Although we are in the Caribbean and we all dream of its beautiful clear and warm water, you still need the appropriate exposure protection. It is just really not fun getting cold when diving. Some people will feel the cold more than others, it is different for everyone. However, to often we get people saying that a shorty will be more than adequate for our 2-tank morning dive. Only to find them shivering during the surface interval, not too excited about having to get back in the water, just because they are cold.
Water temperature in the British Virgin Islands ranges and can get as hot as 86 degrees in the summer months. September is normally the months that sees the warmest ocean temperature. The cooler temperatures are seen in April, where normally the ocean drops to about 78 degrees. We have however seen temperatures as low as 75 degrees. We agree, 75 degrees is nice and warm, in the air. However, same as sitting in a warm bath, after about 30 minutes you start to acclimatize and loose body heat. Being used to spending a lot of time in the water, has definitely turned us dive professionals into big wimps. Just ask Kay how thick her wetsuits are, yes, wetsuits, not wetsuit!
If you know you don’t really feel the cold, you will probably be fine diving just in your board-short or bikini. Maybe just wearing a rash guard or water top to prevent the BCD rubbing on your skin will be sufficient. Especially when the water is at its warmest, you may even see our guides in nothing but their shorts and a rash guard.
As the water starts to cool down you will probably still be warm enough with just a 3mm short wetsuit or shorty. 3mm stands for the thickness of the wetsuit. The thicker the suit, the warmer it will be. To give you an idea a rash guard or water shirt is about 0.5mm thick. A shorty generally has short legs and arms, as if you were wearing shorts and a t-shirt but out of one piece and thicker.
However, if you know you feel the cold, then just step it up a notch and go ahead and wear one of our 3mm long wetsuits. Having long arms and legs just gives you that extra little bit of material to keep you warmer. Generally skinny people and younger kids we strongly recommend just to go ahead and take a long wetsuits. Lets be honest, you are not likely to be too hot under the water are you? In the colder months we even ramp it up and suggest putting a short wetsuit over the top of the long one.
The most important thing when doing multiple dives in a day,like on our 2-tank morning dive, is to make sure you warm up in between dives. Get out of the wind and in the sun as much as you can handle to warm up and get your core temperature back up. If you are wearing a wet wetsuit, take the top off and wear it half way. If you can through a towel over your shoulders or put a wind breaker or hoodie on. If you can, have a dry second layer ready; wear the long wetsuit on the first dive. When you come up, take it half way and put a dry rash guard on. This will warm you up faster and it will add a layer of warmth for the second dive.
Lastly, keep in mind that you loose heat through your head as well. Wearing a hooded vest or just a neoprene cap will also help with keeping warm.
If you know you get cold quickly it may be worth investing in your own wetsuit. Keep in mind that a lot of dive shops in the Caribbean and even the BVI only offer short wetsuits. Find out what thickness works for you. Our dive instructor Kay is the biggest wimp among us when it comes to cold. In the warmer months she dives with a 3mm long wetsuits. As it starts to cool down she will add a 1.5mm top underneath that to start building up the wetsuit thickness. As the cooling continues she will switch to a 5mm wetsuit. At the coldest time she will end up wearing a 1.5mm top and a 5mm wetsuit. She is not ashamed, instead she is nice and toasty and can enjoy her dives to the last minute.
You don’t have to try to impress us, we already know you are amazing, you are diving!
Take your dive professionals advise, we just want you to have an amazing dive.