Buying a wetsuit for spearfishing

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Buying a wetsuit for spearfishing

Postby scorpaenichthys » November 29th, 2017, 9:59 am

As I've been researching custom suits to replace my increasingly compressed Yazbeck, I've realized I know absolutely nothing about what makes a good wetsuit good (other than fit). Since so much of wetsuit selection comes down to personal cold tolerances, comfort, and other preferences, I thought it might be helpful if people share (a) what you look for in a spearfishing wetsuit; (b) why; and (c) whether you think you run hot or cold, or have an excess or deficit of "personal insulation."

Personally, I'd be especially curious to hear if you have any preferences that cut against the grain of what's standard in the spearfishing community (e.g., if you prefer a suit that's lined on the inside vs. split cell, or if you shore dive but swear by a smooth skin suit, or if you ditch a freediving suit altogether in favor of a surf suit or scuba suit).


To kick things off, I'm 6'1" and a muscular 185 with a little extra cushion around my core. I've been spearfishing for about 5 years. I've been diving a 7mm Yazbeck Snyper for the past 3.5 years, in everything from 45 degree north coast waters to San Diego in the summer. I spend most of my time in Monterey Bay, and I shore dive almost exclusively. If I spend 4 hours in the water, it's been a long day. 2-3 hours is pretty normal before I limit or have to be somewhere else. Most of my diving is shallow (~30ft), and because it's all hole hunting, it's a very active type of diving. Up north, I still get cold relatively easy, but it's not unusual for me to overheat in Monterey unless I'm dropping below a particularly nasty thermocline. Between that and the 18 pounds of lead I have to carry to stay neutral at 30ft, I'm considering dropping to a 5mm or 6mm suit next time around. I also hate lubing up my suit in the morning, but I'm not sure I hate it enough to pull the trigger on a lined suit, especially if I'm scaling down in thickness (unlined suits typically flush less, although I don't know enough to know how much of a difference you'd see with a custom-fit suit).

My last suit was an 8/7 semi-dry scuba suit, and the freediving suit felt like a huge improvement from the very beginning. For one thing, no zippers means no surprise flushing when you bend the wrong way to reach for an abalone. The Yazbeck is also significantly more flexible than that scuba suit ever was. So why did I end up going with the Yazbeck over another freediving suit? It was the first one the shop recommended to me, and it fit like a glove when I tried it on. After using it for a while, I love the warmth and the flexibility, but I hate how much lead I need to carry (and how much my buoyancy changes at depth as a result) and how I'm constantly repairing nicks on the inside of the suit (FWIW, these seem to be happening more often as the rubber has aged). I don't care about the camo pattern, but if it were up to me, I'd rather have a brightly colored & more visible suit or a black suit.

Lastly, I wear 1.5mm gloves and 3mm booties regardless of where I'm diving. My feet never really get cold, so the socks are just for abrasion resistance. My hands get cold from time to time, especially up north, but I'd generally rather have more dexterity and durability from the faux leather palms given the relatively short amount of time I spend in the water.
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Re: Buying a wetsuit for spearfishing

Postby chris oak » November 29th, 2017, 7:00 pm

That is a fantastic write up and question. There are going to be some guys in the industry who will have a ton of knowledge, but this is my own thoughts which is timely as I just ordered a new suit for my work. Your suit lasting more than three years is great useage, mine last about 2 years with a mix of shorediving and boat diving.

There is more variation in wetsuits than any other aspect of spearo gear because it is based on age, body fat, tolerance and a billon other factors. When I first got scuba certified when I was about 25 I used to dive in a off the rack wetsuit and never wore my hood because I never got cold. Since then I've aged almost double that and I get cold pretty easily, I'm 5'11, 155-165 and fit suits off the rack.

Scuba suits are built to compress less, that's why most of them are a bit stiffer than the really stretchy freedive suits. The benefit for scuba divers is that they are often diving deep with longer bottom times and a soft suit will compress quickly. The neoprene varies tremendously and from what I can tell is changing rapidly over the last few years. There are Yamamoto neoprene, Heiwa, and Sheico among others. To make it more confusing, there are different grades as well. It used to be Yamamoto having the only soft suits but the last suit I got from spetton was a soft grade of sheico, I could not tell the difference between the yamamoto rubber and it remained soft the entire life of the suit.

