width=100%
DRYSUIT Whites Catalyst
I GET WET WHILE DRYSUIT-DIVING more often than I would like. Either a hole appears mysteriously and invisibly in a boot to leave me with a wet leg, or a valve decides to become an open tap that leaves my upper part soaking wet.
  It always seems to happen when I drive to an inland site and havent bothered to take a spare set of clothes. I have to drive home with exemplary care. I dont want to have to explain to any police officer why I appear to have wet myself. See It isnt just you!
  I get to try a lot of drysuits, and the UK diving scene over-flows with them. I am amazed that there are enough divers to keep every manufacturer in business. So why do we need another one The Canadian manufacturer Whites thinks we do, and I suppose the Canadians, with their notoriously cold weather, should know something about the subject.
  Whites sent me a bag, but it contained more than just a drysuit. There was a whole drysuit-diving kit. Besides inflator hose and hood, there was a pair of cunningly shaped-to-fit 3mm neoprene/titanium soft undersuit socks, and hiking boots. These are intended for diving, and fit over the soft sock-ends of the suit. Every item seemed innovative in its way.
  The Evo II boots are of an obviously military design and have tough Vibram soles, reinforced padded ankle supports that are incorporated in the lacing, and heel pull-tabs.
  The 7mm titanium zippered wet hood has a 5mm face seal that can be cut to suit the wearer. It has a long neck and a double-layered zipped gusset at the back so that you can put it on easily and then zip it up tight to make a good fit. Its available in four sizes, from S to XL.
  The suit itself is the Whites Catalyst self-entry model. Its made from an extremely tough bi-laminate of nylon and polyurethane, with a diagonal front zipper thats beautifully integrated with the main material of the suit.
  I found the material a little unforgiving while struggling into it, but internal braces, plus some extra material at the waist combined with a panel of stretchy woven material there, behind the shoulders, and at the thighs, helped with the fight.
  The long front diagonal zip allows easy access, but there was no telescoping torso to make pulling the top of the suit over my head easy, and I had to do a sort of sideways dive into the neck seal from the inside.

Doing a Lee Evans
Once zipped up, I felt a bit like the comedian Lee Evans doing a stunt. Lets simply say that I didnt feel sleek in it, but then I dont suppose a soldier feels sleek in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, either.
  The panels of the suit are stitched, glued and covered on the inside with heat-sealed tape. Outside, theres heavyweight stitching and reflective piping.
  Additional features such as the long flexible rubber knee-pads, and a concertina-style pocket with internal strap, mounted on a heavy duty rubber patch at the thigh, conveythe impression of a suit that means business.
  The conical latex neck-seal is hidden beneath a nicely finished smooth-skin neoprene collar. This has the convenience of a zip, set at a jaunty angle, to enable you to do it up snugly. The latex wrist seals are similarly protected under a cuff that can be tightened with a Velcro fastening, and gives the chance to make a neat join with any gloves. One gets the impression that this suit is almost bullet-proof.
  Swedish-made Si-tech valves - a fully revolving inflator at the centre of the chest area and a low-profile constant-volume dump valve at the shoulder - complete the picture of what is an uncompromisingly high-quality product.
  Any diver who has worn a suit with boots so big that air migrates to them and forces them off their feet will be interested in the elastic shin-straps with pinch-clips.
  This does the job of bicycle clips and effectively stops you losing your boots. My big plates of meat mean that this is not a phenomenon I will encounter - its getting my feet into the boots that is my problem.
  So did I get wet Well I spent a pleasant time zooming around Wraysbury Lake armed with a set of JetBoots. This meant that the latex neck seal got a good and perpetual flow of water over it.
  I am quite scrawny and Im afraid I did manage to take a tiny amount of the lake home with me. Slim divers might need a narrower neck seal than the one provided.
  It was jolly nice, however, to stroll about the gravel paths and chicken-wire-covered jetties of Wraysbury without worrying about getting a puncture through a boot. These hiking boots are a solution to a problem that shore-based divers often encounter.
The Whites Catalyst package is available from SDS Watersports and costs £1010 (undersuit not included)
  • SDS Watersports 0114 248 8688, www.sdswatersports.co.uk


  • Divernet
    width=100%
    + Tough product for customers


    width=100%
    - Unforgivingly harsh to climb into
    - Only those with man-sized necks need apply