Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Freedivers Aqua Glide Chicle Wetsuit Top

At a Glance: During late winter last year while picking up stock from Freedivers Shane showed me his Aqua Glide Chicle wetsuit hooded jacket. I had seen guys using them and had always wondered what the attraction was.

The neoprene that suit is made from is ultra soft and stretchy5.5mm Yamamoto Chicle neoprene, which has no nylon material on the outside. It is smooth and is designed to dry quickly in the wind making it ideal for boat diving.
I could see how the suit would be warm and comfortable. But warning bells went of on the durability of the suit. Shane however convinced me to try one ......

First Impressions: Being a very fussy person I did not think the guys at Freedivers would get the wetsuit right first time. But to my surprise the hooded jacket was so snug and comfortable, molding to my body perfectly. I was again surprised at how maneuverable I was even more than a standard double nylon 3mm suit and this was 5.5mm of neoprene!
Shane ran through how to care for the suit and I was on my way.

I cant really remember the first dive in the Aqua Glide top, but I do remember being so snug and commenting to my mate that it was like waring a warm jersey. It was so good, I cant remember diving in anything else until late November

The Testa: Over a couple months of seriously hard diving, mostly shore entry chicle neoprene wetsuit top was starting to prove its self. On the comfort and warmth side there is nothing you can say against the suit, all the glued seams were holding and did not show any sign of failing.
I had started to collect some nicks on the back from carrying fish along the beach and my spear had made a small tear on my arm. All of these were cosmetic and the small tear fixed with some wetsuit glue.

But one Saturday morning in late November I tore the suit. The sea had warmed up considerably and the day turned into a stinker. The Cuta had turned on and I pushed a long dive to the point of exhaustion. Getting back to the beach some 2km from the car and a hand full of cuta on the stringer, I decided to take the top off and not bake in the already overbearing heat.
Not thinking I tried to take the suit off as per usual and tore open the back. While sorting all my kit out on the beach the suit had dried stopping it from sliding on itself. Usually I wet myself down and fold the bottom up and full it with water, then there is no problem.

The suit was fixed, and have had no problems since. I suppose that could be the up side of stichless suits is that a little bit of glue can fix anything. (I would take it to Shane to fix they will do a better job and have some glue that is amazing, way better than the off the shelf stuff.)

Overall Impression: The Aqua Glide suit for me is the next step up in wetsuits. Remember when you first started diving in an open cell suit, and you felt so comfortable and warm vowing never to go back to a double nylon suit? Well diving in this suit is much like that, not that I would never dive in my standard open cell suit again - because of practical reasons. Its just that I wish I could dive in it all the time.

The Chicle neoprene suit has a specific purpose, and like any specialist piece of equipment if you use it in the wrong application you will land up abusing it and it will not last. Crayfishing is one of those areas, you cant go wedging yourself in a barnacle infested crack to pull some buggs and expect to come out unscathed!

If you do allot of boat diving, or don't really catch crayfish this is maybe an option. I feel the cold real easy, I even get cold in summer! And this suit has been fantastic in terms of warmth.

  • Super comfortable
  • Probably the warmest suit you can get.
  • Excellent for boat diving, as the it drys quickly and does not chill in the wind while traveling. So you don't need to take a windbreaker anymore.
  • Made locally - previous chicle suits were all imported with little or no backup service.
  • Not a 'tough' suit (keep in mind its purpose)
  • You need to look after it
  • Use loads of lubrication when taking on and off. This (for some) is a mission but worth it. Conditioner works better than shampoo, and aqueous cream is also good. I sometimes use a mix half aqueous cream and conditioner.
  • Dry the suit inside out, and out of direct sunlight. My suit started to grow moldy from never drying properly ...... might have been because I was diving every day.
Interesting Facts:
  • Yamamoto Neoprene is used by Picasso, Elios and other leading wetsuit manufactures.
  • Yamamoto Neoprene is not manufactured from petrol, but from limestone, which contains up to 99.7% of calcium carbonate.
  • Giving The wet suit a more even density of the neoprene (better insulation, better buoyancy, material resistant to compression damage)
  • Higher elasticity similar to that of human skin, thus adding extra comfort.
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