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Worth Freezing Your Butt Off?

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba' started by Trace Malinowski, Sep 23, 2018.

  1. Trace Malinowski

    Trace Malinowski Cave Instructor

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Alexandria Bay, NY
    Yesterday, I taught the first day of a PSAI Level 1 freediving course in Alexandria Bay, NY. Freediving usually requires a lot of water time, so I prefer doing classes in warmer water rather than the mid to upper 60's
    we have here in the 1000 Islands this last week of September.

    I've been wearing my 3mm wetsuit despite the cooler temperatures knowing I had this course coming up. I prefer thinner, lighter suits when freediving and I didn't want to wear a 5mm wetsuit or a drysuit and get spoiled only to have a miserable two days feeling the chill.

    All I wanted to do was go back to my place after a day in the water, make some Stouffer's French Bread Pizza in the oven, crawl under the covers, and turn on Turner Classic Movies. Instead, one of my wreck penetration students had returned to the river to dive and invited me out to dinner with him and his wife. I'm glad I went. I enjoyed meeting my friend's wife and we had a nice time. Just as I was leaving the restaurant, I received a text from a dive shop owner who was running a night dive and suggested I stop by to say hello. I figured I should because I had been working at the shop earlier in the season before I felt the need to just go back to being, more or less, and independent instructor. I want to keep a good relationship with all my friends who own dive shops on both sides of the border in the USA and Canada and help them out with tech, cave and freediving courses and instructor development when needed.

    Anyway, I went by for some face time with the gang only to discover the dive pros were in the process illuminating a 125 foot long shipwreck with special effects causing it to glow a ghostly and eerie green 25 to 50 feet below. The last thing I wanted to do was get in the water again. The air temperature was 54°F and little bit breezy. The water temperature had been something like 67°F or 68°F. But, I cowboyed up and made myself don my wet 3mm O'Neill that had been chilling nicely in the open bed of my pickup truck. I slipped into my long blade Picasso Black Team fins and entered the nocturnal water in front of Boldt Castle just after a walking ghost tour had been hearing about the 2 or 3 local ghosts people supposedly captured through photography. One of the DM's who is a tech student of mine handed me a Halcyon backup light so I wouldn't run into any hazards while freediving.

    I watched them go about the business of decorating the Islander wreck, turning the popular entry level shore dive into the stuff of fantasy. The dive pros were also smart enough to highlight some hazardous pilings and such that jutted toward the surface and could have caused injury -- especially to me. After an hour or so, the pro staff was done and the wreck was a living wraith, like the sister ship of the Flying Dutchman rising from the depths crewed by goblins, ghosts, and ghouls. I gave the light back to the DM and spent a long while freediving with the faint spooky haze to show me the way. As I ventured closer, the wreck became more inviting like the galaxy dive at Ginnie Springs meeting a fireworks display. It was like clubbing in NYC with bass, pumpkinseeds, and other fish. Disney would love this! I'm not liberty to disclose the tricks they used to create this amazing dive site. The shop owner wants to keep it proprietary and something you can only experience at St. Lawrence Scuba Co., for now. But, it was fantastic! In 37 years of diving, it was probably one of the top coolest underwater attractions and probably the best freediving of my life.

    Totally worth the chattering teeth. Only my core temperature screamed after spending so much of the day in the cool, yet freaking cool water.

    What was worth freezing your butt off to see?
    VsubT, shoredivr, MichaelMc and 5 others like this.
  2. Eric Sedletzky

