Although modern versions of the drysuit have been around since the late 1980s, they remain a novel sighting for many beachgoers.
Drysuit fabric keeps water out so that I stay dry except for my head and hands, which I encase in good old neoprene (wetsuit material). By keeping most of my body dry, I can conserve heat without wasting energy warming the layer of water between my skin and the neoprene (the blubber-layer concept behind a wetsuit). Because a drysuit shell provides no warmth, I don layers of polar fleece underneath.
A drysuit’s valves allow for air to enter and exit the suit while keeping water out. To inflate my suit for buoyancy and comfort, I press on the inlet valve located on the drysuit’s upper chest area. A hose provides the conduit from the valve to the very same air tank from which I also breathe. To release, I press the exhaust valve on the upper arm. Below the surface, I still need to regulate air in and out. For instance, as I sink, I get heavier and heavier due to increasing outside pressure that goes hand in hand with increasing depth. This results in my being squeezed like those food storage devices that suck out the air in a bag (drysuit) of leftovers (diver) and controlling my descent (a braking system).
To learn more about drysuit mechanics (seals and zipper), actual diving in a drysuit, and a drysuit’s connection to NASA’s space suits, read my full article at www.TideLines.org.
— Judith Lea Garfield, naturalist and underwater photographer, has authored two natural history field guides about the underwater park off La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores. www.TideLines.org;