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DIVEWEAR Fourth Element Thermocline shorty
Times were hard when I were a lad, after the war. We took our holidays at Hayling Island and my mum knitted me swimming trunks from the unravelled wool of old squaddies pullovers.
     As long as I stayed safely wading in the shallows with my feet still dry in my wellies, everything was fine, but if I were to accidentally succumb to the embrace of an incoming breaker and get myself wet, disaster would befall me. The knitted swimming trunks stretched.
     So it was not so much the threat of drowning that kept me from learning to swim back in those tender years, it was the threat of loudly delivered derision from my elder brothers as I squelched back up the beach, holding my skimpies up under my arms.
     Why am I confessing all this Because there was something uncannily familiar about the Fourth Element Thermoclyne swimming kit that I took on holiday to Majorca with me.
     Part of a range of garments, this shorts and long-sleeved top ensemble is made of a fabric called Polartec and is claimed to have a thermal efficiency equivalent to 2.5mm of neoprene, yet to be neutrally buoyant.
     Available in both a smoothskin or a woven finish, it was the knitted effect of the woven version that reminded me of events that happened in my dim and distant past, when Hayling Island was the most exotic destination the Bantin family could reasonably expect to visit.
     I am pleased to report that these 21st Century shorts did not stretch and fall off my hips like the 50s woollen swimming trunks. The other Brits I spent my time with this summer are also pleased about this.
     In fact me Thermoclynes stayed rather snug, and certainly saved me from the shock of entering water a lot cooler than the 37ÂC-plus air temperature of last July. The long-sleeved top was equally efficient, if slightly too tight for me, which caused a degree of difficulty in getting into it with the arms facing the right way. Never mind, the sweat broken in forcing my arms through its sleeves was soon washed away in the limpid pool that was the Med that month.
     The manufacturers claim for neutral buoyancy was not proved entirely true. I guess it made its calculations based on fresh water, and I was in the sea. I noticed a slight upforce when swimming on the surface, and need a kilo of lead to make shallow breath-hold dives more comfortable.
     That said, the suit pulled off easily enough and dried quickly in the sunshine, so I was spared that clammy feeling of wet knitting hanging about my groin. A large range of different garments are available and they could always be used to augment a suitably loose-fitting wetsuit should you find the conditions where you are to be colder than expected.
The Thermoclyne top and shorts shown cost £65 and £45 respectively.
  • Fourth Element 01326 291091, www.fourthelement.com


  • Divernet
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    + Hi-tech alternative to a lightweight wetsuit
    + Near neutrally buoyant in sea water



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    - Reminded me of best-forgotten past