DEMA 2006 Special: The World's First Neutrally Buoyant Wetsuit

Brought to you as part of our DEMA 2006 Special.

All divers know the burden of carrying weight. Between cylinders, BC’s, fins and the many other gadgets and accessories we don for a dive, the trek from gear assembly to water can be a tough one. Not to mention the plight of our traveling existence: weights. Neoprene can really pull a diver down as a result of wearing weight to compensate for buoyancy. Fourth Element has taken this matter into their product development department and created the world’s first neutrally buoyant wetsuit! To celebrate the release of this phenomenal new product, I caught up with Fourth Element Sales and Marketing Director Jim Standing to find out the details.

“My partner Paul Strike and I were frustrated with wearing thermal protection that was out-dated, too bulky and clearly hadn’t changed in a long time. We started to think about the prospects of bringing wisdom from other outdoor sports into scuba diving. Pairing these ideas, we’ve just launched the world’s first neutrally buoyant wetsuit, the Thermocline. It’s a breathable, lightweight travel wetsuit that gives effective and similar performance to a 3mm wetsuit, but it doesn’t contain neoprene.”

Certainly, this is great news for those divers with sensitive skin who are allergic to neoprene and are searching for alternatives. Holding the wetsuit in my hands, I felt the soft fleece lining and smooth, hydrodynamic outer layer of the suit. It was very lightweight, (only about 2 lbs.) folded into a small space, and is perfect for light traveling. The Fourth Element Thermocline is perfect for the avid traveler on many levels: since it requires substantially less weight as compared with a neoprene wetsuit, the need to pack weights or rent them at your dive destination is consequently decreased. With weight limits and overage fees on the rise through airlines, this is something to consider for the wallet as well. It varies from diver to diver how much weight (if any) they will require, so Jim explained some of the benefits he has experienced personally.

“I’m pretty much a single-cylinder diver and I’m pretty happy doing an hour long dive. When I go somewhere like the Red Sea in the summer and the water is warm, I take two one-pound weights for the trim pockets on my wing, and that’s it. No weight belt! It’s such a liberating experience just to throw the gear on and go. I’m just as warm as someone wearing neoprene, but I’m wearing a breathable suit so it’s much more comfortable when I’m on the surface before or between dives, even in hot temperatures.”

The suit itself is made up of hydrophilic fleece on the interior, which absorbs water. The body warms the water in the fleece layer, which is insulated and made waterproof and windproof by a breathable membrane similar to Gortex. The final outer layer is a nylon shell, which gives the suit a sleek, sexy appearance. Fourth Element takes pride in gear and outerwear that is both functional and attractive. It is a two-piece suit consisting of a farmer john-style piece as well as a long-sleeved top. The farmer john retails at $270 and the top at $160.

Fourth Element: Bringing ‘Sexy’ back to Diving

“We have spent a lot of time talking about what diving represents to us and how we feel about being divers. I would challenge any guy to deny this: At one point, he is putting on his gear and has wanted to be James Bond, or look and feel like James Bond. And likewise I think in every woman there is the desire to be a Bond Girl, a sexy diver. What a diver wears is a label of who they are.”

Fourth Element has taken this idea to heart and created a line of products that divers should be proud to wear. Not only is it fashionable and form-fitting, it truly insulates the body in both wet or drysuit conditions. Other products include the highly regarded Xerotherm base wear, which goes beneath drysuits for superior insulation that is compact and creates less air space. The Xerotherm fabric is the fastest wicking fabric currently available, and provides incredible warmth in your drysuit as well as protection from wetness through leaks. Jim gets plenty of feedback about this from customers.

“It’s a common report that we’ve had from people that their zip or valve failed on their drysuit when they had twenty minutes of deco left, yet they still stayed warm enough to complete the dive without becoming hypothermic.”

Fourth Element supplies thermal protection and dive wear to the British Antarctic Survey Dive Team, divers in the New York City Police Department, the Belgian and Danish Navy Dive teams and the British Cost Guard. With clients like these, you know it’s got to be quality merchandise. Visit Fourth Element’s website to find out more about these amazing products: