MY WIFE HAD TO ADMIT that she didn’t relish the idea of getting into a drysuit to jump into cold murky water after the luxury of slipping into a wetsuit and jumping off the back of a boat into a warm clear ocean.
Booking on a liveaboard at great expense to dive off the coast of Vancouver Island later this year, she had to bite the bullet and get some practice in a drysuit. Her old one was looking the worse for wear, so first she needed to get a replacement.
She told me about the first time she had wished she was in a drysuit. She was diving off Exeter in the fastest current imaginable. Her club diving instructor was holding her wrist and pulling her with him against the current by digging his dive knife into the sand. She told me she had no idea why, nor cared less. She was freezing cold, and a novice diver in her ’teens.
Since then she has owned many drysuits and dived in all sorts of conditions around Britain. However, the last time she wore one was about 15 years ago.
She tried a few off-the-peg suits but didn’t feel comfortable in any of them. Taking into account her God-given assets, she needed a made-to-measure suit.
I suggested she try an O’Three neoprene suit, so we decided to take the long option and drive down to Portland to get the boys at O’Three to make one that fitted her perfectly. She was somewhat sceptical about how easy the process would be.
The MSF500tb Flex is the company’s mid-range drysuit, mainly constructed from 5mm neoprene laminated with a multi-stretch fibre. Panelling of only 2.5mm thick runs up from the waist and into the biceps and forearms to add increased flexibility of movement.
The suits are very cleverly put together. Mrs B was given a suit to check out the fit for height as opposed to width; body-height specifically.
Now at this point I must add that wearing a drysuit can be a cumbersome business if you’re not used to it. She was about to make the best attempt at getting herself into it when Josh, the O’Three fitter, proceeded to tell her how to do it properly. He gave instructions and she carried them out.
Apart from being zipped up (the MSF500tb Flex has a cross-shoulder BDM dry zip), she ended up needing no assistance at all.
After getting in and out of three different trial suits to get the right initial fit, she had become an expert.
A suit was then marked to match her contours with enough room to spare in case she wanted to wear more than just the PBB two-piece undersuit O’Three suggested. Boot-size sorted, we left with the approximate delivery date in the diary.
The MSF500tb Flex is designed so that it can suit either a woman’s or a man’s shape, and has some attractive colourful darts in the front area of the woman’s version.
The suit arrived on the day promised, although she was slightly daunted when she looked at it and thought she would have to get into it without help. It looked remarkably well-finished on both the inside and outside.

In The Lake
Car packed on a chilly May morning, we drove to the nearby lake for a dive. It appears that the weather has little to do with who goes diving in the UK. The place was busy.
I suggested she put on her undersuit at home for speed and comfort so that she had only the challenge of getting into the drysuit without getting flustered. She was delighted to find that O’Three had supplied a mat on which to stand, a must when getting suited in a car park.
She coated the inner side of the conical neoprene wrist-seals with a little dose of the slippery Jollop that had been supplied, and her hands slipped through easily. She used a little nylon hood to contain her hair and her head soon passed through the neoprene neck-seal after a little effort.
In the space of a few minutes she was being zipped up. She realised why Josh had given her exact instructions and offered no help during the fitting. In fact she said she found the whole process very easy and wasn’t a bit embarrassed as she wriggled into the suit, aware that nobody was impatiently waiting to lend a hand.
We had a successful time in the lake, making lots of repeat ascents and descents of around 7m, so that she was fully reacquainted with the operation of the chest-mounted inflation valve and the shoulder-mounted auto-dump.
Although her wrists stayed dry, we had to rethink how much of the neoprene neck-seal was inverted in on itself to stop water seeping past her throat. Then it was off to Egypt for a week’s diving.

In The Red Sea
I can almost hear you questioning the use of a drysuit in the Red Sea, but without an undergarment, just a thin top and a pair of tights, the neoprene of the suit was enough to keep her warm in the water, yet she didn’t overheat on deck in the brisk north-west wind that prevails for most of the year in that part of the world.
There was plenty of neoprene spare at the neck-seal, and we ended up turning in a good 7-8cm, rather like a reversed polo-neck collar.
We retightened the valves once the suit got some use, so that any slight leaks in those areas were eliminated.
I got hold of some fins with more generous foot-pockets than Mrs B’s regular choice to accommodate the comfortable neoprene boots, which she wore with nothing more than an ordinary pair of nylon socks.
She found that swimming around while wearing the suit was as easy as being in a wetsuit, because it fitted her so well.
The knee-pads were nicely integrated so that there was none of that feeling of being a cricketer walking out to the crease.
Wearing the minimum amount of lead (10kg) in a Bowstone weight harness, with an aluminium cylinder, she never felt that she needed to put any air in her BC, nor did she feel that the air was swilling round inside the suit.
She did close down the auto-dump a little at times when she noticed it releasing air and thought that inappropriate.
A nice touch was the small thigh-mounted pocket that she will use to carry a paperback book for long decompression stops. She was very happy with the suit and now says she’s ready to take on the somewhat colder waters of British Columbia.

Bare XCS2 Tech, £1325
Aqua-Lung Fusion, £1449
Waterproof D10, £999

PRICE From £749, including bag,hose,semi-dry hood,changing mat an maintenance kit.
OUTPUT 290 lumens
DIVER GUIDE width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100%