PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

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PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby Ecko » Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:12 am

Hi everyone

I'm doing my PADI Open Water next week with the open dives in Lake Pupuke..

My NZ dives will usually be at Poor Knight's but otherwise overseas.
Planning for Maldives, Fiji, Bahamas, Hawaii, Palau, and around Indonesia.

Mostly tropical...
What wetsuit thickness and type would you recommend?

Obviously the majority of my diving will be in tropical areas, am I better to get something for here and just bite the bullet in the colder climates or is there a good middle ground?
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Re: PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby Ali Perkins » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:54 pm

It's probably wise to find out if you like scuba diving before you launch into gear purchases. I hope you will! :)

In my opinion you can forget trying to find a middle ground in a wetsuit. Trying to find one item of exposure protection for the tropics (water temperatures 25-30 degrees) and the Poor Knights (14 in winter, 22 in summer) is going to be very difficult, unless you go for a drysuit where you can adjust thermal protection by use of undergarments. If you ruled out diving in winter in NZ (and why would you do such a crazy thing?!) then you might have more luck, as you'll be trying to cover temperatures more like 20-30 degrees rather than 14-30 degrees.

If wetsuit is the way you want to go, I would suggest you're going to need one for New Zealand (the thicker the better) and one for the tropics. It's a bit hard to advise without knowing what kind of person you are in terms of how you feel the cold. I am very happy in an 8mm wetsuit in 26 degree water, where other people are comfortably diving in board shorts. I often like to sit still, take photos, do long dives, and I will feel the cold quickly even in quite warm water. Other people swim around frantically and are done in 30 minutes - they can afford minimal exposure protection and still be comfortable and happy. You probably need to do some diving yourself to find out what kind of person/diver you're going to be, and how you feel the cold personally.

I am an average sized female who feels the cold. In NZ I prefer to dive summer or winter in a drysuit, or two piece 7mm wetsuit. I've been diving the tropics (25/26 degrees) of late in my drysuit quite happily (I adjust my undergarments) or in a one piece 8mm wetsuit (it's hot as hell on the surface but I like it in the water). Others dress quite differently to me... I tend to be radically on the overdressed side of things in a comparison.

Best of luck with your Open Water - hopefully you fall in love with scuba diving like others on this forum. Lake Pupuke at this time of year is going to be quite a test of your thermal endurance. :)
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Re: PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby binklebonk » Tue Sep 24, 2013 4:45 pm

Ali Perkins wrote:It's probably wise to find out if you like scuba diving before you launch into gear purchases. I hope you will! :)


Ali is spot on with that advice.

Do not buy gear prior to finishing your OW course and then preferably wait till you have tried out different types and styles of gear.
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Re: PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby Phantom Menace » Tue Sep 24, 2013 4:49 pm

For NZ (Coromandel and north) SCUBA diving many years ago I used one wetsuit all year. A 5mm two piece. Then I migrated to a 7/5 one piece. Many of my dive buddies would use 7mm in winter and 5mm in summer.

The tropics is a whole different story.

Lately I am spending hours in the water (winter and summer) free-diving / spearfishing in a two piece 5mm open-cell spearo suit which is significantly warmer than my 5mm SCUBA suit ever was however it is not as durable and, generally, the open-cell spearo suit neoprene is not designed to spend a long period at depth (compressed). I limit my free-diving to the top 20m of water and for obvious reasons don't spend long at 20m on a single breath.
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Re: PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby DiveDR » Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:15 pm

The advice above is spot on.

I dont think you can get a suit for both NZ conditions and the tropics. Personally I find a 3mm steamer perfect for places like Fiji and as they are cheap it is an easy purchase to throw in the bag when traveling.

Again personally a one piece 7mm works really well, I add a hood if I am cold but don't really like them so I try and avoid if possible. The other option is to add a hooded vest or product like Sharkskin or fourth element under a well fitting suit. FYI, it was explained to me that a suit should fit like a pair of stockings (maybe Ali could help here?) and take about a few minutes to get into, if it is too easy it is too loose.

Sorry to hear your open water experience is going to be the lake, but it sounds like you have some great adventures planned.
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Re: PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby mattoau » Tue Sep 24, 2013 11:11 pm

A good fitting 5mm suit is likely to be warmer than an loose fitting 7mm.

+1 on the Sharkskin / 4th Element recommendation. I've been using them for 5+ years and wouldn't dive without one now.
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Re: PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby Ulsterkiwi » Wed Sep 25, 2013 10:41 am

would echo the advice above.
it depends on how much you feel the cold and what you think your dives might entail. Like Ali I spend a lot of time motionless, usually trying to take good photos (usually failing....)
like the others have suggested until you actually do some diving its hard to predict what you will do with your diving.
Last summer I was on a liveaboard at the Poor Knights. There was one guy on the trip who after doing his certification had only ever dived for crayfish. As the diving was all in a reserve he discovered the joy of simply looking around and taking his time for the first time! This was a pretty hardy, Wellington south coast experienced diver. When he started to chill, he began to chill! This was in summer in 20+degree water.

