A drysuit order form - this one is from OThree.



WITH THE MAIN UK DIVING SEASON OVER and the Dive Show coming up, divers have time to think about new kit, and in many cases about a new drysuit.
It may not be needed until next season but you want to get the order in early. Or perhaps the need is more urgent; that old suit is just a little bit too ragged and damp to allow you to carry on diving through the winter.
If you have already made all the decisions, buying a suit straight from the manufacturer at the Dive Show is easy. There will be an expert on hand to measure you up and put the ends of the tape measure in all the right positions.
On the other hand, many divers will take the forms away and ponder over which suit to buy, measuring themselves later at home or, to be more accurate, getting somebody else to measure them - which is something that all manufacturers strongly recommend.
I have been asking some of them about the whole business of DIY measuring. RoHo (Robin Hood Watersports) and Otter (Divers Warehouse) make 40-50% of their suits to divers home measurements.
On the other hand, OThree makes only 10% of its suits to divers home measurements. Other customers are measured up by dealers.

TO THE UNINITIATED, the measurement form for a drysuit can be a bit daunting.
The usual measurements such as waist, leg, hips, chest and height are present, but there are so many others.
Depending on the manufacturer and style of suit, between 20 and 30 measurements are needed to ensure that a made-to-measure drysuit fits you perfectly.
You cant rely on the figures you would use when buying clothes, because all our manufacturers require measurements not against your skin but over light clothes; T-shirt or sweatshirt and jeans or tracksuit bottoms. Last time I was measured up, I was shocked at how large my waist was when measured over jeans and sweatshirt!
Manufacturers then make allowance for the undersuit youre planning to wear, to allow room for movement. For example, if your suit was made at exactly the same length as you, it would be impossible to sit down in it. Depending on the material and undersuit, it has to be long enough to allow the knees and back to bend to a seated position. And with more and more divers using twin-sets and isolation manifolds, the shoulders and arms need to flex enough to allow a shutdown drill to be completed.

SO WHICH MEASUREMENTS cause the most trouble, and what can you do to get them right Sally Findlow from RoHo has no hesitation in letting me know that: The body hoop is the measurement that is most frequently done incorrectly.
The body hoop is the measurement that starts at the hollow at the front of the neck, goes under the crotch seam and up the back to the base of the neck. Its one of the key measurements that controls the size of the body of a drysuit.
John Womack Snr of Otter agrees, with the advice to imagine you are wearing a dog collar round your neck, and to take this measurement from the base of the collar.
Be sure to pull your jeans up tight into your crotch, or the measurement will be too long.
Sean Webb from OThree adds that any long measurement has potential for error. In addition to the body hoop, he notes that inside leg, base of neck to wrist, and underarm to ankle are the tricky ones.
If you get a measurement wrong, there is a good chance that our suit manufacturers will be able to detect and even correct it.
Our bodies follow patterns that govern the proportions of measurements, and from experience they can see if a measurement is wildly wrong.
On the measurement forms there is even some redundancy in measurements such as the body hoop, which should be the sum of the neck to crotch (front) and neck to crotch (back) measurements.
Over the years you get to understand peoples body shapes, says Sean Webb. With as little as two-thirds of the measurements we can build a fairly accurate picture of somebodys size.
We use this to ascertain whether measurements look accurate.
Sally from RoHo provides a simple example: Someone who is over 6ft tall will not have a 27in inside leg. We have a fail-safe of measuring both inside leg to ankle and inside leg to floor.

IT ISNT ONLY MEASURING MISTAKES that can cause problems with suit fit. Our experts are used to detecting an element of vanity. Men tend to flex their biceps and puff out their chests, so their suit would be too big, says John Womack.
A suit that is too big will be baggy and suffer from excessive air migration in the water. But a suit that is too small will be more of a problem. Most of us are proportional. If the waist is cut too small, youll never get your arse into the suit, says Sean. Ladies are the most guilty of this. There seems to be a paranoid fixation with dress size. Forget about the dress numbers, ladies - if it measures, then it measures.
John from Otter puts in some numbers: They say dress size 10 to 12, but their weight is 11.5 stone, not 9.5 stone. If we followed the claimed dress size, the suit would be too small.
All three manufacturers offer a guaranteed fit, so if there are any questions over measurements they will contact a customer to check. OThree even likes them to come for a fitting before completion.
All three of our experts still use paper and card patterns for made-to-measure suits. We have looked at the latest machines, but you still need the skilled cutter to look over the sizes and adjust the pattern, says John Womack.
Once the measurements are in, the lead-time to complete a suit is anything from two to 12 weeks, with the greatest lag in the run-up to Easter at the start of the season and at the two Dive Shows. Actual manufacturing time is three to four days.
With a whole factory full of diving suits from which to choose, which suits do our experts use for diving
OThree makes neoprene suits from a super-flexible 2.5mm thickness and upwards. The MSF Flex 500tb (5mm thickness) has been the suit Ive been diving in for years, says Sean. I dont like to wear a bulky undersuit, so this suit covers most if not all options that are important to me and the diving that I do.
RoHo and Otter ranges include both neoprene and membrane suits. I have dived in all our suits when developing them, says John Womack from Otter. I think the Britannic Superskin would have to be my favourite, followed by the neoprene front-loaded Extreme.
With no zip in the back, it gives me more flexibility across the shoulders, and
I can get in and out of the suit myself.
What about Otters customers We sell eight or nine membrane suits for each neoprene, says John. Commercial divers still like the neoprene suits.
It is not only mine and my staffs preference to dive in a membrane suit, but that of the vast majority of customers, says Sally Findlow from RoHo. I like to be able to slip off the drysuit and be warm and dry in an undersuit between dives. They are also lighter for overseas travel.

HAVING OBTAINED A PERFECT SET of measurements, there are still occasionally things that dont go to plan. When the Atkins diet was all the rage, one customer lost more than 20kg in the two months that he waited for his suit, but neglected to tell us, says Sean. Needless to say, it wasnt the best fitting suit at the first attempt.
John Womack hints at drysuit voodoo. Drysuits are not an exact science. Occasionally we have a customer who is getting wet. We replace all the seals and pressure-check the suit, but the customer still gets wet.
So we make a new suit exactly the same and the customer is dry and happy. We then sell the old suit and the customer who buys it is dry too, but we have done nothing, says John. I dont know why!

John
John Womack Snr of Otter demonstrates the key
to
to the base of the neck at the back
and
and around the bust
Tapemeister
Tapemeister Sean Webb of OThree measures the waist
underarm
underarm to ankle - the top of the tape has to be right in the armpit
base
base of neck to wrist is measured with arms relaxed
Sally
Sally Findlow from RoHo at work - inside leg is measured both to ankle and to floor
upper
upper arm
and
and waist measurements