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|Riding This Winter? Consider A Drysuit|
|Friday, 21 January 2011 10:23|
Chance are most serious PWC or wake enthusiasts have a wetsuit or two in the closet, but when the temps really plunge — like this winter — more serious apparel is called for if you hope to still venture out on the water. Yup, I’m talking drysuits, outfits that keep you warm by attempting to completely keep out that cold liquid.
Face it, it’s not the air temperature that keeps you off the water. Outfitted with a heavy wetsuit, you could probably stay comfortable riding well throughout the fall, or depending upon where you live, even winter. It’s the water that takes its toll, seeping in through the seams to cool your core temperature, or unceremoniously dousing you after an unexpected fall. Once it makes its way inside your cocoon of dry warmth, the chills aren’t far behind, and a comfortable, safe day of riding quickly draws to an end.
When your season reaches this point in time, there’s no real solution to keep you out enjoying your PWC than a drysuit — a protective layer that keeps the water out, and the warmth and dryness in.
What makes a drysuit different is the use of completely waterproof fabrics and seams in the main portions of the suit, and watertight seals at the extremities, including the neck, wrists and ankles. Thanks to a drysuit’s completely sealed construction, water is never a factor; instead, the wearer stays warm and dry inside its protective walls. For those exceptionally cold days, the drysuit wearer can even throw on the layers underneath, complementing the tighter styles with thermal underwear, or even adding a fleece jacket or sweatshirt to styles that feature a baggier torso. Rather than expend energy warming a thin layer of water — as it would in a wetsuit — your body is able to conserve that energy for the task at hand.
Think of it like snowboarding in jeans vs. Gore Tex on a wet, snowy day. Both materials cover your body, but the better gear keeps you out enjoying your sport as long as you desire, rather than heading back to the lodge for frequent warm-ups.
How do you choose a style of drysuit? That might just come down to what styles you can find. While there was a day when PWC wetsuit makers like Slippery and Jet Pilot routinely featured drysuits amongst their selection of riding gear, today most drysuit offerings can only be found in mail order catalogs like Overtons, Barts, or Ski Limited, or if you’re lucky, your PWC manufacturer’s accessory line. Styles tend to fall into either the classic “baggy” or “tight” designs. The baggy suits may feel a little bulky at first, but their extra roominess allows a lot of space to add warm clothing underneath. They’re great for layering, and the best choice for extreme cold. Tighter styles typically retain the formfitting feel of a wetsuit in the lower body, with a baggier design in the torso.
Try on both styles if possible, or select which one you think best fits your style of cold-weather riding. Size can be critical to a suit’s performance, as the watertight seals must fit snugly to prevent water intrusion, but not so tight that they restrict circulation. While you’re shopping, don’t forget a few items that will tie it all together, like neoprene or latex socks and gloves, or even a neoprene hood.
Once you’ve added that drysuit to your arsenal of riding apparel, treat it carefully. As you might expect, allowing water to enter the suit kind of defeats the whole purpose. Use extra caution around docks, trailers, and anywhere else you might happen to snag your suit on a sharp edge or corner. Like a wetsuit, manufacturers also suggest hanging the suit at the end of the day, rather than simply tossing it in the car, or throwing it atop a heap of other gear in your garage.
Most styles of drysuits also feature what’s known as a “dry” zipper, a handy feature that allows easy access in and out of the suit, but unlike an average zipper, keeps water out as well. These zippers need to be treated frequently with a special lubricant (available through catalogs or local dive shops) to keep them working properly. Most suit’s watertight neck, wrist, and ankle gaskets also need special conditioning products to keep them flexible, and prevent the rubber from drying out over time. Check your individual suit’s directions, and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to get the longest life out of your investment.