REMEMBER THOSE DIVE-SKINS so beloved of the seriously overweight gentlemen with whom you might cross paths in the Caribbean By “overweight”, I don’t mean that they have too much lead on their belts either!
Dive-skins have their place. It’s just that if you are Mr Potato Man, the feeling of getting overheated in a conventional neoprene wetsuit must be balanced against the sensibilities of those aesthetes forced to view your appearance.
I bore this in mind when it was suggested that I trial a Sharkskin suit sent from Australia.
I felt it might have been some form of cruel joke with me as the butt of it, “butt” being the operative word.
The Sharkskin is very much like a Lycra dive-skin, but with a fleecy Polartec lining. I was promised that it would keep me warm and comfortable in the tropical water in which I expected to be diving, but that it had totally neutral buoyancy characteristics, so that I wouldn’t need to carry any lead.
I’m told that it’s equivalent to 2mm of neoprene, although that’s hard for me to verify.
I’ve recently had trouble with the sizing of wetsuits. The XL size that used to fit me reliably seems nowadays to be intended for extra-large Chinese men who may be quite small. The Sharkskin suit is made not in China but Australia, or so its label proudly leads one to believe, and I climbed into it easily.
In fact I had problems knowing what to do with the swathe of material provided in the area of the liver. I suppose I needed to go on a diet of Fosters, Castlemaine or some such lager before I was ready to fit it properly.
Not wishing to be seen camping it up in the pages of DIVER, I recently requested that the Editor give me leave to take a bodacious babe along with me on dive trips for the purposes of modelling in front of the camera.
He laughed. I suppose it’s too much of an impediment in these straitened financial times, even though I’d offered to save money by sharing the accommodation.
So here once again you see me exposing the details of a body that is morphing into a bag of spanners. Well, if I can look OK in it, think what it will do for you!

For UK Diving
Even if you don’t do that many tropical diving trips, you can still get plenty of use out of this Sharkskin suit.
As its insulation comes from a layer of Polartec, it can be successfully used as an insulating undersuit with a drysuit.
I suggest that it might be perfect for use on those winter dives in the northern Red Sea when the wind whistles across the dive deck, and you’re glad that you can climb out dry from your membrane drysuit.
It also does well as an impromptu snorkelling suit for times when you might want to venture out in British waters in summer, but stay close to the surface. There are also all those surface water sports to consider, of course.

In The Water
The Sharkskin suit has a rear zip that lies diagonally across the back. I guess this makes it easier to pull the zip closed on its drawstring, and I never had to ask for help with closing it, as I usually do.
In the water it kept me as warm as a very thin conventional wetsuit, but I wouldn’t have wanted to strap a weightbelt to myself, and was glad I was using a BC with integrated weights.
It might have been neutrally buoyant for snorkelling but my other assorted dive kit obviously needed weighting down, and I needed to add a couple of kilos.
Once out of the water, I felt a bit chilled during long boat-rides home, and preferred to climb out of the Sharkskin suit, get dried off and dressed.
It is certainly less revealing of human frailties than the conventional Lycra dive-skin, and obviously it’s a lot easier to get in and out of than a close-fitting neoprene wetsuit.
Just check for approval from your partner before going out dressed in one!

Oceanic Lavacore, £135

PRICE £250
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