Custom Wetsuit Alterations for Disabled

Fitting instructions for Adaptive Divers

Terrapin Wet Suits owner, Chris Summers, is expert at altering wetsuits for handicapped or adaptive divers.  Here are instructions on how to mark your suit for alterations:

  1. You’ll need a friend to help with this… there’s just no way to mark it yourself.  If you’re starting with a pre-manufactured suit, we’ll try to make all alterations along pre-existing seams. For divers with spinal cord injuries, we recommend doing this process with the diver laying on the floor, rather than in their chair.  Put the suit on over your bathing suit. If there are zippers on the arms and legs, leave them open for now.  Close the torso zipper(s) and identify where the suit may be too loose.  If it’s loose through the torso, look at the armpits and decide if the majority of the looseness is in front of the arm or behind it.
  2. Based on whether most of the looseness is in the front or back, go to that side of the wetsuit.  This may mean the diver needs to lay on his/her stomach so you can work on the backside of the suit. Starting near the waist, gather up the excess material by pinching the vertical seams on that side of the torso, or the seams down the sides of the body.  Pinch both of the seams (left and right side, using left and right hand, respectively), distributing the excess material evenly between left and right.  You should be able to pull the wetsuit away from your friend’s body by only about ½ inch.  Any more than that should be marked for removal.
  3. Keep the grip on the excess wetsuit material with one hand and let the other side go.  Use the free hand to take up the yellow crayon to mark a ½”- 1” long vertical line right next to the outside of the thumb and forefinger holding the excess wetsuit material.
  4. Continue to repeat steps (2 – 3) moving along the torso seam until there is no excess material.  If the sleeve is loose, pinch together the excess material along the seam on the underside of the sleeve and mark it as in step (3).  Be sure to do both arms, and check all the way from to the armpits to the wrists.
  5. Once you’ve marked along one of the vertical seams, do the same for the other seam on the same side of the body (back left and back right, for example).  When you’re done, you should see two pair of dotted lines that surround the two seams on the same side of the suit.  The pair should be roughly the same width on either side of the seam, and the width of the space between one pair should be roughly the same as the space between the other pair of dotted lines.
  6. Be sure that the pair of dotted lines taper out to a point at the top and bottom of the areas of excess material, so that the seams can come together again smoothly.
  7. Now check the sleeve length.  The sleeves should stop at the wrist and not interfere with the wearer being able to bend his/her hand back.  If the sleeves are too long, fold them up at the wrist and mark a line along the fold on the reverse side of the material.  If there are zippers, close them to the fold, but leave them open below that.  After marking the inside, let the folded edge flop back down and mark the crease on the outside of the suit.  Be sure to do both arms.  If the diver has an arm amputation, use the same marking technique to pinch together the excess material around the lower end of the limb.
  8. Custom Wetsuit TailorIf the diver has a leg amputation, use the same marking technique to pinch together the excess material around the lower end of the limb.  If the limb end is atrophied and much thinner than the other leg, a small weight pocket can be added to the suit, for a 1-pound soft weight to help keep the diver trim in the water.  Add a note when you ship the suit if you want that. A zipper on the thigh can also be added so that the diver can open the wetsuit to relieve him/her self while diving, or to insert the end of an artificial leg without taking the suit off. This helps the diver get to the entry point of the dive, where they can leave the artificial limb behind. (see photo)
  9. Zippers can be added to the legs and arms of the suit to make it easier to get on.  Zippers are available in even length increments from 8″ to 24″ and custom lengths up to 60″.  For divers with amputations, we can put long zippers in the full-length leg and arm of the suit, to make it easier to get on. Or we can enclose the stump end of the suit, and put in a zipper so you can more easily change between a swim prosthetic and a walking prosthetic.Most “off-the-rack” suits have a back zipper.  A front zipper can be added to a back-zip suit, so that the suit opens widely and is easier to don and doff. The added front zipper can also have a second slider, so the zipper can be opened to flush urine out of the suit (hey… we all do it!)
  10. Pockets can be added to the suit, either to hold trim weights or to support colostomy bags.  If you’d like one or more pockets, use the crayon to mark the outline of where you’d like the pocket placed.
  11. Take a photo of the wetsuit on the person, capturing the areas that are the loosest, or fit poorly.  Take a few notes and make a list of all the places where alterations are needed.

When the markings and photo are finished, pack it all up and ship it to Chris Summers, Terrapin Wetsuits, 6515  State Hwy 27, Center Point, TX  78010. Fold the suit carefully, to avoid causing any unnecessary creasing.