    Eric Sedletzky Contributor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: California
    I have froze my butt off many times diving wet down to 42 degree water once in Northern California when the winds came up in spring and pumped the ice cold Alaskan current up from the depths. I don’t complain, any dive off our coast is worth it to me. I know cold water is a deal breaker to most people, but I don’t care. Once my hands got so cold after freediving for abalone and spearfishing all day that I almost couldn’t unlock to door to my truck, and when I finally did get the door unlocked I couldn’t get the key in the ignition to start it. When I finally got the key in I couldn’t turn it. When I finally figured out a way to turn it to start the engine I had to hold my hands down by the floor heater vents for 15 minutes just to get my hands to work again.
    Yeah I get cold but I love the diving so much I just suck it up and I don’t let it bother me.
    I’m not a drysuit / dry glove kind of person.
    Bob DBF and Trace Malinowski like this.
  3. dberry

    dberry Hydrophilic ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Philadelphia
    Oh come on, Trace, it's not fair to describe the ghostly-lit wreck without posting a photo or two!
    Bubblesong likes this.
  4. Bob DBF

    Bob DBF Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: NorCal
    Neither am I, and sometimes you just have to pay. When the water is in the 40's and air is colder and the breeze is up, I never wonder why there are only a few divers out on the North Coast.

  5. TMHeimer

    TMHeimer Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Dartmouth,NS,Canada(Eastern Passage-Atlantic)
    Though we didn't "snowbird" last winter and most likely not this winter to N. Florida, even when we usually did, I would do a dive weekly through December. And start up again locally here in April. Wet, of course, because decent wetsuit season here usually goes well into Oct., depending on Air temp. Not worth it to buy a drysuit for comfortable diving during 3-4 nasty months.
    Is it worth it?--depends on perspective. Diving wet in cold water as opposed to not diving for 4 months for me means it's worth it. That will be much longer again this year without Florida in the middle, but it is what it is.
  6. Beau640

    Beau640 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Michigan
    Trace is so hardcore. I heard that he glacier dives in a rash guard.
    DanaHunt and chillyinCanada like this.
  7. northernone

    northernone Contributor Rest in Peace ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Currently: Cozumel, from Canada
    After a handful of near misses related to hypothermia I decided 4 years ago nothing underwater is worth it is unless it is a human fallen through the ice.

    Prior to that decision my fondest cold memory was spring sunlight glowing through cracks in the multicolored thin/frosted or puggly ice above the branches of a beaver's winter feeding bed.

    Makes me want to find it again, this time not in jeans.
    lv2dive likes this.
  8. Trace Malinowski

    Trace Malinowski Cave Instructor

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Alexandria Bay, NY
    Wicking layer maybe. Taking my drysuit for a spin in Alex Bay today. As you know, Jimmy patched several holes in my DUI so I'm going to see if there are any leaks. Haven't tested it yet. Planning to just wear the Xerotherm until I switch to the Arctic during that GUE JJ-CCR class at the end of October.
  9. JBFG

    JBFG Contributor

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Ottawa, Canada
    I froze my butt off to do my ice diving course.
    It was totally worth it. seeing the lake under this thick (over 3') blanket of ice was truly awesome.
  10. stuartv

    stuartv Seeking the Light ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Lexington, SC
    Wish I could have been there to see that ghost wreck! Sounds awesome!

    I get why Trace was using his 3mm - and why he was using it last week for my wreck class even though the last dive was 61F (and the previous 6 dives were all 66 - 67)! We did a deco dive to 150', max, on the Vickery. 45 minute total runtime. And there was Trace in his 3mil - who never gave any indication whatsoever that he was even chilly.

    But you other guys, Bob, Tom, Eric, you guys are just masochists! I have dived my 5/4 mil suit on dives as cold as 45F for 24 minutes and 49F for 32 minutes. It is absolutely doable. I wasn't even so cold that I couldn't use my hands when I got out. But still! Last weekend while Trace was diving in his 3mm, I was in my drysuit and it was SO comfy! And with a made-to-measure Seaskin being anywhere from USD$500 to $1000, depending on what options you get, why NOT?! More than a wetsuit? Sure. But, not that much more than a good wetsuit, and SO much more comfy when it's cold. Especially when topside temps are also less-than-tropical. I have had drysuit that didn't fit me all that well or were a PITA in some other way. I didn't really like diving them that much. But, a good quality trilam that actually fits like it should is my go-to for just about anything except water that is actually warm.
    Trace Malinowski likes this.

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