Can I Really Cold Water Dive Comfortably?

Cold water diving often sends new divers or warm water divers running for the hills and screaming along the way.

The truth is that cold water diving is every bit as enjoyable as warm water diving, you just need the right scuba equipment and the right training.

Some of the best preserved shipwrecks in the world exist in cold waters, not to mention the amazing marine life that you will come across, such as the Grey Seals at Lundy or the Farnes.

Transitioning to cold water diving can be a challenging but highly manageable.

Here 6 tips for warm-water divers considering cold water diving. (Experienced cold water divers: Some of this may seem obvious, feel free to snicker.)

1. Cold Water Diving Requires Additional Weight:

Divers use thicker, more buoyant wetsuits (or drysuits) in cold water, which requires the use of more weight. This is obvious, and most cold water dive centers will assist divers in selecting the appropriate amount of weight for thick exposure protection.

2. Gearing Up for Cold Water Diving:

Plan ahead. Once a diver is wearing his gloves, it becomes very difficult to make small adjustments such as tucking mask skirt under the hood. On my first dive, I looked like a bit of an idiot when I put on all my gear but my mask, hobbled over to the entry platform, and then had to ask the divemaster to tuck my mask skirt into my hood because I waited to put my mask on until the last moment and couldn’t get the skirt under the hood with my gloves on.

3. Be Prepared for the Initial Cold Water Shock:

Divers transitioning to cold water diver should be prepared for the short initial, shock of entering cold water. For the first few moments in the cold water, a diver may feel that he cannot breathe easily. This is a physiological reaction known as the Mammalian Diving Reflex, and it is perfectly normal when a person’s head is submerged in cold water. It will pass. I managed my reaction to the cold by floating on the surface with my face in the water until I could control my breathing and felt comfortable. After about twenty seconds I felt great, and was ready to start my dive.

4. If a Diver Feels Cold, His Air Consumption Rate Will Increase:

When a diver’s body becomes cold, he will burn more calories to keep warm (no more fad diets for you!). He will use more oxygen and his breathing rate will increase. If the diver becomes very cold, he will shiver and his air consumption will increase more from the extra work of shivering. Thicker wetsuits and drysuits, as well as the extra weight necessary to compensate for this thicker exposure protection, will increase a diver’s drag, and thus his air consumption rate. I used a thick wetsuit for my dives, a noticed an increase in my air consumption rate as I became chilled near the end of the dives.

What is the solution to this problem? Wear proper exposure protection! 

5. Use Regulators Appropriate for Cold Water:

Most dive shops servicing cold water diving destinations rent or sell regulators appropriate for cold water diving. It is vital to use a regulator approved for cold water diving, as the first stage of a a non-cold water regulator may “freeze” due to normal cooling from gas expansion combined with chilly water, causing a free flow. Divers should also be sure to review standard protocols to avoid causing a regulator free flow, even when diving with cold water regulators.

6. Mask Clearing in Cold Water – Be Prepared:

Most divers find that the shock of cold water on the face makes exhaling to clear a mask difficult in cold water. This reaction can be overcome with practice, but divers must experience the cold water shock a few times before they learn clear their masks easily. It’s not hard, but practicing mask clearing in cold water is essential to being safe on cold water dives.
With proper preparation and gear, a diver shouldn’t be cold – even in cold water. When it is done correctly, cold water diving should be just as comfortable as warm water diving, and equally as enjoyable.

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