training, and attempted to connect tunnels different tunnels.
It was a pleasure to dive and spend time with some of the true pioneers of cave diving, especially Henry Nicholson. As a member of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Dive team, I hold the highest respect and admiration for Capt. Henry Nicholson. *
The training was great back then, but it’s been amazing to watch how instruction and equipment has, and continues to, improve over the years.
My training and education continues today as an Instructor Trainer with SDI/TDI/ERDI and PADI Master Instructor.
Please remember, get the training you need for the type of diving you want to do.
* Henry Nicholson was Captain of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Dept. Dive Team. He founded IUCRR (International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery) along with Robert Laird, in 1999. The Nicholson Tunnel in Peacock was named after him, as was the Henry