new diver's first suit, go for the semi-dry?

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I'm currently taking the PADI open water scuba course. Unfortunately I'm in central California and I get cold easily, so I thought I might invest in a suit, specifically a semi-dry. Does anyone have any suggestions?

One problem is that I don't know how much diving I will be doing in California. I was hoping to do some diving in Australia, Hawaii, Pacific islands, Thailand, etc. Is a 7mm suit overkill for those areas? Is there such thing as a 3mm semi-dry? Could I possibly wear the 3mm dive suit for surfing as well? As a student with limited disposable income, I'd rather only invest in one suit, and preferably one that would see the most use. If I could use a 3mm dive suit to surf, I'd see that as a reasonable investment.
 

buddhasummer

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I too feel the cold and wear a full 1piece 5mm in the tropics and an very comfortable, I tried a 3mm earlier this year in Thailand and was cold. My local temps in summer range from around 22-25 and in a two piece 7mm suit with hood I'm comfortable down to around 20-21 any lower than that and I'm out of the water wishing I had a drysuit. With suits it's all about fit. Semi dry reads semi wet. I tried a semi dry once but wasn't impressed although I'm sure there are good ones out there. Temperature tolerance is a very individual thing and can vary greatly from person to person. The only way to stay warm in cooler temps if you have a low tolerance is a drysuit. As far as overkill goes its better to be too warm than too cold, if you get warm you can let some fresh water in, there's not a lot you can do once you're cold. Pacific Island temps can vary greatly depending on season, ditto Australia. I dive my 7mm when I'm diving in Western Australia and a 5mm in SEA. Good Luck.
 

Gren

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With a limited budget, you may want to watch the forum's classifieds section. I know there was what looked like a decent semi dry up the other day for $100. Not saying it would be the right one for you just that deals are out there.
 
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I'm stationed at Marine Corps Base 29 Palms, California and recently purchased the Hollis Neo-Tek 8/7/6 Semi-Dry and could not be more pleased. I dove Casino Point last weekend with bottom temps of around 64F and it was perfect. It will of course handle much colder than that. I am not aware of a 3mm semi dry but they may exist. I purchased the Hollis from Hollywood Divers and would highly recommend them for anything including advice. As far as the other locations you mentioned, I believe a 7mm would likely be overkill indeed unless you are very cold natured. I hope that helps and feel free to PM me if needed.
 

spectrum

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Semi-dry is an odd duck. There are some real semi-dry suits with sealing zippers and seals at all openings. The cost here can approach a good used drysuit. There are also some called semi-dry that are just really good wetsuits. So step one is to know what you are considering.

The odds of enjoying that range of dive location in one suit are slim. One of the joys of traveling to warmer water is to shed some neoprene and the associated weight allowing you to enjoy a more stable buoyancy experience. You are heading for a neoprene wardrobe.

A 3mm could do double duty for diving and surfing. I think the specialty suits have some specific features but if you can live with the compromise go for it. Just be sure you go with a dive suit. Some surf suits will not stand up to all of the gear and straps and may be made with soft very compressible neoprene.

Pete
 

Eff

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OP -

You will find that you may eventually have a small "quiver" of exposure protection. I too tried to make one thing (7mm) work for everything, but now I have:

Drysuit for anything ~75*F or colder (tri-laminate suit with adjustable layers underneath)
- This would certainly include most of California, btw.
- Also used for ALL tech diving with a negative setup (steel doubles, etc) due to my personal preferences for redundant buoyancy control.

3mm full wetsuit for anything in the high 70s to low 80s.

3mm shorty for anything mid 80s and up (tropical warm water, etc)

I've tried a semi-dry wetsuit, only once, and didn't like it much at all. Putting on a drysuit was less effort and warmer for me.
I no longer even own a 7mm wetsuit.

Yeah, it gets a bit expensive, and everyone has their own preferences.
 

TSandM

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When you say Central California, I think of diving the coast north of San Francisco, or down around Monterey. Both places can be COLD -- we are not talking wimpy Southern California cold water, but temperatures down into the 40s. Diving those places wet is hard. The temperatures are similar to what we deal with in Puget Sound, where almost anyone who dives regularly ends up diving dry. Now, the advantages of diving dry are that, if you use a laminate suit, you can vary the undergarments with the water temperatures. I have dived in my dry suit in 86 degree water in the Red Sea (with nothing but a wicking base layer under the suit) and in 43 degree water in northern Vancouver Island (and in Monterey, too!) with thick insulation under it.

Used laminate dry suits can be picked up for half or less the price of a new suit (less particularly if you are a bit DIY handy and can replace seals). The price will approach that of a new semi-dry, but you'll get much more flexibility in the dry suit, as far as temperature goes. I wouldn't surf in a diving dry suit, though -- the last thing you want is trauma to the suit that causes holes!
 
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Thanks for your replies, everyone. There is *zero* chance that I can afford a dry suit, unless used. I would prefer to dive in waters where a dry suit is not really needed anyway. When I say central California, I really mean Monterey to San Luis Obispo. San Francisco is Nor Cal!

I was mainly considering semi-dry to just be a really good wetsuit. I am not adverse to getting wet, I just want to find a suit with some good seals to prevent water from rushing in and out, as the suit that I rent from my LDS gets me shivering even in a pool (granted not a very well heated pool, and we do class at night). The suit that I am looking at is a Cressi Lontra, which I saw a pretty good review on, and is only $239 on Amazon. I need a back zip wetsuit because of my lady-body.

I am still unsure about where I'll be diving, so I think I'll hold off on buying a suit for California diving and go with a 3mm dive suit that can double as a surf suit.
 

tracydr

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I would personally search for a used dry suit, or check out the Fusion, which is a great price even new.
Watch the Deco stop and Cave forums, they have a lot of used drysuits for sale, along with Craigs List in your area. The joy of a decent drysuit, compared to diving wet, is night and day. I think you will find yourself doing a lot more local diving and really enjoying it more if you have a good drysuit.
I learned up in the Puget Sound, diving wet for one year and now I'm diving dry when water is less than about 76 degrees, or pretty much any time topside conditions won't kill me with heatstroke. I really enjoy diving dry and could even see myself using it in tropical diving in the future, especially if I get more involved in technical diving.
I really enjoyed watching the GUE rec 1 video, where they taught brand new, OW divers in tropical waters to dive with drysuits from their very first dive. I just think that opens up the range of where you can dive from the very beginning. Divers who don't learn to dive with a drysuit are so very limited on where they can dive, especially when you consider that 80-90% of US diving could be considered cold water.
 

TSandM

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I've never done a dive in Monterey where the water temperature was above the low 50's, and I've done a number of them where the water got down to 43. Just sayin' . . .
 
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