Some of my buddies dive in so cal with 5mm suits year round, even in 55 degree white seabass water. I get colder now so I rock a 5mm until the temp drops to about 64 and then I use my 7mm. I prefer farmer johns with beavertails because I like having the warmth all the way up my chest, even the high waist suits don't cover as much. The bummer is that if you have to take a dump it's much easier to get that done with a high waist instead of a farmer john.

I have seen no difference between camo and non camo suits with the exception that it seems like some fish like Kelp bass are a bit more curious when you wear a camo suit.

I have had two different custom suits made by two different companies for my work. One fit like a glove but the neoprene is so stiff I hate it thus I just bought a softer suit. The other was super soft neoprene but the suit was poorly cut and needed to be redone often. Pretty much I have given up on custom suits for work and will now just buy freedive suits and will replace them more often as I anticipate compression on Scuba.

If you fit off the rack I'd suggest you go that way as it is much cheaper, a good custom suit will run you 500 to 1000 especially if you get knee pads etc. Don't skimp on a suit, if you do it will make your diving miserable. When I wash my suits out (I do this after every dive), I use a bit of dish wash soap in cold water (hot water makes the neoprene get stiffer, ask me how I know) and let the suit soak for an hour if I can. I stir it up well and then dry it inside out in a cool location, preferably out of the direct sunlight. I made scarecrow driers at both home and work out of pvc to dry them, I'll try to post a pix later on.

When I store my suits I hang them up, if you use soft neoprene and fold them in your dive bag you will get creases in it and thats where the cold water comes in. Seal cement will fix most cuts in the wetsuit. I use dawn antibacterial dishsoap mixed with water as lube, I used to get folliculitus all the time and this seems to have helped out tremendously.

My goto wetsuits have been spetton because they fit me perfectly and are soft, I've had one made out of yamamoto and one out of the soft grade of sheico and both wore evenly. I just ordered the 7.5mm wetsuit from Yazbek during their sale for work, I'll let you guys know how it works out. I've heard great things about Riffe suits as well but never have owned any. I bought one of those cheap overseas "custom" suits one time and it was a POS, the neoprene was not soft and it tore all over the place on the seams.

BTW the european suits vary TREMENDOUSLY on size and they often run small. One time I ordered one and had to get a XXL to fit it right. Compare that to the spettons I currently wear which are Mediums lol. Check the size chart, do the conversion from metric to standard and ask around a lot.

All of your local freedive shops will have a variety to check out and will give you better advice than I could. Keep in mind a soft suit is a bit fragile, you have to use a bit of care to get them on and off.
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Re: Buying a wetsuit for spearfishing

Postby Rob102 » November 29th, 2017, 9:11 pm

Like Chris said, you got good use out of your Yazbeck. Your size sounds like off the rack would fit fine, as long as your mid section isn’t too big.

Everything is a trade off. Flexible and warm will be more compressible. Durable will be stiffer. And on and on. You really can’t have it all... in one suit that is. I have dive skins, 3mms, 5mms, 7mms, 7.5mms and even a 9mm. I have smooth skins, lined, fabric covered, painted, camouflage. With elbow pads, without, pissettes, without, knife pockets, I even had an abalone iron pocket added. Velcro fly, high waisted, single frog, double frog, with shoulder straps. Customs, off the rack. The all have their good and bad points.

I still haven’t found “the best” suit
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Re: Buying a wetsuit for spearfishing

Postby castronova » November 30th, 2017, 11:44 am

My experience is not as solid as the other posters but I can add a few things.

For one, I was looking at buying my second Polosub end of last year for a trip, 5mm, and it was around $400 from what I remember. I know for sure it was cheaper than some off the rack suits I was looking at. The sales rep for the US, Iaon, is in Cali as well. Great guy to work with.