Do not rush buying gear, you end up spending twice as much, ask my wife!!!
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Re: PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby divepirate » Sun Sep 29, 2013 8:36 pm

Fantastic advice here.
Key points,
Get a suit when you have done the course.

Think about what where and when you will dive.
Also,
I would like to add..
Get 2 piece for NZ 5mm or 7mm your choice.. If you feel the cold go 7 or optionally go 5 and wear an additional under(like sharkskin) for winter if you need it.
2 piece is good for a number of reasons.
1/ it means you have a double thickness of insulation over the middle of your core ( central body) which will make it feel like you are wearing a thicker suit than you are.
2/ in summer when you surface, you can take the top off an slip a t-shirt on to prevent overheating and sunburn, without having the arms of your suit getting in the way when you try to sit anywhere.

For tropical diving you can get cheap steamers and spring suits.

Best recommendation...
Get comfort..
Don't get a suit that is a second hand or one that is necessarily straight off the rack.
Get one that fits well and is not too constrictive, one that allows a full range of movement without pinching.
Ensure the seams either have tape on them or the cotton is not harsh or abrasive.

It surprising how many people I have talked to who have been needlessly uncomfortable when diving.
Don't be scared to talk to the likes of Clinton at seaquel, to get a quote for a custom suit..

(that was my 2 cents)..
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Re: PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby Ali Perkins » Tue Oct 01, 2013 1:03 am

DiveDR wrote:I add a hood if I am cold but don't really like them so I try and avoid if possible.


I can't dive without a hood. I've spent the weekend in 28-30 degree water and used a hood (and my drysuit I might add) throughout. I find a hood is the best way to manage my stupidly long hair.

DiveDR wrote:FYI, it was explained to me that a suit should fit like a pair of stockings (maybe Ali could help here?) and take about a few minutes to get into, if it is too easy it is too loose.


I don't think I've worn stockings in more than twenty years! But yes, suit fit is extremely important. It's funny that Seaquel has been mentioned because my custom-fit 2 piece 7mm wetsuit from them was the best wetsuit I ever owned. I have a Mares 8mm which is also a really nice suit - but the problem is that off the rack my body size was between suit sizes, so I went for the smaller option because it's really tight (it prevents water movement inside the suit and keeps me warmer), but it's a b!tch to get into and a bit tight across the shoulders to be 100% comfortable. It doesn't bother me really in the water when I'm preoccupied marvelling at nature, but I find myself cursing a bit on the boat.

DiveDR wrote:Sorry to hear your open water experience is going to be the lake, but it sounds like you have some great adventures planned.


Now now, I won't be tolerating any negative talk about Lake Pupuke. It's a very fine lake for training purposes and it's not its fault the swans poop in it. I can admit that perhaps Lake Pupuke is not the body of water that will make your average person fall madly in love with scuba diving. Maybe we can ask Auckland City Council to do a sculpture installation in the lake to jazz it up a bit. People seem mad about the underwater museum they have off Isla Mujeres in Mexico, although I haven't visited it myself.
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Re: PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby rambaldi » Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:39 am

Ali Perkins wrote:Now now, I won't be tolerating any negative talk about Lake Pupuke. It's a very fine lake for training purposes and it's not its fault the swans poop in it. I can admit that perhaps Lake Pupuke is not the body of water that will make your average person fall madly in love with scuba diving. Maybe we can ask Auckland City Council to do a sculpture installation in the lake to jazz it up a bit. People seem mad about the underwater museum they have off Isla Mujeres in Mexico, although I haven't visited it myself.


Do the chairs and floating blocks not count? :p
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Postby Ali Perkins » Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:14 am

No. :-)
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Re: PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby Cameron_R » Tue Oct 08, 2013 5:52 am

But the road signs do!
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Re: PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby Dorcy09 » Mon Dec 30, 2013 7:34 pm

nice post!
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Re: PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby mattjurd » Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:01 pm

For what its worth I recently bought my first dive wetsuit having done the PADI course.

I spent a lot of time looking into the different brands and styles and finally settled on a Seaquel 7mm semidry. Both my partner and I needed suits, and seeing as the suit is going to impact on comfort a lot we decided to get them custom made. All up the cost of each suit, including a hood, boots, gloves and a dive knife and sheath sown to the side of the suit came out at a much better price than the brand name suits we looked at such as Mares. My partner particularly found that the ready made suits of the big brands wouldn't fit her just right, they were always either too loose or too tight at some place on the suit. Surprisingly the Seaquel standard size suit fit her pretty well, but we still had it custom fit to get it perfect.

I really can't speak highly enough of Clinton at Seaquel. He spent a lot of time answering our newbie questions, not just about the suits but also diving in general. He didn't try and hard sell us, he was really good to deal with.

We will be using the suits for the first time next week when we are doing a day out with Yukon Dive (on Clintons recommendation) in the Poor Knights. If anyone is interested Ill let you know how the suits went from the perspective of a massively experienced diver (4 dives total) :D

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Re: PADI Open Water wetsuit advice

Postby divepirate » Thu Jan 02, 2014 8:45 am

Well done on your purchase.
I also dive in seaquell

I look forward to your trip report.
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