Appeared in DIVER April 2007

WETSUIT Cressi Lontra 5mm Semi-dry
I HAVE TO ADMIT THAT MY RELATIONSHIP with my postman is on the wane. It certainly is not as intimate as it was. Thats because of the super-flexible neoprenes now being used in wetsuits and semi-dry suits. Whenever Im sent one to test, I naturally try it on before I go diving with it. This usually takes place in my house in the morning, long after my wife and children have left for school.
Wetsuits need to fit like a second skin if they are to be any use at keeping you warm. With old-fashioned neoprene, this usually meant fighting my way into a suit before admiring myself in the mirror. Sorry, I meant before checking for fit.
Then would come the moment when I would realise that a snake could shed its overtight old skin better than I could get out of a snugly fitting suit.
This is where the postman came in. His rattle at the letterbox meant that help was at hand, and more often than not he would be called in to help pull a wetsuit off my shoulders.
The latest Cressi Lontra semi-dry suit employs such super-flexible neoprene (called Ultraspan) that one could sleep in it.
I entertained that idea one night when we suffered the traditional January central-heating boiler failure.
It cost me £40 the next day to be shown where the thermal cut-out on the unit was and how to reset it. No such complications with this Cressi suit.

I HAD A LONTRA SOME TIME AGO. It served me well for endless dive trips. This new one has the same flattering cut, because you would never sell a suit in Italy if it didnt.
Never short of a marketing opportunity, the manufacturer calls it an anatomic shape. Well, it would be once you were wearing it, wouldnt it
It has nice long smoothskin seals at the ankles which extend beyond the zipped cuffs to integrate nicely with your boots. Its as easy to slide into as a sausage slips into its skin.
A nice new addition is the watertight zip at the back. Its not a dry zip in the sense of the type used on a drysuit, but it pulls two gaskets together to make it virtually leak-free.
Theres certainly no cold creeping feeling after youre zipped in and take that first plunge. The penalty paid for this is a certain amount of resistance to pulling it open or shut.
Flexible knee-pads are afforded by making this area of the leg from a flexible knitted-like material called Strata. I liked the use of soft, textured internal lining material at all the points that take a load, such as the shoulders.
A close fit ensures that there is no agonising moment as cold water trickles down your back. After the dive, getting out of your suit in the cold means that theres a premium placed on the time between undoing the zip and hitting the hot shower.
I remember, with past suits, struggling out of them while actually in the shower. Just call me greased lightning now.
My daughter has kindly remarked that I am starting to look fat in the wetsuit photographs often seen in these pages. Surely she meant muscular My BMI is now 25.5, which is overweight - but only just! Well, I dont think I look as fat in the Cressi Lontra as I might do in some other suits.
Just to be sure, I got young Matt Potenski to wear it for the photograph. Before you rush to write a letter of protest about his speargun, I should tell you that he is a respected scientist and a member of the Shark Research Institute. He tags whale sharks with the gun!
Cressi makes a range of these suits for both men and women and also a 7mm version, which has zips at the wrists. A 5mm over-jacket has an attached hood. The masochistic can choose to have a Lontra not made in Ultraspan neoprene, but why would you There is also a separate hood option.
The Lontra appears to be double-stitched throughout, and with not too many panels to pull apart, it should give many years of trouble-free use.
The Cressi Lontra 5mm one-piece suit costs £216. The 7mm version costs £241.
  • Cressi-sub,

  • Divernet
    + A nice- looking suit
    + Easy to don

    - None come to mind