As for lined suits, I can't speak for the much colder temps you all have but I can compare to my temps, suit to suit. I have always had rack suits, Rob Allen, Nautilus, and one or two others. I absolutely hate getting lubed up for them. So I ordered a lined PoloSub 3mm with smooth skin exterior. It was equal if not more warm than just about any other 3mm open cell suit I've ever owned. Being 4 years old now and having tears on the exterior it's not quite as warm but it was a very good suit. Fit perfectly and I'd get another without question. I don't know if they make lined suits that are lined outside also to be more durable. I didn't have that issue because smooth skin is fine for my boat diving.
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Re: Buying a wetsuit for spearfishing

Postby scorpaenichthys » November 30th, 2017, 1:38 pm

castronova wrote:My experience is not as solid as the other posters but I can add a few things.

For one, I was looking at buying my second Polosub end of last year for a trip, 5mm, and it was around $400 from what I remember. I know for sure it was cheaper than some off the rack suits I was looking at. The sales rep for the US, Iaon, is in Cali as well. Great guy to work with.

As for lined suits, I can't speak for the much colder temps you all have but I can compare to my temps, suit to suit. I have always had rack suits, Rob Allen, Nautilus, and one or two others. I absolutely hate getting lubed up for them. So I ordered a lined PoloSub 3mm with smooth skin exterior. It was equal if not more warm than just about any other 3mm open cell suit I've ever owned. Being 4 years old now and having tears on the exterior it's not quite as warm but it was a very good suit. Fit perfectly and I'd get another without question. I don't know if they make lined suits that are lined outside also to be more durable. I didn't have that issue because smooth skin is fine for my boat diving.


Awesome, I appreciate your (and Chris and Rob's) input. I'm not sure if it's easy to tell since you go into a split cell suit already wet, but did you notice significant flushing on the 3mm Polosub, or did it seem negligible / comparable to other suits you've had? One of my biggest hold ups with lubing up is that after the lube has practically frozen in the garage or in my car over night, I always feel like I'm starting from a temperature deficit (especially during early season, early morning abalone runs in breezy, 40 degree weather). I get that the smooth interior is supposed to bond to your skin and flush less as a result, but I'm not totally convinced that a stretchy, well-fitted, lined suit is going to flush noticeably more. And going into a dry suit with slow / minimal flushing, you'd have the benefit of starting your dive warm, rather than starting your dive already shivering. Obviously, a thermos could be a cheap fix, but it would be nice to avoid the issue altogether.

Part of me is tempted to pull the trigger and see what happens, especially since I spend a relatively short amount of time in the water and I'm usually a pretty active diver. But I'd hate to spend the money only to find out that my instincts are wildly off base.
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Re: Buying a wetsuit for spearfishing

Postby Rob102 » November 30th, 2017, 9:14 pm

I’ve used the hot water in the thermos. It works well if you put the suit on right away, but if you wait very long the water cools off. I’ve gone back to what I did years ago and got a sprayer. I mix the cure care with water, pretty thin on the water. With this se5 up I can insert the spray wand in the suit and squirt the conditioner right in the arms and legs and get really good coverage. It’s so slippery I don’t mind if it’s cold and my body heat warms it up in a few seconds.
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Re: Buying a wetsuit for spearfishing

Postby castronova » December 1st, 2017, 6:31 am

scorpaenichthys wrote:
castronova wrote:My experience is not as solid as the other posters but I can add a few things.

For one, I was looking at buying my second Polosub end of last year for a trip, 5mm, and it was around $400 from what I remember. I know for sure it was cheaper than some off the rack suits I was looking at. The sales rep for the US, Iaon, is in Cali as well. Great guy to work with.

As for lined suits, I can't speak for the much colder temps you all have but I can compare to my temps, suit to suit. I have always had rack suits, Rob Allen, Nautilus, and one or two others. I absolutely hate getting lubed up for them. So I ordered a lined PoloSub 3mm with smooth skin exterior. It was equal if not more warm than just about any other 3mm open cell suit I've ever owned. Being 4 years old now and having tears on the exterior it's not quite as warm but it was a very good suit. Fit perfectly and I'd get another without question. I don't know if they make lined suits that are lined outside also to be more durable. I didn't have that issue because smooth skin is fine for my boat diving.


