Cold Water Readiness

A lot of people who dive learn in warm water or stick to it once they experience it.  Personally, I learned how to dive in a dark, cold and mostly lifeless lake in Alberta, so just about anything is a step up!  This is just a short post, but here are some tips for people not used to the shock and awe of cold water diving:

  • It’s cold.  Diving off the coast in British Columbia, you’re looking at 7˚C in the winter and 10˚C in the summer on average.  Remember that you lose heat very quickly in water and if you’re not acclimatized, it’ll seem worse than it is.  Farmer John style 7mm wetsuits and 5mm+ boots, hoods and gloves are your most economical way to stay warm, but a Semi-Drysuit or Drysuit will ultimately make your dives more comfortable.  Drysuits may require special training and/or practice, so be careful.
  • Warming up between dives (especially for an unrepentant wetsuit diver like me) can be key, particularly if you’re diving in overcast or winter conditions.  Doing multiple cold water dives in a single day can drop your temperature to, even if it’s sunny and warm out.  Now, as much as a plunge into a hot tub, hot bath or so on might feel, it may also be bad for you as it may increase the speed of nitrogen being released from your body.  Try to wait till the end of the day for that sort of thing.  A warm drink and warm shower will do wonders if they’re available.  A toque on between dives is also invaluable, as you lose a lot of heat through your head.
  • Hydration and energy are two serious concerns for repeated cold water dives, more so than in warm water dives I’ve found.  The reason is simple: your body is burning through more calories and energy keeping you warm while you dive.  To counter ill effects, stay hydrated and eat something small between dives.  I prefer a Snickers bar and a gatorade myself.  Avoid the following pitfall though: do not depend on sports drinks for hydration over the long term.  Generally a good ratio is 1:3 sports drink bottle to water bottles.
  • Length of the dive is more than air dependent in cold water.  Hypothermia and fatigue are very real dangers, so if you’re feeling sluggish or too cold, don’t be afraid to call it quits on a dive.

This is just a short entry today, covering some of my observances as a cold water diver.  Until the next article, stay safe and good diving!

About the author

Graeme is a professional diver, qualified as a PADI and SDI Divemaster, DCBC 40m Unrestricted Commercial Scuba Diver, 30m Restricted Surface Supply diver, and CAUS Scientific Diver Lv.2. Graeme has an Associate Degree of Arts in Environmental Studies, where he focused on archaeology and physical geography, and an Advanced GIS certificate.