I never appreciated a seven millimeters of Neoprene until SCUBA diving in Ontario. Tobermory, Ontario.
Now I’m a Great Lakes diver. Cold water does not bother me. In fact, I find it much more refreshing to dive in cold water. Before a diver’s wetsuit starts warming them up, right after the leap into Lake Huron, that’s when a diver knows they’re alive. The cold is not a negative of Great Lakes SCUBA. The cold is what makes us strong.
Seven millimeters does not seem to me like a lot. That’s about a quarter of an inch. That seven millimeters may keep the cold away, but it is still there. I can swim in the Great Lakes normally so I have always felt that seven millimeters of Neoprene does not make a lot of a difference. The difference between discomfort and cold, maybe, or the difference between equipment rubbing on my skin or just rubbing against the Neoprene. Not a lot of a difference.
Until I saw the Grotto at Cyprus Lake, Tobermory. The first time, I was diving with my dad and we swam up from at underwater entrance into the base of the cave and surfaced in the Grotto to surprised cries of “SCUBA divers!” The Grotto is not big but the clear water, light sand, and cave walls make for a beautiful site to dive. As a diver, it is very easy to access as well.
Access is not so easy for those who cannot or will not SCUBA dive. There is a hiking trail, the Georgian Bay Trail, which leads to the Grotto. Some rock climbing is involved, a lot of beautiful views of the Bay from the tops and bottoms of cliffs, and then a beach. Not far after the beach, people scramble down a cliff with the waters of the Bay below them, carrying a myriad assortment of towels and cameras. Most peek into the Grotto and dip a toe in the water. Then they watch the people who dare to ‘swim’.
I was one of the people who dared to ‘swim’. After all, I’d been in this water. It was not too cold in my wetsuit and I never saw those seven millimeters of Neoprene as much of a difference. Wading across from the main entrance to an empty ledge, my younger cousins on my back, the knee-high water was chilly but not colder than Lake Superior.
To anyone who has swum in Lake Superior, that comparison should explain exactly how crazy I am when it comes to temperature.
Then I dove into the Grotto’s clear waters in a swimsuit.
And then I ‘swam’ back to the ledge as quickly as I could.
By ‘swam’, I mean that I probably came close to walking on water than I ever thought possible.
As a Michigander with not much of a sense for how cold thing are, I decided the water was only cold because I had not acclimated to it yet. I dove in again. I walked on water again. And again. And again. It seems I never learn, but I did find one thing out for sure that is new to me as a Great Lakes diver.
Seven millimeters of Neoprene makes a big difference, after all.
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