Awesome, I appreciate your (and Chris and Rob's) input. I'm not sure if it's easy to tell since you go into a split cell suit already wet, but did you notice significant flushing on the 3mm Polosub, or did it seem negligible / comparable to other suits you've had? One of my biggest hold ups with lubing up is that after the lube has practically frozen in the garage or in my car over night, I always feel like I'm starting from a temperature deficit (especially during early season, early morning abalone runs in breezy, 40 degree weather). I get that the smooth interior is supposed to bond to your skin and flush less as a result, but I'm not totally convinced that a stretchy, well-fitted, lined suit is going to flush noticeably more. And going into a dry suit with slow / minimal flushing, you'd have the benefit of starting your dive warm, rather than starting your dive already shivering. Obviously, a thermos could be a cheap fix, but it would be nice to avoid the issue altogether.

Part of me is tempted to pull the trigger and see what happens, especially since I spend a relatively short amount of time in the water and I'm usually a pretty active diver. But I'd hate to spend the money only to find out that my instincts are wildly off base.


This is the reason I went to a lined suit. I would be freezing by the time the suit was on and playing catch up for hours, especially if the air was cold (for here anyway). It's even worse there, I'm sure. The suit did not flush at all. The custom suit fit so perfect there was no room for water to move. I think it has to do more with the suit than open cell or lined. I now bought a Speared 3mm Nova suit which is also lined inside but lined outside.The suit is super comfy and easy to get on but... It is not even close to as warm as the Polosub. I don't know if that's because the water gets through lined outside or if because the suit is a little thinner for a 3mm, or because it just doesn't fit quite as well. I think it's a combination of all of that.

I'd hate to be the one to tell you go for it and you not be satisfied either. Sounds like you only use 1 suit for various locations and temperatures. Maybe try a lined suit knowing that if it isn't perfect it can be used for the warmer waters you dive and get a warmer suit for the colder water. That would mean two suits but at least they'd be purposed.

I keep a 1.5mm I use down to about 83*, a thinner 3mm I use from 82 - 78* (basically transition into and out of winter), Sea Sniper 3mm I use from 78 down to about 73 which is about as cold as it gets here. Below that and I'm getting in a 5mm, and so. As the suits get worn and not as good at insulating I just move them down a grade for warmer water. I hate being cold and I'll also get nauseous if I'm diving hard and overheat.

My Sea Sniper 3mm was a gift and is an awesome suit so I lube up for now but when it gets worn in another season or two I will probably go back to a lined Polosub again.
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Re: Buying a wetsuit for spearfishing

Postby scorpaenichthys » December 1st, 2017, 9:38 am

castronova wrote:
scorpaenichthys wrote:
castronova wrote:My experience is not as solid as the other posters but I can add a few things.

For one, I was looking at buying my second Polosub end of last year for a trip, 5mm, and it was around $400 from what I remember. I know for sure it was cheaper than some off the rack suits I was looking at. The sales rep for the US, Iaon, is in Cali as well. Great guy to work with.

As for lined suits, I can't speak for the much colder temps you all have but I can compare to my temps, suit to suit. I have always had rack suits, Rob Allen, Nautilus, and one or two others. I absolutely hate getting lubed up for them. So I ordered a lined PoloSub 3mm with smooth skin exterior. It was equal if not more warm than just about any other 3mm open cell suit I've ever owned. Being 4 years old now and having tears on the exterior it's not quite as warm but it was a very good suit. Fit perfectly and I'd get another without question. I don't know if they make lined suits that are lined outside also to be more durable. I didn't have that issue because smooth skin is fine for my boat diving.


Awesome, I appreciate your (and Chris and Rob's) input. I'm not sure if it's easy to tell since you go into a split cell suit already wet, but did you notice significant flushing on the 3mm Polosub, or did it seem negligible / comparable to other suits you've had? One of my biggest hold ups with lubing up is that after the lube has practically frozen in the garage or in my car over night, I always feel like I'm starting from a temperature deficit (especially during early season, early morning abalone runs in breezy, 40 degree weather). I get that the smooth interior is supposed to bond to your skin and flush less as a result, but I'm not totally convinced that a stretchy, well-fitted, lined suit is going to flush noticeably more. And going into a dry suit with slow / minimal flushing, you'd have the benefit of starting your dive warm, rather than starting your dive already shivering. Obviously, a thermos could be a cheap fix, but it would be nice to avoid the issue altogether.

