In the past few years we have seen a massive growth in open cell wetsuits. These suits have become very popular among freedivers and spearfishing enthusiast.
Cape Town has a combination of environments that make both freediving and spearfishing easily accessible and very cost effective. The primary reason for this being the ease with which we can access dive sites. There are many places in the world where divers can walk in from the shore, but this doesn’t usually help much as most of the reefs are out at sea and often require divers to either own a boat or have to use a boat from a local operator. Cape Town however does not have this problem, our waters are filled with nutrients all around the Cape Peninsula and False Bay, and we therefore have loads of dive sites that can easily be accessed from the shore.
While there’s an array of reasons to dive these waters, the cold has kept many people from going back in to it once they’ve experienced the chill! Luckily in recent years there has been a lot of development in wetsuits. We’ve seen suits designed for all shapes and sizes, combining materials to form popular variations such as the semi-dry suit and the open cell suit.
Open cell suits are very beneficial to freedivers as they offer a low volume solution that still produces a lot of warmth. They do this by not lining the interior of the suit with nylon. This makes for a much better seal on the divers skin (however putting on the suit will need lubrication as the unlined neoprene will stick to the divers skin and cause damage to the suit).
The term “Open Cell” is actually very misguiding. There is no such thing as an open cell suit that is used for diving, the reason for this being that water would then move freely through the suit, thus defeating the purpose of having a suit. Open Cell suits are made from the exact same type of neoprene that normal wetsuits are made from, the only difference being that they do not have a nylon interior lining. So basically:
Closed Cell Wetsuit = has an interior lining
Open Cell Wetsuit = has no interior lining
While both wetsuits are made from the neopreme, please note that the quality and properties of the neopreme will be slightly different. Open Cell suits used for freediving usually have a much more flexible neopreme to allow for movement and a much tighter fit.
So the next time you’re on a market for a suit, make sure you need the lining to make part of your suit or not!