A spray-on neoprene substitute invented by a Blacktip Island divemaster has many in the dive industry questioning the future of rubber-based wetsuits.
The brainchild of Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Alison Diesel, Can-O-Prene is applied in layers immediately before a dive.
“Guests always ask how thick a wetsuit they need,” Diesel said. “We can’t tell them. Some people get cold easier than others. With Can-O-Prene, though, they can tweak their thermal protection. The more layers you spray on, the toastier you stay. Then at the end of the day, you just peel it off.
“Plus, we ditched all the polymers and acetylene and metal oxides,” Diesel said. “It’s made from soy and seaweed, so it’s enviro-friendly.”
Diesel teamed up with island entrepreneur Piers “Doc” Plank, owner of the Bamboo You line of scuba gear, to manufacture and market Can-O-Prene.
“Alison had the vision and the biochemical know how,” Plank said. “When she approached us about handling the business end of things, we jumped at the chance. This could revolutionize the dive industry.
“Not only is it all natural, it also takes up minimal space in luggage,” Plank said. “Instead of hauling down a heavy wetsuit, imagine tossing a can of air freshener in your bag. That’s all the room Can-O-Prene takes, and one can’ll get you through a week of Caribbean diving.”
Scuba divers who tested the product were impressed.
“It’s like getting a custom drysuit without the custom price,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase said. “I mean, it’s just fwoosh and I got a 5/3 suit in minutes.”
Critics, however, questioned Can-O-Prene’s environmental soundness.
“If it comes out of a can, it’s not all natural,” local activist Harry Pickett said. “We have no idea what makes that goop foam like that, or what sort of toxins it’s releasing onto the reef.”
Medical experts worried the product’s potential health risks.
“Without knowing its exact chemical makeup, we don’t know what agents are leaching into divers’ skin,” said island doctor Azul Tang. “At least with vulcanized polychloroprene we know what we’re dealing with.”
Plank and Diesel were quick to allay those concerns.
“Is Can-O-Prene perfect? No,” Plank said. “Frankly, you smell kind of like a dried herring after the third or fourth dive day. We’re working on that. But it’s better than wrapping yourself in fake rubber.”
“It’s biodegradable, latex free, gluten free and dolphin safe,” Diesel added. “You could eat it after you peel it off. Unless you’re one of those grotty divers who to pee in their wetsuit.”
Neither Diesel nor Plank would comment on rumors Can-O-Prene will also be sold in adult novelty stores.