Did This Thing Shrink?

This week's tip has to do with wet suits. That's right kiddies, it's getting to be that time of year when we shed our dry suits (and snow suits for that matter) and hit the ocean.

So we had a long winter of sitting around doing nothing but eating and watching TV right? Now we head down to the basement to toss on the wet suit and low and behold it's a little tight. Wow I just bought that thing last year. I couldn't have gained that much weight.

Well the truth is you might still have your so called "winter coat" but the cold hard fact is that most wet suits do shrink. In fact some of them will shrink up to 14%. Holy cow that's a lot, in fact that is up to two whole sizes. Depending on the type of rubber your suit is made of, some will shrink up more then others.

Hmmmmm so you just bought the suit and it's already a little too tight. That's okay I can squeeze into for another couple of years right? Absolutely NOT! While I can fully understand why you would want to let's go over a little wet suit theory to see why that is very dangerous.

Neoprene wet suits contain gas bubbles in the material. So the inside of your material looks like this at the surface:

Now as we descend in the water we all know that gas under pressure will compress. That's exactly what happens to our suit. The gas bubbles inside the neoprene begin to shrink as we descend. Our material now looks like this:

So as we go deeper in the water our suit will get a little looser. Huh? See here is the natural order of events. You get to the dive site and you start putting your suit on. Obviously it is a struggle because it is too small. That makes us strain our muscles and they begin to grow a little. Now we finally get the suit on and it feels tight. We hop in the water and start our descent, as we stated above the material will compress and that gives us a little more room inside the suit. We do our dive and now we are a little tired and a little chilled so we head to the surface nice and slow. So far so good right? Well as we start heading to the surface our suit will naturally start to expand due to a lesser amount of pressure on it. However our muscles are very tired and have grown from the work we did diving. Now as we get closer to the surface the suit begins to feel incredibly tight and extremely uncomfortable.

Ahh what's a little discomfort? The problem is that the suit begins to squeeze you inside thus making it a little harder to breath. What's worse is that it begins to put unnecessary pressure on your carotid artery (The one that carries oxygen to the brain). Once we begin to get less oxygen to the brain our brain gets a little nervous and tells our mouth to start breathing in more air. That's exactly what we do, except it doesn't matter. We are slightly blocking the flow of oxygen to the brain. We can breath all we want and the brain won't be satisfied. Naturally at this point the body goes into an anxiety attack and the diver stops thinking clearly. It's all down hill from there.

So as you can see saving a few bucks and trying to eek out another year in a suit that is too small can be very dangerous. So how do you tell if the suit fits? Don't all wet suits feel tight? Ahh good point. The basic rule is this, if you have to pull the flaps together more then 1 inch to zipper the suit then it is too small.

What if my suit is stiff?

It's not at all uncommon for your suit to feel stiff if you have put it away for the winter. What you should do is give it a bath in a tub of water and fabric softener. This will help soften up the material but will not hurt the neoprene. So if your suit is a little stiff try this tip. Once it is loosened up go ahead and try it on for size and make sure it fits.

One last reminder...

With the dive season not too far away, now is a good time to come in for a skills update. Come in and check your gear and make sure you still have the same old comfort level you had when you last left the ocean. I can assure you diving is like just like riding a bike but hey if you didn't ride your bike for a whole year would you just jump on it and ride it down a mountain the first time out? I know you are smarter then that. So come on in and one of our friendly staff would be happy to work with you. Oh, and did I mention that it is free!!!

Until next week, Remember, wetter is better! :-)

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