THE FOURTH ELEMENT PROTEUS 3 looked good on the New Product Showcase at the Dive 2009 show, so I grabbed it for a forthcoming trip to the Maldives. I should have tried it on first, but the material is so flexible that even though it was a little small, it still fitted.
The suit affected a sprayed-on look, which meant that I had to be circumspect about where I kept my wallet. That said, it weighed very little, yet kept me suitably protected from the ravages of tropical water and man-eating zooplankton.
I know there are those among you who would dive in nothing but your skimpies, but I prefer the benefits of a full-length suit.
One rarely encounters water temperatures as great or greater than skin temperature, so immersion in tropical water always ends up with some heat loss, despite the thick layer of bioprene that some of you sport naturally.
Me Im big and skinny, which results in a large surface area, plenty of heat loss and increased air consumption (itself a very important form of heat loss when breathing compressed air) to match.
Besides forming a close-fitting layer of neoprene all over, the Proteus 3s neck has a unique feature in that a bib is attached inside at the back of the suit. This pulls over the head to form an extra layer of neoprene and eliminate flushing at the leading edge. The manufacturer calls this the Hydrolock feature.

Appearance
I have written at length in the past about the 5mm and 7mm variants of this suit, and the same rules apply. Fit a good-looking body into it and it will look good. We only had the usual OAP available to get photographed wearing it, so youll have to make do.
The smoothskin chest area makes the best of a bad job, and water just falls off this suit when you climb out of the sea. I guess you would call it hydrophobic.

Comfort
Even though the suit was one size too small for me, I managed. The internal bib did make me gag a little when I was sitting down, and it put pressure on my throat, but I saw it through for professional reasons.
It was such a tight fit that there was no place for cooling water to pool when I jumped in. This flexible neoprene really has made diving more enjoyable. And although the suit has small drain holes at the back, I was spared the urinating bovine effect when I climbed out.

Efficacy
This suit doesnt offer the same precautions against cooling water as its heavier-weight brothers but why would it Its designed for tropical waters, so it is more akin to a wetsuit than a semi-dry.
Its a question of wearing the right thermal protection for the job. However, the one I wore fitted so snugly that there was no room for water to share the space inside with me.

COMPARABLE WETSUITS TO CONSIDER:
ONeill Sector 3, £160
Scubapro Everflex 3/2, £170
Cressi Summer, £74

SPECS
PRICE £159
SIZES Off-the-peg for both sexes
THICKNESS 3mm
COLOURS Black
CONTACT www.fourthelement.com
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