Part of me is tempted to pull the trigger and see what happens, especially since I spend a relatively short amount of time in the water and I'm usually a pretty active diver. But I'd hate to spend the money only to find out that my instincts are wildly off base.


This is the reason I went to a lined suit. I would be freezing by the time the suit was on and playing catch up for hours, especially if the air was cold (for here anyway). It's even worse there, I'm sure. The suit did not flush at all. The custom suit fit so perfect there was no room for water to move. I think it has to do more with the suit than open cell or lined. I now bought a Speared 3mm Nova suit which is also lined inside but lined outside.The suit is super comfy and easy to get on but... It is not even close to as warm as the Polosub. I don't know if that's because the water gets through lined outside or if because the suit is a little thinner for a 3mm, or because it just doesn't fit quite as well. I think it's a combination of all of that.

I'd hate to be the one to tell you go for it and you not be satisfied either. Sounds like you only use 1 suit for various locations and temperatures. Maybe try a lined suit knowing that if it isn't perfect it can be used for the warmer waters you dive and get a warmer suit for the colder water. That would mean two suits but at least they'd be purposed.

I keep a 1.5mm I use down to about 83*, a thinner 3mm I use from 82 - 78* (basically transition into and out of winter), Sea Sniper 3mm I use from 78 down to about 73 which is about as cold as it gets here. Below that and I'm getting in a 5mm, and so. As the suits get worn and not as good at insulating I just move them down a grade for warmer water. I hate being cold and I'll also get nauseous if I'm diving hard and overheat.

My Sea Sniper 3mm was a gift and is an awesome suit so I lube up for now but when it gets worn in another season or two I will probably go back to a lined Polosub again.


That's totally fair. My 7mm Yazbeck is still solidly diveable, so maybe I'll give a lined suit a try and if it doesn't work out up here I'll just use it as my SoCal / short diving day suit.
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Re: Buying a wetsuit for spearfishing

Postby scorpaenichthys » May 27th, 2018, 9:20 am

scorpaenichthys wrote:
castronova wrote:
scorpaenichthys wrote:
castronova wrote:My experience is not as solid as the other posters but I can add a few things.

For one, I was looking at buying my second Polosub end of last year for a trip, 5mm, and it was around $400 from what I remember. I know for sure it was cheaper than some off the rack suits I was looking at. The sales rep for the US, Iaon, is in Cali as well. Great guy to work with.

As for lined suits, I can't speak for the much colder temps you all have but I can compare to my temps, suit to suit. I have always had rack suits, Rob Allen, Nautilus, and one or two others. I absolutely hate getting lubed up for them. So I ordered a lined PoloSub 3mm with smooth skin exterior. It was equal if not more warm than just about any other 3mm open cell suit I've ever owned. Being 4 years old now and having tears on the exterior it's not quite as warm but it was a very good suit. Fit perfectly and I'd get another without question. I don't know if they make lined suits that are lined outside also to be more durable. I didn't have that issue because smooth skin is fine for my boat diving.


Awesome, I appreciate your (and Chris and Rob's) input. I'm not sure if it's easy to tell since you go into a split cell suit already wet, but did you notice significant flushing on the 3mm Polosub, or did it seem negligible / comparable to other suits you've had? One of my biggest hold ups with lubing up is that after the lube has practically frozen in the garage or in my car over night, I always feel like I'm starting from a temperature deficit (especially during early season, early morning abalone runs in breezy, 40 degree weather). I get that the smooth interior is supposed to bond to your skin and flush less as a result, but I'm not totally convinced that a stretchy, well-fitted, lined suit is going to flush noticeably more. And going into a dry suit with slow / minimal flushing, you'd have the benefit of starting your dive warm, rather than starting your dive already shivering. Obviously, a thermos could be a cheap fix, but it would be nice to avoid the issue altogether.

Part of me is tempted to pull the trigger and see what happens, especially since I spend a relatively short amount of time in the water and I'm usually a pretty active diver. But I'd hate to spend the money only to find out that my instincts are wildly off base.


