My Drysuit Flooded, Now What?

A Leak Prevention and Troubleshooting Checklist

Getting wet during an expected dry dive can be a really unpleasant experience, but with maintenance and attention to detail you can minimize the likelihood of encountering a leak. Drysuit leaks fall into two categories: minor leaks and catastrophic failures. Here are some tips to incorporate into your pre-dive checklist and, if necessary, you can use these guidelines to troubleshoot the situation, find the cause of the leak and determine the best course of action.
Houston, We Have a Minor Problem
In the event of a minor leak, it is up to you whether you choose to continue to dive. A minor leak may be caused by seals that are trimmed too loose; deteriorated seals; rolled seals; channels in skin rolls or tendons; or small punctures. The following are some situations in which you might find yourself with a minor leaking problem:

  • If there is less than one to 1.5 inches of the seal laying flat against the skin, the seal may be loose and could cause a leak. If this happens, you will probably want to change your seals. In the meantime, you can simply move your wrist seal higher up on your arm.

  • When donning your suit, you may accidentally roll the seal. Oftentimes your skin sticks to the seal preventing the seal from going on smoothly. Simply applying soapy water (10 percent dish soap to 90 percent water) or talc to the seals usually helps them go on more evenly. When you put on gloves or a hood, you may also catch the seal and roll it. When you are suiting up, always ensure the seals are laying flat against your skin.

  • In addition to rolled seals, natural channels created by tendons or loose skin in the wrist or neck can also break the seal. Tendons and loose skin prevent the seal from laying flat, causing a minor leak. For example, make a fist and then pull your fist towards your body (a motion similar to gripping a boat ladder or a descent line). Approximately one in three people have pronounced tendons that will break the seal allowing water to flow between the seal and the tendons. If you have pronounced tendons, you can move the wrist seal higher on your arm to avoid breaking the seal and springing a leak.

  • Finally, a small puncture may lead to a light trickle of water depending on the size of the hole. This usually appears as a small wet spot on your insulation.
Defending Against a Deluge
In the unlikely event of a catastrophic failure, you would want to safely end the dive. A catastrophic failure can be caused by a zipper failure, neck or wrist seal failure or a significant puncture or tear. Follow these tips to help prevent a catastrophic failure:

  • A zipper failure may occur if the zipper is not completely closed or the zipper teeth are broken. With proper maintenance practices, you can minimize the possibility of a catastrophic failure. Always remember to rinse your zipper with fresh water and ensure it is kept clean, wax it frequently and open the zipper all the way whenever you put on or remove your suit. It is also a good idea to inspect the zipper prior to each dive.

  • Although it is very uncommon, if a neck or wrist seal tears underwater, it could cause a significant flood. Checking the integrity of the seals prior to your dive can help to avoid this mishap. You should also be mindful avoid a situation in which your seals may catch on something, such as sticking your hand through a narrow, jagged hole. Finally, be careful with your fingernails when you put the seals over your wrist and neck.

  • Your drysuit could also flood as a result of a significant puncture or tear. When diving, steer clear of sharp edges, like rusty steel on a ship, to help prevent tearing your drysuit underwater.

Remember, if the leak is significant, you should safely terminate your dive. At this point, you would want to use your BCD instead of your drysuit for buoyancy control. Position the leak as low as possible to minimize air loss, begin your controlled ascent and use your BCD to establish positive buoyancy at the surface.

Whether your leak is a slight trickle or the dive site's water level goes down as you exit the water, your suit will need a little extra love. Be sure to fully rinse the inside and outside of your suit with fresh water. Turn the suit inside out and place it out of direct sunlight to dry. If you have dry gloves on your suit, you will want to remove the gloves to allow your sleeves to dry completely. Finally, you will need to wash and dry your undergarments. If you are unable to identify the cause of the leak, please have your suit tested by a professional familiar with drysuit repairs.