One of the hardest things about diving (no, really) is squirming into your wetsuit. A nice, snug fit underwater can mean an impossible time trying to don the suit on dry land. Here are a few tips to help you keep from breaking a sweat, or a nail, while getting ready to hit the water.

Putting on a wetsuit is never elegant. As a sport, there are many words one could use to describe diving in general. Inspiring, adventurous, exciting, life-changing even — but getting ready isn’t pretty. From spitting in our masks to lugging heavy cylinders around, diving can be a pretty comedic affair, especially when it comes to putting on a wetsuit. In order to work, a wetsuit must be tight-fitting so, inevitably, we spend a good deal of our time red-faced and puffing, trying to force a second skin of sticky neoprene unwillingly into place.  Heed these tips so that you can focus on enjoying your dive rather than struggling to prepare for it.

Wear Wetsuit Liners

One of the easiest ways to minimize the friction between your suit and your skin is to create a layer between the two. Lycra scuba skins like these are your best bet when it comes to putting on a wetsuit, and have the added benefit of providing an extra layer of insulation in cold water. Scuba socks like these also help make life easier, although some argue that a plastic bag works just as well. Place the bag over your foot before sliding your legs into your wetsuit, then remove it and repeat the process with your arms.

Keep It Cool

For those diving in tropical climates, sweat is often a contributing factor to the great wetsuit struggle — if pulling dry neoprene over dry skin is hard, pulling it over sticky, perspiring skin is almost impossible. To remedy this, minimize sweating by getting dressed in the shade; or, if you’re already sweaty, cool off with a quick shower before trying to slide into your suit. Wetting your suit instead works just as well, making the neoprene more flexible and less prone to sticking where it shouldn’t. Use a hose or a shower on shore, or simply dunk your suit over the side if you’re attempting to get dressed at sea.

Ask For Help

From equipment checks to dive planning, your buddy’s job starts long before you splash in. He or she is also there to help you get ready, which includes helping you while you’re putting on a wetsuit. Your buddy can pull the suit into place from the back while you work on the front, and he or she can zip it up when you’re ready. If you struggle with getting your arms into your suit, ask your buddy to lift the cuff and blow into the sleeve. This will create air pockets, which will reduce friction and make it easier to get your suit into place. When you’re ready, repay your buddy by doing the same for him.

Roll It Up

It’s said that there’s a technique for everything, and the same is true for putting on a wetsuit. If you find that simply pulling your suit on in the same way that you might pull on a pair of pants doesn’t work, try a different approach. Turn each arm and leg almost completely inside out, leaving between three to six inches of cuff the correct way around. One at a time, place the remaining cuff on your ankle or wrist, then roll the rest of the suit into place. This is a great way to minimize friction, and it also prevents areas of your wetsuit from pinching too tight or becoming bunched up.

Swap Suits

If all else fails, you may need to invest in a different suit. Sometimes, your difficulties when putting on a wetsuit may stem from the fact that it’s simply the wrong size. Consider ordering a custom-made suit to ensure a perfect fit, or ask a professional outfitter to help you select the correct size off the shelf. If sizing isn’t the problem, consider buying a different style of suit. Hyperstretch suits like these give extra elasticity, making them easier to get on; while others include in-built wrist and ankle zippers that allow you to loosen and tighten those tricky areas accordingly.

Note: Many divers swear by various lubricants, including detergent, conditioner and talcum powder. However, many of these can cause skin irritation, and may be harmful to the marine environment. In particular, avoid oil-based lubricants, as these may corrode neoprene over time and shorten your suit’s lifespan considerably. If you do use a lubricant, opt for a water-based one, as these are the least damaging to your suit, and to the environment.

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