Tobe Brockner

That Time I Got Stuck in a Wetsuit

This summer I was fortunate enough to achieve a lifelong dream of becoming scuba certified. I was certified in my late teens, but as I got older and older, fatter and fatter, I just never did pick the hobby back up.

Until recently. And man am I glad I did. It is so much fun!

Anyway, as part of my certification, I got a mask, snorkel, fins, booties, and a wetsuit. (In case you are interested, this is the model I have: Cressi Wetsuit)

I chose a medium-sized wetsuit which was maybe a touch ambitious, but I figured, hey, I’m still losing weight, let’s do this.

I scheduled a dive for last week and this would be the first time I got to use my new wetsuit, so a few days beforehand, I decided to try it on.

I knew that if I tried it on in front of my wife or kids they would have laughed at me and poked fun. Since I wasn't sure how this whole “trying on the wetsuit” thing would go, I decided to wait until everyone was gone to do so.

This is where the story gets interesting.

So, here I am, home alone, looking at this full body wetsuit that suddenly looks much smaller than I remember. I am wondering how exactly I will manage to get it on, but am game in trying nonetheless.

I strip down to my undies and tentatively step one foot inside and then the other. I struggle a bit to get the suit pulled up to around my waist and after I finally manage to squeeze it over my butt I take a break, slightly pop-eyed and breathing irregularly. I hope getting it the rest of the way up my torso won’t be as trying.

My hopes are soon dashed as I wrestle mightily to get my arms into the sleeves and snugly into place. This exercise took much longer than I was anticipating. It was also harder than getting my legs in. Wondering what, exactly, I was getting myself into, I was now faced with zipping it up.

In case you didn’t know, this particular wetsuit zips up from the back. This presented a problem since I am not very flexible and even require help from others scratching my own back or I am resigned to scraping it up and down against a corner wall or tree or fence post or whatever like a bear.

Anyway, fortunately there is a long tether on the zipper that I could reach behind me and grab. It was then just a matter of pulling it up. This too, was much more difficult than I imagined it should be. Huffing and heaving, I finally got it zipped. Small beads of sweat dotted my forehead, but even that couldn’t drown the pride I was feeling from getting all suited up by myself.

Awkwardly, slowly, I shuffled my way towards the full length mirror to have a peek. I couldn’t help feeling a little bit like a penguin as I made my way over.

As I admired myself in the mirror, I ignored the fact that I could scarcely breath because of the compression of the wetsuit. It was tight to say the least. No matter, I would just lose a few more pounds and be good to go.

I waddled back into the bedroom to doff the wetsuit (that’s what we call it in the industry, “donning” and “doffing” of gear). The zipper poses the first challenge, but I manage to get it unzipped. As my body is released from the grip of the wetsuit I breath (literally) a sigh of relief. It felt so good to remove that restriction!

Now to remove my arms. This was going to be tricky since I was looking sort of like that kid from A Christmas Story that got all bundled up in winter clothing and had his arms sticking straight out from his sides. I immediately realized that it was going to be a problem to simply reach my other arm to begin the doffing process. Posting my right forearm against the wall and then turning my body into it, I was able to grasp the collar of the wetsuit on my left side and pull it down a bit.

I could only get it about half down my arm though. I tugged. I twisted. I heaved. I cursed. 

I was stuck. I realized that in my enthusiasm (read: panic) I had slid down to the floor and was writhing around like a lunatic trying determinedly to remove this mother-f’n wetsuit. 

Claustrophobia and panic began to creep up. My chest tightened, my breathing became more labored, and I was sweating profusely. 

“Ok dumbass, calm down!” I ordered myself. I actually spoke these words out loud and they did indeed help. I controlled my breathing and relaxed a bit. Two thoughts occurred to me:

First, I was genuinely terrified that I wouldn’t be able to get out of this wetsuit. I had momentary visions of the fire department being called and cutting me out of it with the Jaws of Life while the bemused neighbors looked on.

Secondly, I thought about what my wife would say if she were to somehow stumble upon me in the middle of this fiasco. That thought more than any other motivated me to give it one more concerted effort to extricate myself from this death trap called a wetsuit.

With a mighty effort I pulled down on the sleeve as hard as I could, a hernia threatening to instantly form, and finally (FINALLY!) was able to get it off my arm. Lying back on the bedroom floor and gasping for air, I can honestly say that this was one of the proudest moments of my life. I felt freedom as I have never felt it before. After catching my breath and resting for a few minutes, I was able to get the rest of the wetsuit off and put away.

I was utterly spent. I felt like I had just gone through an MMA training session or something. I ached, my lungs were still burning, and I was drenched in sweat.

But, I was free dammit. I was free.

Tobe Brockner

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