Monday, November 16, 2009

What wetsuit to wear in Kona Hawaii.......

Ah, the age old question.... I get this quite frequently and see it on message boards all the time. Which wetsuit to wear can depend on many things - water temperature, body size and type, cold tolerance, how much you are scuba diving, etc. Every person is going to be a bit different, I'll try to give you a basic idea.

When I first moved here it was February and about 74 degrees in the water. I wore a 3/2 mil wetsuit (3 mil on the core and 2 mil on the arms and legs) and that lasted all of 3 dives - then I went to just wearing a swimsuit for quite a while. 74 was quite comfortable. Now that I've been here and diving all this time I'd be wearing at least a 4/3 full suit with a 3 mil shorty over the top to make it through a couple of dives at that temperature. I'm looking at moving to a 5 or 7 this winter if it gets as cold as last winter.... but it's taken years to get to where I need that.

Kona's water temperature on a typical year can run as low as 73/74 during the January through March time frame, then start rising in March through the summer with a high of 81/83 coming in the early fall. This last year we were colder in the winter than usual, seeing 71/72 'til about late April, currently we're running 77/79 or so. At any rate, the need for a particular thickness of wetsuit can vary depending on the time of year.

Most visiting divers here can do OK with a 3 mil full much of the year except during the colder times of the year. Slender divers or divers with a bit of cold intolerance might want something more year round, especially in the winter months. Heavier divers or divers with good cold tolerance may find themselves quite comfortable with less. I've recently started to make the switch to 4/3 full suits in my rental gear for our boat charters. It's just a bit thicker so it takes some of the chill off that might exist with a 3 mil suit. We try to keep shorty suits available for over the top for slender or smaller divers (women tend to require a bit more neoprene than men in general, many might want a 5 mil much of the year) just in case the suits we have or the customers bring just aren't quite enough. Those tend to come out quite a bit in the winter months.

This is pretty vague. If in doubt, you can always go a tad bit thick on the neoprene, a mil or two extra isn't going to be overwhelmingly hot. For the most part, we don't see a lot of visitors in 7 mils. You might see a good number of local DMs and Instructors in 7 mil suits, maybe even a hood or hooded vest in addition, but if you're diving 200-300 days a year 76 degree water can feel like 68.

One note - if you are looking at snorkeling, throw this all out the window. When you are snorkeling you'll probably need nowhere near as much neoprene. You're on top of the water, back exposed to the sun and 85 degree air, and you're typically working a bit harder. Good diving is more controlled floating than anything and you'll be fully surrounded by water (which conducts heat away much faster than air) without the benefit of sun on you. Most visitors often can comfortably snorkel without a wetsuit, or with a shorty or hooded vest only.

I hope this helps some.

The photo above is of a Lei Triggerfish.




Andrew Cooper said...

For the last three years on island I have been using a 3mil shorty year round. The water was a little nippy getting in this last weekend, but I was still comfortable at the end of the dive.

Of course this is from a 240lb, 6'2" guy, who typically does a couple dives a month.

Laura said...

Good information (and nice lei triggerfish photo)! I'm a skinny woman, so I get cold really easily, and I dive with a 5 mil wetsuit in Kona in the winter, with an additional neoprene vest underneath that helps keep my core warm. I also like to wear dive socks and gloves, and a cap, all of which help a lot.

I recently went diving in the Bahamas and it was much warmer... only needed my 3 mil with cap and socks, no vest or gloves. I like the diving in Kona better, though! Just make sure you're warm enough so you can enjoy the dives. You really do lose a lot of body heat, especially down deep.

I've also found that it helps a lot, if I'm boat diving, to lower the top part of my wetsuit between dives, and wrap up in a warm dry hoodie. Sitting around on the dive boat in cold wet neoprene means I'm freezing during my second dive!

Steve said...

Thanks Andrew and Laura.

Laura, good hint on the stripping down to the waist. We're telling people all the time that it's a good idea between dives and then handing them a towel to dry off with and drape over the shoulders. With that wet neoprene on you're essentially an evaporative cooling tower, getting it off your torso really helps.


Sean said...

Steve, add a 301 redirect from your old domain to your new domain in your .htaccess file. You have to point your old domain at the new host's name servers too... All your link juice will move over to the new domain.


Steve said...

Unfortunately I can't. When I first started the Wanna Dive website I knew nothing about websites... I signed up with company that said they'd "help you register a domain", which turns out to mean they register it with themselves as the owner of the name. I have no ability to access the server or the old domain name.

Google and you'll find all sorts of complaints about them, their billing practices, stealing domains, sudden mandatory upgrades and such. In my case, I'm paid up through the middle of next year, but they've concocted a " foreign pronography hacking job" that for some reason means I have to upgrade to a new multi-year account, payable immediately, to regain control of the server spot that has the "account suspended" note.

My only recourse at this point would be to get myself to Gardena, California and take them to small claims court.

I looked into the 301 direct immediately, can't be done unless they do it on their end as far as I know.