The Perils of Wetsuits
James Bond often slipped into a black rubber wetsuit. Sean Connery as 007 is very partial to them. Preferably accessorized with a gun or a vicious underwater harpoon.
My favourite Connery 007 scene is in Goldfinger, where he swims underwater to an island. He stealthily emerges at the villain’s posh beach mansion wearing a sleek, shiny wetsuit. Bond swings into action and effortlessly takes down the vicious guards.
When Bond tears off the dripping wetsuit, he reveals a perfectly tailored, neatly pressed white tuxedo suit, evening shirt and tie. Naturally the suave 007 is not even wet and he smoothly blends into the glamorous party crowd, all sucking down cocktails or tossing champagne down their throats.
My initial experience of wetsuits was significantly less glamorous. I was introduced to wetsuits at coastal surf schools. I wanted to learn how to surf and over two summers attended a couple of adult surf schools on Australia’s east coast.
The wetsuits on offer were usually fatigued and very easy to slip on. They’d been stretched mightily over many sessions of surfing newbies. This made them incredibly comfortable and not at all waterproof.
No matter, there were greater humiliations lying in wait for those of us who had no choice but to don women’s wetsuits the colour of Miss Piggy’s skin. I tried to avoid them as they were a bilious shade of pale pink. The faded, saggy kneed black wetsuits were a preferable option.
My downfall when trying to surf, was that even as a kid I had lousy balance. I loved roller skating recklessly downhill but frequently toppled over pavement cracks. My knees and hands were constantly grazed as I tried to protect my face by flinging out my arms.
It’s surprising I survived childhood because after I gave up the skates I acquired an old second-hand bike that had no brakes. Skimming downhill on my way home from high school I didn’t have a hope in hell of stopping at intersections – so I simply closed my eyes and hung on.
Back to my surfing dilemma. I had to give away the idea of learning to surf as I couldn’t even stay on the surfboard when we were waiting for the right wave to come along. Inevitably my board would tip and I’d flip upside down. Gulping seawater with only my painted red toenails visible. Subsequently I decided to abandon surfing and take up body boarding.
A couple of weeks ago I realized why everyone wears wetsuits at my favourite surf beach. The island’s seawater is freezing cold even on warm Spring days.
So I visited the local surf shop, early morning. I was assisted by a laconic ex pro surfer. He still surfs every single day and owns a special winter wetsuit with matching rubber booties – so he can surf in howling storms. Mick admitted he’d surfed a few times wearing a woolen beanie on his head.
Fortunately, he had a sense of humour as my fitting took a whole hour while we worked our way through the racks of long black wetsuits trying to find one that fitted. It was murder trying to tug the damned things over my feet.
The problem was – if the bottom half of the wetsuit fitted me the top part would be too tight and vice versa. The damn wetsuits were tight fitting and getting them on involved squirming around in a tiny airless dressing room.
Mick regaled me with humorous tales from the surf and pro tips on wetsuit care. He nonchalantly mentioned in passing that one should always hose out the wetsuit before drying it – to flush out the accumulated urine. Uh huh.
He ended up somehow zipping me into a remarkably comfortable wetsuit that actually fitted. Quelle relief! I left the surf shop with my purchase feeling like I’d been wrestling black anacondas for well over an hour.
A restorative café breakfast involving caffeine was required.
photo: Sean Connery as James Bond in Thunderball 1965 revealing his furry chest. The series of seven James Bond movies turned Connery into a major sex symbol in the sixties & seventies.