Spend enough time on dive boats and you’ll see what will shut down diving quickly. It usually happens right after the second or third dive. Diving stops because they can’t control their shivering — “t-t-too c-c-c-cold,” the complaints flow.
Stop complaining and do something about it. Cold and its effects (hypothermia) can be stopped! Furthermore, the effects of cold can be reduced, even eliminated in simple, low-cost ways.
Once you get out of the water, get out of the wind. Get an oversized jacket on even over your exposure suit. Wind evaporating water off your suit will chill you almost as quickly as the cold water.
THE RIGHT SUIT
Dry suits of course are best for warmth, but this initial expense scares people away. Even so, given that you will get in more dives per day, and that a dry suit generally has a longer lifespan than a wetsuit, your cost per dive could end up being lower. Consider making the jump to a dry suit.
But if the bill is too much for you to swallow, know that wetsuits vary greatly in effectiveness.
Fit is critical. There should be no bags or sags anywhere. Fit at the wrists and ankles is very critical as this is where a lot of cold water seepage occurs. But probably the worst spot for seepage is around the neck and face. Use an attached hood on a vest with a good fitting seal around the face for good warmth.
With a custom wetsuit, you can get just the right fit and all the right features. A drysuit may be best for warmth, but dollar for dollar a custom wetsuit, with the right features, is probably the best value for water temperatures down to about 55° F. Some of the features to consider are an attached hood, wrist and ankle seals, skin-in or even a “semi-dry” feature that brings cold water intrusion down to an absolute minimum.
DRINK SOMETHING HOT
Frankly, a hot drink is overrated. The comfort factor is great, and it does help a little, but the physical reward is mostly just psychological. What can be helpful, however, is hot soup. Cold zaps the body of blood sugar and you need fuel to replenish the depletion. Keep good nutrition in your body.
WHAT DOES NOT HELP
Urinating in your wetsuit may feel good, but it does nothing to help your warmth level. Pouring warm water into a wetsuit can actually do more harm than good (but I am as guilty as anyone). The warm water dilates your blood vessels. Then, when the cold water hits your skin, body warmth is sucked away quicker. If you insist on using this technique, use tepid water.
Cold is not a reason to stay out of the water. Use the right gear, get out of the chilling wind, and you will find yourself making more dives and enjoying them more.