LYCRA SKINS AFFORD NO THERMAL GAIN, but give a degree of protection against the effects of man-eating plankton and the killer irukandji jellyfish. But even if the water is warm enough, I don’t recommend anyone except those blessed with the most superb physique to wear one.
That’s for the benefit of my own aesthetic sensibilities. I’ve noticed that many of our overweight friends from across the pond like the ease with which they can don a Lycra skin, and don’t seem to care that they look like Mr Potato Man while wearing it.
No, for myself I’d rather stick with the cosmetic effect of a thin layer of Neoprene. I’ve got my pride to think of.
So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I agreed to trial a new Lavacore suit. It’s said to be the latest thing in lightweight suit solutions, was designed in co-operation between the Aussies of Oceanic Australia and the Kiwis of Pinnacle Aquatics, is made in China, and was spurred on and marketed by Oceanic in the USA. At first glance, it looked very much like a dreaded Lycra suit.
“Lavacore is a technically advanced fabric, constructed and engineered exclusively for water sports requiring the ultimate in thermal control and superior comfort.” Well, that’s what they told me.
They claim that although it looks and feels like a Lycra rash vest and provides as much stretch and comfort, it also has the insulation properties of a traditional Neoprene wetsuit.

Construction
The outer layer is Lycra, treated with a water-repellent effect to ensure fast water run-off and a reduction in windchill. This may be so, but I noticed that even in tropical Raja Ampat I got quite chilled after a dive, driving back to base in an open boat – more than I did in a 3.5mm Neoprene suit. Call me a wimp; those of you with more natural bioprene might not be so affected.
The middle layer is an impermeable, breathable, micro-porous, high-stretch polyurethane film, which is windproof and breathable, allowing perspiration to be drawn away. Standing around on the jetty at Raja Ampat’s Sorido Bay Resort, it certainly felt very warm, if not at all sweaty.
The inner layer is of a sort of fleece that retains any water that may be against your skin. This water is then heated up by it, giving you the heat-insulating properties. The effect of this was that when I first dived into the water I felt chilled, but I soon forgot about it.

In The Water
Oceanic in Australia kindly sent me an early example from the production line.
Although it was supplied in size Male XL, it proved a little short in the body for me. The stretch factor allowed me to wear it comfortably, however, although this left a tantalising gap between the neckline and my own favourite hood, ideal for the attentions of a marauding killer irukandji.
Luckily I didn’t encounter one, but I could have used the Lavacore hood instead, and that has a long collar that covers the neck well.
The ankle-straps made sure that the legs didn’t ride up, and a double layer of material was a thoughtful design addition that prevented any tendency for my computer to slip down my wrist.
With water surface temperatures of 31°C and a chilling (I joke) 28°C at depth, the Lavacore suit certainly felt plenty warm enough. I’m told that it is equivalent to the insulation of about 2mm of Neoprene when used alone, or as much as an additional 3mm when worn under a conventional suit.
One benefit was that I hardly needed more lead ballast than if I had been diving nude. It was refreshing to find that even I, with all the material needed to cover my voluminous water-displacing body, could get away with 2kg of lead weights, even when using an aluminium tank.

Appearance
The suit comes with socks of the same material, and these work well when using full-foot slipper-style fins. I was using open-heel strap-fins, so preferred to use conventional Neoprene boots.
The whole effect is to cover the body well, and wearing the ensemble tends to make you look like a diving Ninja.
It seems that the Aussies have taken the threat of the irukandje seriously. If you don’t know about the irukandje jellyfish, try Google. It’s not my remit to scare you off diving!
I can’t tell you what I looked like in the Lavacore suit. I was in the company of loyal friends, and they would certainly not have ridiculed my appearance.
I took the precaution of enlisting the help of a handsome young Dutchman staying at Sorido Bay to model the basic suit for me. I think he looks OK in it. Don’t you

COMPARABLE SYSTEMS
None

SPECS
PRICE £130
INSULATION EQUIVALENT 2mm (Neoprene)
SIZES M six sizes S-XXL, F six sizes XS-XL
CONTACT www.oceanicuk.com
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