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The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish...
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OW cold issues
A friend of mine is getting certified next week. She's not very nervous except for one thing - the cold. She's diving in the Puget Sound where the water temp currently is around 50 degrees F. OW is done in 7mm wetsuits at the shop she's certifying through and she gets cold pretty easily. One time a lake was too cold for her to swim in and she got cold shock and started to black out. She got pretty worried when I told her that I got cold on the OW dives and I'm highly tolerant to cold water. She wonders how she will survive without a dry suit.
So, do you all have any suggestions on how she can keep warm between dives or what to wear that could help? Anyone with similar experiences?
Drysuits can be rented. Alternatively perhaps doing her open water portion in warmer water might be in order. Other than layering additional neoprene (which may or may not make things better) it's up to her to be responsible for her decision to take the class knowing she may have an adverse reaction to the conditions.
I got my OW cert in Puget Sound in March. Water temp was 43-47°
One of the other students in my OW class had a beverage cooler filled with warm/hot water to dip her hands and feet in between the dives.
She could also use a cup to dip some water out and pour it down her wet suit collar. Her boyfriend was a genius bringing that thing!
This is the kind of container I'm talking about.
She may want to look into drysuit training & rental as well
Assuming the shop rents out good 7mm wetsuits, gloves, boots, and hoods, she'll actually be fairly warm. It may also be a good idea for her to preload her suit with hot water. Tell her to boil some water and fill up one of those gallon insulated jugs. Then once she gets to the dive site, it should be about hot-tub temp. Have her fill up her boots before she puts them on. Then down the back as a buddy zips the wetsuit up. Finally, fill the gloves up and put them on.
My OW dive was 45F bottom temp. The only part on me that got uncomfortably cold was my upper lip, but after about 30 minutes, I acclimated and felt fine.
What shop is she getting certified through? Several offer certification in a dry suit as an option, and it does help.
If she is going to do her dives wet, here are some tips. (BTW, I DM classes in Puget Sound, so I see a lot of students in wetsuits.)
1. Don't lose a single "thermal unit" in the parking lot. That means dressing warmly to the point of almost mild discomfort. Bring a hat and a long coat, and warm pants. Jeans are not good pants to wear to a morning meet time for a Puget Sound class, even in the warmest part of summer. Stay really warm until it's time to dress in the neoprene.
2. Keep moving as much as possible. If there is any delay in the water, SWIM back and forth. Keeping your muscles moving -- they generate heat.
3. Once you are out of the water, get out of your gear quickly and get that wetsuit down at least halfway. Put on the hat and wrap up in the long coat. Stay out of the wind as much as possible. Warm your hands and feet in warm water. (For our last class, one of the students brought a great big cooler half full of hot water, and he'd actually get IN it on his hands and knees!)
4. Bring a thermos of something warm to drink, and a second thermos of hot water to pour into your wetsuit when you put it on the second time.
Beyond that, there isn't a whole lot you can do. It is the shop's responsibility to make sure that the wetsuit you are wearing fits properly and will insulate as well as possible, and it is the instructor's job to make sure the OW dives proceed efficiently so there isn't a lot of "dead time" in the water.
I dive in the Pacific Northwest as well, with water temperatures ranging from 6 degrees Celsius to 10 degrees Celsius (42-50 degree Fahrenheit). Diving here, I've always worn a drysuit, ever since my first dive. I would not dive in this temperature in a wetsuit, but I know some people who are comfortable with it.
For her, she already has problems with cold, so I'd highly recommend the drysuit. It is totally worth the extra money. Though it's a little bit of task-loading at first, it will help with her enjoyment of diving.
There's not shortage of opinions on this one... I have read a few times that you should not take a warm shower between dives. The reasoning is that it dilates your blood vessels near the skin and draws blood away from you core, actually making you colder. Is this true? I can't say for sure.
The one thing I can say for sure is that the main mistake wetsuit divers make is keeping on the full wetsuit between dives. That will definitely make you colder. Dry = warm. When diving wet in cold water I take off my whole wetsuit between dives, towel off and put on sweats and perhaps a knit cap, and have some warm beverages. Perhaps your friend could rent a second wetsuit with gloves and boots so she'd have dry gear to slip into for the second dive as well.
But I think the best thing would be for her to dive dry. I personally haven't seen OW cert done in a drysuit but I have met a couple of people from colder parts of the country where that was an option.
I dive California even during the winter. Bottom temps are about 50 degrees. Good 7 mm that fits properly is a must. I recently replaced my 3 mm gloves with 4 mm, little less dexterity but noticeably warmer. My daughter gets claustrophic in most hoods. The only one she can tolerate was my XScuba pyrostretch. I found a deal on them at Scuba.com and we now have three, one for each of us and one spare. I also use a 3 mm vest underneath although a hooded vest may be little warmer.
I've gotten into the habit of putting a stash of ziploc baggies in the dive kit. We used the heated water for tea on a dive boat, and put some hot water in the baggie. She then holds in her hands or puts under her shirt to keep warm. I tried the self heating hand warmer for skiing but this works better. If you are diving from shore and the car is close you can always get back in the car with the heater on.
Personally, the effort of getting into my 7 mm and then gearing up heats me up pretty quickly. By the time I get down to the shore I'm looking forward to getting wet and cooling off a little bit. I've found that a good 7 mm is suprisingly warm but 50 degrees is about the bottom limit of comfort. Once you are in the 40's a dry suit would be a better option. If your friend is going to dive Pacific Northwest then getting dry suit certified would be warmer and more comfortable.
The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish...
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She's certifying through Seattle Scuba Schools and they don't offer the OW training in a dry suit. They don't let you rent dry suits unless you have taken a dry suit course. But the hot water sounds like it'll really help! Thanks! She's planning to start diving dry as soon as she's certified.
Too bad about the inability to train in a drysuit. I did all my OW pool skills with a drysuit, so I was decent with it once we got to the ocean. I'd recommend doing the drysuit speciality after her OW, if everything goes fine.
Yes, bringing a large thermos filled with hot water will help immensely. Also, removing the wetsuit and drying off with a towel will help, if there is enough surface time (if not enough time, she could just remove the top part and dry her top). I also bring reusable hot packs that have a chemical reaction to heat up. And bring another thermos filled with a hot drink (plus a cup).