I am starting a new feature on our website, where I give special recognition to the “Suit of The Month”. There will be a little information about what makes this suit unique, and hopefully it will inspire you to think about how you might like your suit to be improved, or what features you’d like in a future Terrapin Custom Wetsuit.
Our inaugural Suit of The Month belongs to Gary M. of New Mexico. Gary is an adaptive diver, paralyzed from the waist down, so we made several modifications to an AquaLung “off the rack” suit to accomodate his special needs.
First, we took some width out of the thigh area. For many folks with spinal cord injury, the paralyzed limbs loose muscle tone and muscle volume. By removing excess material, we can reduce the volume of water inside the wetsuit, and also reduce heat loss due to circulating water inside the suit.
Second, we added two 18” zippers on the front of each thigh, down to the kneecaps. This will allow Gary to more easily adjust how the wetsuit is distributed over the lower half of his body. Some adaptive divers need access to catheter tubes and bags. Others need to be able to insert, attach, or change a prosthetic leg. Having zippers in the front of the thighs affords easy access to the inside of the suit, that can be closed up when not needed. At Terrapin, I put zippers on the outside of the suit, then slit the neoprene underneath the zipper, so the zipper slider is not in contact with the skin. The narrow flaps of neoprene underneath the zipper help fill the gap and reduce water flow through the zipper teeth, and also help keep hair or swimwear from getting caught in the zipper.
Third, a 5mm neoprene pad with Kevlar laminated to the outside was added to the seat area on the back of the suit. Many adaptive divers (without prosthetic legs) spend more time on their bum, than walking divers do. This can quickly wear out the seat of the wetsuit. I’ve fould Kevlar laminate can withstand a lot of abraision, and not show the wear. Also, the extra thickness of neoprene provides some extra cushioning for bony-bottomed divers, or those who might not be aware they’ve sat on something sharp, due to reduced feeling in that area.
So… I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief feature story about a suit that’s been adapted for an adaptive diver. And I hope it inspires you to think ahead to your next dive trip in plenty of time to adapt your wetsuit to better serve your needs. Wishing you warm and happy diving….Chris Summers