NORMALLY A DRYSUIT MANUFACTURER asks for my measurements, marvels at the fact that by coincidence they match those of Henry VIII (no, the young version, when he was Europes premier athlete), and make a suit to fit me.
It arrives in due course, and I take it diving and write about it.
When big Al from VR Tech recently asked me which was my favourite drysuit, I wryly answered that it was the one that fitted me perfectly. I dont know if big Al is in regular contact with Sean at OThree, but Sean took no chances in sending me a suit that would be anything less than a perfect fit.
After I sent my measurements, he insisted that I make the pilgrimage to Portland for a proper fitting and I admit to being bemused by the attention he gave me.
Maybe my old reputation for trashing anything that wasnt perfect was still fresh in his memory. I reminded him that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but Im not sure he was convinced.
I assume that all OThree customers receive the same degree of close attention when they buy a drysuit, and I should explain that this was a top-of-the-line item, with a price to match.

THE OTHREE RI2100 DRYSUIT uses very lightweight 2.5mm hyper-compressed neoprene, so although Sean claims that much insulation is retained, it is actually a membrane-style suit, deriving its warmth from the undergarments worn with it.
On the other hand, it suffers no real buoyancy changes at the pressure of depth.
The outer layer of neoprene is impregnated with resin to make it impervious to water and allow it to dry quickly after a dive, so you dont get chilled to the marrow by the sea breeze.
Water simply appears to sit on the surface of the material in beads. Certainly the quality of the stitching and taping of my finished suit looked superb.
I dive with a wide range of equipment, and am used to adapting to suit any encountered idiosyncrasies. However, my visit to Portland was something of a trial because I was spoiled for choice. Sean would ask me for my preferences regarding every aspect.
Did I want sea-anchors Sorry, that should have been thigh-pockets! No, thanks! Did I want long conical latex seals With my skinny wrists Yes, please.
Did I want knee- and shoulder-pads to prevent wear and tear Why not
I prefer a suit with a cross-shoulder zip, because it dispenses with all the extra material needed at the torso in order to pull the neck seal over your head, so that was no problem.
Where did I want the valves Oops! The centre of the chest seemed a safe option for the Apeks inflation valve, but when I pointed to where I wanted the constant-volume dump valve, Sean looked at me querulously.
I felt Id failed the test, so in answer to his Are you sure, I suggested my upper arm, which turned out to be exactly where he felt it would be best.

SEAN AND HIS OPPOS have the advantage of a location right next to Chesil Beach. They have worked in the diving industry since Sean was helping out at Parrys dive shop.
They dive regularly. Who am I to tell them how I want my suit I did ask for white internal braces that would be visible in the gloomy depths of the suit, so I could avoid getting my knickers in a twist, but that request fell on deaf ears!
All this ordering and fitting may seem long-winded but its the same with a gentlemans Savile Row suit, and the Ri2100 drysuit has a cost approaching parity.
A perfect fit cant really be managed with a click of a mouse on an Internet site. I chose a suit in manly do-it-right black, although there are other colour options.

Donning
The simple shape of this rear-entry suit meant that I could slip into it in a moment. In the kit that comes with the suit, OThree provides a big bottle of slippery Jollop. Apply this to wrists and neck and youll pass through wrist and neck seals as easily as you passed last nights curry.
The neck seal is of very flexible neoprene that inverts in on itself to form a good seal. This traps air rather than letting it go in burps.
It proved long enough that I didnt feel that ominous trickle of cold water down my neck when I turned my head as I swam.
I had to be careful not to get the braces twisted. I opted for fixed boots, rather than sock-ends, and separate hiking boots. I am a lazy person who often finds himself walking around in his suit before putting on the separate boots.
This risks puncturing the socks on sharp stones, with dire consequences. The fixed rubber-like boots were exactly my size, and
very comfortable.
The cross-shoulder zip meant that I needed help to close it, but I have yet to find a diagonal-front-zip that I could close all the way myself.

Efficacy
I wore multiple layers of insulation, in the form of OThrees Point-Below-Base (PBB) undergarments. These come in the form of a salopette like a skiers, and a long-sleeved top plus a pair of socks. Sean sent me two sets so that I could double up as needed.
The idea of this is that instead of using a bulky undergarment, the profile of the diver is kept sleek, and buoyancy control problems that might occur through over-weighting and having too much air in the suit are avoided.
I did feel warm before entering the water but questioned whether I would be warm enough during a long hang. OThree has the answer to this with its heated undervest (HUV), but thats another story.
OThree can supply gloves, but in this case I preferred to use my own. The 5mm semi-dry hood fitted perfectly, and was as warm as one could expect.
I made sure that the valves were tightened fully before I entered the water, as neoprene can compress further with time, and the valves work loose. The constant-volume dump valve worked perfectly where Sean had positioned it, and with such a well-fitting suit I had no buoyancy-control issues.
The flexibility of this drysuit meant that I was not restricted in any way. The sleek profile allowed me to achieve a swimming speed approaching that which I can do in a wetsuit.
I have long legs, which put my weights a long way from my feet, but I never felt in danger of inversion. This is possibly one of the best drysuits I have used, and the price reflects that.

COMPARABLE DRYSUITS TO CONSIDER:
Whites Catalyst SE, £1175
DUI CF200, from £1395
Bare XCD2 Tech, from £870

SPECS
PRICE £1076 made to measure
MATERIAL Hyper-compressed neoprene
INFLATION SYSTEM Apeks low-profile valves
OPTIONS check with the manufacturer
SUPPLIED WITH Semi-dry 5mm hood, bag, Jollop, Zip wax, inflation hose
UNDERGARMENTS PBB, £117
CONTACT www.othree.co.uk
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