I certainly have been, and I found something that will be a part of my dive and whitewater gear for years to come: Let me introduce you to Sharkskin, specifically the Sharkskin Chillproof. The company offers five different lines, including Chillproof, Climate Control, Covert, Rapid Dry and Performance. Chillproof is probably the one best suited for watersports such as scuba diving, and the only one I’ve tried. Each type of suit is available with pieces such as shorts, long pants, tanks, hoods, long-sleeved shirts, short-sleeved shirts, full suits, tops with hoods and socks; some pieces are gender-specific. With so many options, you can customize the apparel exactly how you want. Mine is a two-piece, with a long-sleeved top and long pants.
- Chill Proof
- Sun Proof
The technical stuff first: According to the Australian manufacturer, the Sharkskin Chillproof is a 3-layer composite. A micro-fleece layer on the inside next to the skin, a stretchy nylon/lycra layer on the outside that resists abrasion and helps shed water, and sandwiched between the two is a breathable, yet windproof, layer. But here are the two really big selling points: It’s machine washable and neutrally buoyant.
Next, let’s go through the usual key features of exposure protection and examine how the Sharkskin held up.
I used the Sharkskin by itself and under my 7mm wetsuit in waters ranging from 54 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. With that experience, I likened its warmth capabilities to that of a 3mm wetsuit, minus the additional positive buoyancy. In waters in the upper 60s and up, I was comfortable in the two-piece suit by itself, both snorkeling and on hour-long dives. For temperatures in the lower 50s, the suit added an additional, toasty layer underneath my 7mm wetsuit, making the cold-water experience much more enjoyable. I will be using this instead of my old dive skin from now on, and in place of my 3mm. It will also be a welcome addition under my wetsuit for those cold winter dives at the quarry.
The inner micro-fleece layer is extremely comfortable and soft, and the lycra/nylon exterior makes for great flexibility. There’s a soft neoprene collar around the neck of the long-sleeved top, adding additional comfort and protection. Personally, I have issues with things around my neck, both with itchiness and tightness, but I never noticed the neck of the Sharkskin top at all. Normally I can’t wait to get my wetsuit off once I’m out of the water, but that wasn’t the case with the Sharkskin. I was quite comfortable in it, both in and out of the water. The shoulders don’t pinch or bunch; it doesn’t gather around the knees; and I have full range of unrestricted movement while wearing it. It’s thin enough not to feel bulky as a layer under a wetsuit, and while I don’t have personal experience with drysuits, it seems as though it would be a great layer under those as well.
My only complaint is that when I was snorkeling, the top wanted to ride up on me. This didn’t happen while diving, since the BCD helped to hold it in place. But, I think I’ll be buying a full-suit style to use on those occasions that it might be more suitable.
During my last trip I brushed up against, and knelt on, a fair share of barnacles and rocks. I’ll admit I was completely shocked to see that the legs didn’t have a single mark, snag, or tear on them. My dive skin wouldn’t have held up to that abuse, and it wouldn’t have offered my skin the protection from those very things like the Sharkskin
It’s difficult to get a wetsuit on and off, with all the tugging and pulling, squirming, and jumping up and down. That’s not a concern at all with the Sharkskin. It slips on easily, and if you’re wearing it under a wetsuit, it provides a slick surface for the wetsuit to easily slide over. I always wear a dive skin under my wetsuits simply because they make it easier to get them on; the Sharkskin offers that same assistance. There are stirrups for the feet and thumb loops for the arms, just as with dive skins.
I’ve often wished I could throw my wetsuit in the washer, so it’s an added bonus that the Sharkskin is machine washable. Even though it’s anti-microbial, mildew-resistant and odor-resistant, it’s still nice to be able to throw it in the wash. Make sure to line-dry only, though. However, it dries very quickly, much faster than neoprene.
I’ll be recommending the Sharkskin to just about everyone, for both scuba and whitewater. If you want the same warmth as a 3mm wetsuit without adding weight, or you want something to layer under wetsuits or other exposure gear, this is a perfect solution.
To recap the advantages of the suit:
- Extremely easy to get on by itself
- Slick surface to slide a wetsuit over
- Neutrally buoyant
- Same warmth as a 3mm wetsuit
- Thin enough to layer easily without bulkiness
- Multiple options make suits customizable to suit your specific needs
- Dries much faster than neoprene
- Lighter than neoprene for travel
- Highly durable
- Suitable for wind, water, or sun protection in multiple watersports
Sharkskin Chillproof is an aquatic specific, windproof 3-layer composite material that has been developed for water sports athletes.