dry suit diving
I don’t like the cold. Never have. In central Europe, the lakes have about 4-6°C water temperature in winter. Which classifies as fucking cold.
So why would you want to go diving in one?
Well…good question. For a long time, I didn’t want to. Dark, cold, no (colourful) fish. Why indeed? Especially in winter.
Yet, there are other places around the world with very interesting aquatic wildlife and less than balmy water temperatures. I get cold quickly, so anything below 25°C water temperature with 4 dives a day (on a typical liveaboard) is no longer pleasant.
Diving with great whites? 20°C water temperature. I’ll be freezing my ass off. Orcas in 4° water temperature? No frigging way.
Ah, but with a dry suit these things are suddenly possible. Not only possible but maybe even comfortable?
Thus my initial resistance started crumbling. I began to gather information about materials and how to stay the fuck warm in very cold conditions. Thick, specialised underwear, heating systems and modern dry suit materials seemed to make the unthinkable possible.
I had to give it a try. So, we decided to get certified for dry suit diving. In a lake in Switzerland in the middle of winter. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
As Matt was interested in taking up side mount diving (I’m currently on a wing set-up), he got in touch with a diving centre that specializes in technical diving. Bluewater Explorers are situated in Domat/Ems, Switzerland and thus ideally placed in proximity to several mountain lakes. I can whole-heartedly recommend them. They are professional, fun and awesome instructors.
After a pool session and the required theoretical background, we scheduled a day for the lake dives. That day, the sky was overcast and grey. It was raining. I gave some serious thought to staying in bed.
At the lake, we took a while to get ready for the dive. Donning a full dry suit, with all the extra weight for the thick underwear, takes a bit of effort. I was actually relieved to get into the water. On the surface, I found to my great astonishment that it was ok to be in a lake in the middle of winter. My hands got a bit cold (unfortunately had to take wet gloves), but otherwise I was fine. So far so good.
Putting my head under water was a shock. The moment the ice cold water hits your face and your scalp is quite memorable. Surprisingly, you barely have time to question your actions until you register that the water under your neoprene hood has already begun to warm up. As the rest of your body stays dry, it is indeed possible to be quite comfortable in such conditions. However, I definitely need dry gloves next time.
Being underwater in a lake is quite different from being in the sea. The mood is different. Mystic, almost melancholy. Silent and stunning. It is a quiet, magical world. I’ll be back once my new dry suit arrives 😉