We’ve all heard it. Everyone who lives in Hawaii and dives on a regular basis always gets asked the same question by visitors: “WHY are you wearing so much exposure protection?”. People from colder climates don’t seem to realize how the human body adapts to year-round warm weather, and just how sensitive many of us get to cold. I originally moved here from New England, and I went from diving in a shorty to diving in a 3mm…to a 5mm…to a 5mm with bonnet hood…and I’m STILL cold out there—I just dive too much for my core to stay warm. I’ve been looking for something that keeps me good and warm in the water without also making me carry the lead that a 7mm wetsuit would require…and now I may have found it.
Two days ago, I bought a new Lavacore long-sleeve shirt with hood to wear under my wetsuit, and yesterday I put it to the test. For those who haven’t heard of the product, Lavacore is a new line we’re carrying at Maui Dreams—sort of a hybrid between a rash guard and a wetsuit, with some innovative technology to keep you warm. When I first tried it on in the shop, my initial reaction was that it seemed a bit tricky to don, and that the hood felt constrictive–but it was also the first time I’d worn a full-face hood, and I know from experience that how something feels in the water is the true test. My other first reaction was: WARM! The thing had a slick, water-repellent outer shell, a middle layer that reflects heat but lets your skin breathe, and a fleece liner. You can feel the effect immediately—if you don’t believe me, come into the shop and try one on.
Okay, off to the water. Since I tend to FREEZE out there, I wore my Lavacore under my 5mm full suit. The suit slipped on easily over the full shirt, and saved me from the “putting on the wet wetsuit first thing in the morning” curse…enough reason to own one right there! Once I got in the water, I was sold—that fleece inner liner gets cool for the first few min, but then traps the water it absorbs, warms up, and becomes insulation. As for the hood—I forgot I was wearing it 10 min into the dive. And the Lavacore is neutrally buoyant, so no extra weight required! I did two dives and felt nice and warm throughout. Between dives, I noticed another thing—usually when I’ve worn a rash guard under my suit, exposing the rash guard to air feels like someone dumping ice water on me due to rapid evaporation…with the Lavacore, I got that effect for maybe 3 seconds, then I was warm again…even in the wind!
Later, I did a 3rd dive at night…and a really really long one, just to put it to the test. I was MUCH warmer than I would have been without a Lavacore, and I don’t think I want to ever dive without one again. Overall, I’d say it’s an extremely well-designed and well-manufactured product that absolutely lives up to the hype…the only caution I’d give is to practice putting it on and taking it off a few times before you take it diving, it takes a little care as the hood and neck fits rather tightly and you don’t want to yank off your own ears. : )
As for me—I think I’m going diving again tonight, as I’m looking forward to staying warm!
Here’s a p.s. from Rachel: Gabe and Zac love theirs too! My friend Rob who lives in Kansas loves his too! Rob offered this tip: The soft fabric on the outside of your lavacore can be easily snagged on velcro or worn if you put your BCD on it directly. He recommends wearing it under your wetsuit or even another rash guard.