This is the reason I went to a lined suit. I would be freezing by the time the suit was on and playing catch up for hours, especially if the air was cold (for here anyway). It's even worse there, I'm sure. The suit did not flush at all. The custom suit fit so perfect there was no room for water to move. I think it has to do more with the suit than open cell or lined. I now bought a Speared 3mm Nova suit which is also lined inside but lined outside.The suit is super comfy and easy to get on but... It is not even close to as warm as the Polosub. I don't know if that's because the water gets through lined outside or if because the suit is a little thinner for a 3mm, or because it just doesn't fit quite as well. I think it's a combination of all of that.

I'd hate to be the one to tell you go for it and you not be satisfied either. Sounds like you only use 1 suit for various locations and temperatures. Maybe try a lined suit knowing that if it isn't perfect it can be used for the warmer waters you dive and get a warmer suit for the colder water. That would mean two suits but at least they'd be purposed.

I keep a 1.5mm I use down to about 83*, a thinner 3mm I use from 82 - 78* (basically transition into and out of winter), Sea Sniper 3mm I use from 78 down to about 73 which is about as cold as it gets here. Below that and I'm getting in a 5mm, and so. As the suits get worn and not as good at insulating I just move them down a grade for warmer water. I hate being cold and I'll also get nauseous if I'm diving hard and overheat.

My Sea Sniper 3mm was a gift and is an awesome suit so I lube up for now but when it gets worn in another season or two I will probably go back to a lined Polosub again.


That's totally fair. My 7mm Yazbeck is still solidly diveable, so maybe I'll give a lined suit a try and if it doesn't work out up here I'll just use it as my SoCal / short diving day suit.



Just wanted to follow up here for the sake of posterity, since there isn't a ton of info out there on lined freediving suits and cold-water diving. A couple months ago I bit the bullet and ordered a 5mm suit from Elios, lined inside and out. Thanks to finals and bar prep, I haven't had a chance to get out and dive with it until this weekend. One dive obviously isn't enough to form any rock solid opinions, but my initial impressions are these:

- Suiting up in the 50 degree, 15 mph winds was so much nicer than it would have been had I had to lube up. As my dive buddy noted, I didn't bitch about the cold once, which is really unusual for me.

- At least with the extra-strectchy lining Elios uses, this suit (Sheico, I think medium density) felt just as stretchy--if not more so--as my 7mm Yazbeck (open-cell Yamamoto 39) felt was when it was brand new. I'm sure part of that is because it's a thinner suit, but since I'm used to diving thick suits, the extra stretch was welcome.

- In 55 degree water, I was much colder entering the water than I usually am in my Yazzy. That said, I warmed up by the time I swam out to the kelp, and I stayed just as warm as I do in my four year-old 7mm for the two hours I was out there. I definitely wasn't as warm as I would have been in a brand new, open-cell 7mm (I used to regularly overheat in that suit in Monterey), but I don't have enough experience with 5mm suits to tease apart whether the difference was due more to the lining or to the suit's thickness.

- Because my 7mm is a little old, the 5mm was much more comfortable. The only downside I noticed was that it had a minor tendency to chafe the back of my knees if I got sloppy with my kick and started to aggressively bicycle kick. As long as I kept good form, though, that wasn't a problem.

So with that said I don't know that I have any broadly applicable takeaways, since I can't do an apples-to-apples comparison between this suit and an open-cell 5mm suit. But for my body and my style of diving, I really dig the lined suit for temperatures where I'd normally want to drop to a 5mm from a 7mm. The convenience factor is huge, in my opinion.
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Re: Buying a wetsuit for spearfishing

Postby Bill McIntyre » May 27th, 2018, 9:33 am

Interesting. Thanks for the followup.
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Re: Buying a wetsuit for spearfishing

Postby NaClAddict » May 27th, 2018, 6:21 pm

Years ago I bought a custom Bluewater Hunter lined suit. At the time I was in college and money was tight. I got it for the durability. I don’t think it was as warm as the unlined closed cell suits of the time. There were definitely times where I could feel water running between my body and the suit even though it fit great. One plus was it never reeked of urine.
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