Friday, February 14, 2014

ALL DIVES, EXCEPT ONE THAT I KNOW OF, ARE COLD WATER DIVES...

If you've ever been to Homestead Crater, Utah, then you've dove in 94* F water! I would be confident in saying that hypothermia would probably not be something that you would have to plan for. With that said, I've heard a lot of people say, "I only dive warm water." Really? Well, if you remember from your Open Water Class, water conducts heat away from our bodies 25 times more than air does. That's why we get cold when we get out of the water, even in tropical destinations. I started my diving career in Las Vegas, NV and then moved to Lake Havasu, AZ where summertime temperatures can be above 120* F. One summer in Lake Havasu, I personally felt, 121* F. I was diving in the Lake and by the time the dive was over, I had gotten to the hottest part of the day. That area is also known for some pretty nasty winds and upon my exit from the water, I was freezing cold! Now, I bet that there are many of you that are going to say that you only did six dives on your last trip to Hawaii or Mexico. Again, really? Six dives. Of course you might not get cold, but why would you go all that way and ONLY do six dives? The first live-a-board I ever did was to Turks & Caicos and did 24 dives over a seven day period. The water was 84* F and while I was feeling pretty good during the first half of my trip, I was getting cold by the second half. Everyone know that certification alone does not guarantee competence, and I have to say, that doing six warm water dives a year is a dangerous prospect! Diving in the PNW offers some of the best scenery compared to ANYWHERE else in the world. As we get older, our bodies don't generate and maintain a constant body temperature as we did when we were younger. Remember grandma wearing a sweater when you were in shorts and a t-shirt? Being cold is also one of the risk factors that can contribute to decompression sickness. DCS is not something that any diver wants to experience! Wetsuits keep a diver warm by trapping a thin layer of water against their skin that allows the body to heat it up and helps to keep the diver warmer, longer. That's really the key to diving anywhere! How long can one dive in any temperature water until they get cold? Well, if you jump into Clear Lake with only a bathing suit, I would say about a minute. If you jump into water in the PNW, probably 5 minutes; Southern California waters in the summer, 15-20 minutes; Cozumel, 45 minutes... but then you half to factor in personal preferences and the body composition of the diver. The bottom line is that a 3mm wetsuit is NOT for 80* F waters as much as a 6mm farmer-john is for 45* F water. Those suits, like a drysuit, are designed to keep you warmer, LONGER than without any thermal protection. Drysuits keep the diver warmer, longer because the suit allows for a layer of air (instead of water) to be held next to the skin and since air does not conduct heat away from our body as fast as water does, the drysuit diver can stay warmer even longer! Replace the air in the drysuit with argon, and add about 25% more time to that dive! I just did my second coldest dive ever, 37* F in Battle Ground Lake in Battle Ground, Washington. While the water was really cold upon entering, it actually wasn't that bad once I got to moving around. Similarly, when I did my ice dive in 2008, the air temperature of 10* F was far more harsh than the 34* F water under the ice! So, the next time someone says, "I don't like to dive in cold water," you'll have to ask them, "What are you talking about," "All water is cold!" Learn to dive in a drysuit my friends, and YOU can dive ALL YEAR LONG...!!! What do you say?

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