Ice diving in a wetsuit... crazy?

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oreocookie

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I'm considering doing an ice diver course this winter because I don't really want to wait until May to go diving and it's on the list of things my buddy wants to try. It's not the first thing on my list, but it's on there too. Here's the thing: I've never even tried on a drysuit, let alone know how to dive with one. I could probably do a drysuit course first, but I doubt I'd have much opportunity to practice with it before hitting the ice. The coldest water I've dove so far was in the low- to mid-40s iirc, and I only got a frozen forehead because of an ill-fitting hood, we weren't there (below that thermocline) for too long though so I'm not sure how long it would take to chill.

So what's your take? Am I crazy for considering ice diving in a wetsuit?
 

grf88

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Lots of people do it but it doesn't mean they are not crazy.

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covediver

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I'm considering doing an ice diver course this winter because I don't really want to wait until May to go diving and it's on the list of things my buddy wants to try...So what's your take? Am I crazy for considering ice diving in a wetsuit?

Great that you are doing an ice diver course. That is one of the few specialties that I think you really need a course taught by an instructor.

The first question. Have you spoken to your instructor about your plan to dive in a wetsuit? He or she may have other ideas about your suitability for the course.

You can probably do ice diving in a wetsuit but for a very short period of time (a number of minutes). A wetsuit will merely slow down the onset of hypothermia. As you chill, the body will decrease flow of blood to the extremities, making it harder for you to do the tasks that are difficult enough to do in open water, but which become crucial in an ice-overhead environment. You will also quickly become less responsive, something you do not want to be under ice. Because you will be chilled to the bone, you may not be able to fully participate in the class (what's the use of spending the money if you can't get a lot out of it)? Finally, the nice thing about drysuits, from my expereince in Alaska (water temp 36) and the Great Lakes is that they keep you warm between dives. Ice diving is pretty much a solo activity with a lot of time spent on the ice. Even with warming huts, it gets cold. Being chilled in a wetsuit and then being on the surface will make you absolutely miserable. We use to call it "exposure" not sure what term is currently in vogue.

Yes, on the balance I would say it is a crazy idea.
 

Dhboner

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I bought my first drysuit last month and before that I routinely dove below the ice in a 7mm jumpsuit. I am generally good for 30 minutes or so in the wetsuit before I call it quits. The bigger problem begins back on dry land...you get cold REALLY quick in a soaking wet, wetsuit! Make sure you have a warm, dry change area acccessible within a few minutes of surfacing. Oh and don't even consider doing a second ice dive on the same day (climbing back into the wetsuit is not an option for most rational people).

Bob (Toronto).
 

nimoh

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if ice diving in a wetsuit, I definitely agree with Dhboner that you need to have a warm changing area, perhaps a tent or enclosed trailer with a heater in it.

However, I think you could do a second dive by taking a large cooler full of hot water and after the first dive, place your wetsuit, hood, gloves and boots in the hot water. Then, it will be comfortable putting the wetsuit back on since it will be warm. Probably the same thing could be achieved with a good quality heater aimed at the neoprene gear, the point is that you don't need to dry it, just make it warm.
 

oreocookie

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Ok, so maybe not crazy, but not necessarily a great idea either. Adding to the question, if I decided to learn to use a drysuit first, how much practice with it should I expect to require before being ready to add the new tasks/skills that I'd be learning during the ice diver course? I realize that this will vary from person to person, so I'm just looking for a rough idea. Drysuit is on my dive to-do list anyway, but waiting to figure out a drysuit before doing ice diver probably brings me back to no diving until May...
 

nimoh

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You should take a dry suit class. This normally involves a pool session first, and then some open water dives. More than likely you can combine the open water class with your ice diving class.

The class introduces you to the care of a dry suit and to diving a dry suit safely such as what to do if you get air in your feet and start to be dragged up feet first.

Dry suit is definitely the way to go, with a dry suit, after your dive, you can immediately be a line tender while someone else goes diving.
 

cloudflint

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If you can do plenty of really cold dives to acclimatize yourself beforehand you would be surprised how much cold you can put up with. The trick ive found is to not take your suit off between dives and keep moving. In cold weather I like to swim up and down on my snorkel between dives or do some light jogging to keep myself nice and toasty! Ive been known to spend 2 days living in my wetsuit to avoid having to put it back on in the cold (waking up in a soaking wet wetsuit is unpleasant, but still more pleasant that climbing into a frozen suit!). The other alternative is to use two wet-suits!

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g1138

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If you can do plenty of really cold dives to acclimatize yourself beforehand you would be surprised how much cold you can put up with. The trick ive found is to not take your suit off between dives and keep moving. In cold weather I like to swim up and down on my snorkel between dives or do some light jogging to keep myself nice and toasty! Ive been known to spend 2 days living in my wetsuit to avoid having to put it back on in the cold (waking up in a soaking wet wetsuit is unpleasant, but still more pleasant that climbing into a frozen suit!). The other alternative is to use two wet-suits!

2 days in a wetsuit!? Uh.....afraid to ask but, how did you doody?
 

Polar_diver

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Dear oreo.. I did Flintkote last August and July for Deep and Night certifications. Water temp went as low as 2.7 C. In wet suit. It's cold but for a short while, it's feasible.
 
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