Tag Archives: cold-water

5 Simple tricks for cold water diving

This post was submitted by Luca Malaguti. Luca dove with a 3 mm suit in the cold water of the Pacific for the longest time. In this article he shares some tricks to stay warm.

The Canadian Pacific Northwest is a stunning place for scuba diving, freediving or snorkeling. It offers some of the cleanest waters in the world, fantastic underwater landscapes and unbelievable marine wildlife. The only issue for many people that wish to take part in these activities around Vancouver, the Gulf Islands or Victoria, is that for most of the year the water is quite cold.In the summertime, the Howe Sound can have surface water temperatures that range between 14 to 20 degrees Celsius. However, it’s always cold below the thermocline.

Continue reading 5 Simple tricks for cold water diving

Freediving training during the winter

Daylight savings in British Columbia starts in early November. The days are now too short to get out in the ocean in the late afternoon. The angle of incidence of the light ensures that most light is reflected off the water surface, rather than penetrating to the depths. The water temperature has steadily dropped over the past few months. As if those two things are not bad enough, the weather does not usually cooperate with diving plans either.

Winter is a wonderful season to repair gear, but you also want to stay in condition. Pool training is a great way to do this. If you have a thick wetsuit, you can still do an ocean dive if the weather cooperates. You will unfortunately be limited to midday because there is so little light in winter.

Cross training for freediving

If you don’t manage to do any wet training you can stay in condition during the winter time with cross training exercises. For me personally, static performance does not appear to decrease much even if I don’t practice it. My CO2 tolerance drops dramatically however, and this is also the limiting factor on my ocean dives. One of my favourite cross training exercises is about 30 minutes on the upright bike. The first 10 minutes I crank up my heart rate to about 100. After that I do a series of breathholds while cycling slowly keeping my power output steady. It’s great for CO2 training. Make sure to do a cooldown exercise for your legs afterwards. (They will accumulate a lot of lactic acid and hence get sore and tired edit 11/11: the idea that lactic acid is responsible for muscle soreness is a persistent myth, see the links submitted by Cesar L. in the comments below). If you have an oximeter or if the bike has a heart rate monitor, keep an eye on it and log your stats. I don’t suggest you do this on an actual bike outside, biking in traffic and holding your breath is not a good idea for obvious reasons.

Freediving training in winter
A spinning bike in the gym. Another good machine to use is the upright bike, which has a backrest

Adjust your diving style

Diving in winter time is different from summertime dives. The sun will not warm you up during your breatheups anymore, so that you will get cold even at the surface. If you want to do 3 min breatheups in total stillness you won’t be diving for very long, even in a 6 mm+ suit. With a more active style of diving your muscles will generate more heat but you won’t dive as long or deep.

Freediving training in winter
No wetsuit required here

I sure do miss the tropics sometimes. What do you do to keep in shape in winter?

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Eiland 4 Vinkeveen

This dive site was submitted by @JVDW80.

Zandeiland 4, Baambrugse Zuwe, Vinkeveen
Segregated diving area (165 x 100m)
Clear water 5-10m visibility (as long as you stay off the bottom)
Often pikes/perch etc. can be seen here
Multiple objects like an underwater forest, platforms, sunken boats and a bus (6-14m deep)
Deepest point (edge of the perimeter) 18m
Most suitable for recreational freediving/line diving

Address: Baambrugse Zuwe 141I, 3645 AE Vinkeveen, Netherlands

 

Challenges of cold-water freediving

The waters around Vancouver can be as warm as 20+ degrees Celsius. Unfortunately it is only the top five to ten meters of water that are this warm. Below that surface layer, which only exists in summer, it is a balmy 5 – 8 degrees Celsius (that’s about 40 degrees Fahrenheit). In other places in BC, there is no warm surface layer. BC properly qualifies as cold-water freediving. Because of the cold, BC divers are usually not in the water for more than 50 minutes in the winter, or two hours in the summer.

One of my first dives was at Porteau Cove with @toddkabaluk. I think this was in early February, 2014 (write up here). We were in the water for about 50 minutes. Tkaba was rocking the cold with a 3 mm suit and an extra 3 mm vest and I was in my old surf suit 9 mm on the core, 4.5 on the limbs). When we got out of the water we drove back to Vancouver with the heater in the car blasting. I spent the rest of the day having dinner sized meals in between naps. I don’t think I have ever eaten more in a single day apart from maybe the day after one of my 20 hour orienteering races. The cold is a force to reckon with.

Countering the cold with proper freediving gear

There are a few ways to manage the cold, but all solutions of course are temporary. The first thing to do is to make sure you are using an adequate wetsuit, at least 5 mm in winter, including warm booties and gloves (or mittens). Divers who want to have one suit to dive in year-round will often choose a 5 mm wetsuit. These can be bought with waist high pants or long john pants. The benefit of a long john is that you get twice the thickness on your chest and back and you can keep your core warmer that way. If you are not that good with cold or you want to maximize your winter dive-time you can get wetsuits as thick as 7.5 mm. I wear a 5 mm suit with waist high pants, and a 3 mm sleeveless vest underneath.

Keep in mind that every extra bit of neoprene you wear will be balanced with extra weights. If you are a natural floater, you are going to have a lot of weight on you if you are in a 7.5 mm suit. Remember also, that the suit compresses at depth and becomes negatively buoyant. If you are diving with a thick suit and a lot of weight you have to work hard to come back to the surface. Always be careful and mindful when diving with new gear.

There’s a freediving fin for every season

I used a pair of plastic cressi gara 3000 fins until a few months ago. Because I am a natural sinker and I have heavy legs, I always kicked. When I switched to an Orca Dol-Fin I found out that that kicking kept me warm. The Orca Dol-fin I use was originally owned by Eric Fattah (see his review on the Orca here) and he added 2 pounds of incompressible buoyancy to the fin. My bottom time with the Dol-Fin is longer, and my dives are more relaxed, but my total dive-time has decreased because I get cold faster. If I want to do shallower dives and stay in the water longer, I have to resort to my plastic flaps. Line-diving and depth training is a no-go in winter.

What to eat before freediving

Food and freediving is tricky. When you are in very cold water your basal metabolic rate needs to go up so that you can produce extra heat. What better way to burn off energy than burning sugars? They are easy to replenish (Gatorade or any other type of sugary drink will do) and easy to burn (they are dissolved in your blood stream instantly). There is of course a downside to this too. Digestion requires oxygen, and if you normally on a low sugar diet you will get a sugar high that will make it harder to dive.

I like diving on an empty stomach best. I usually do not eat before freediving in summer, but if I don’t have any energy readily available in winter I’ll be cold as soon as I get in the water. What is the right thing to do? Freeze, dive with a (half-) full gut, or keep a bottle of Gatorade in the dive float?

Other tips for keeping warm that I have heard but not tried:

  • Stuffing your wetsuit with heating pads
  • Keeping your wetsuit in an eski with warm water before diving (at the very least it helps being warm right at the start of your dive!)
  • Keeping warm weak tea in your float