Are you are a South African diver thinking about buying a drysuit? I hope this page will answer a few of your questions and help you save some money while avoiding some pitfalls.
If you’re not South African, well this page really isn’t relevant to you.
Why are new drysuits so hectically expensive in SA?
It’s all about import duty. Drysuits are catagorised by SARS as items that attract duties of 40%. Add VAT, shipping, clearing fees and you find yourself paying up to 65% of the purchase price of the suit. That seems crazy but trust me, you or your importing agent can try absolutely anything you like – you are not going to get away with paying SARS anything less than the maximum they can possibly extract from you. So don’t blame the dive shop selling drysuits or think they are just trying to rip you off, they really aren’t. It’s SARS that’s doing the ripping off! SA dive gear suppliers actually vastly reduce their markup/profit margin on drysuits when compared to other dive gear to make up for this but you will still pay on average 40% more for a drysuit in SA when compared to the same drysuit in Europe or America.
Then why don’t we make drysuits in SA?
I get asked this question quite often. If the import duties on drysuits make them so expensive why not just manufacture them locally? The answer; well for a start consider that everything that makes up a drysuit from the fabric to every component fitted is imported and all those items also attract high import duties. Then, if one considers the volume of demand for drysuits here, a manufacturer would not be able to operate a production line continuously and the increased cost of making small batches of suits or making one at a time make production quite expensive. The labour requires special skills and machienery not readily available here. Even if you could start production the facility would be idle for long periods due to the low demand which would make it inefficient. One might think that our wetsuit manufactures (there are 3 in SA) could produce drysuits quite easily. Well they could and they have in the past but the those drysuits were horrible. The whole mindset required to make a proper drysuit is quite different from that by which wetsuits are made. They try and use the wetsuit materials and manufacturing techniques they know and it ends up being a disaster. The only local manufacturer of drysuits (2017) is Stingray Marine who produce small volumes (I estimate less that 5% of all the suits in SA) of decent enough tri-laminate suits in Cape Town. Their production is irregular as it’s a bit of a side-line business to their main boat building business. Anyway, I’ve run the numbers many times and I’m afraid I just don’t believe it’s viable to manufacture drysuits in SA. If it were, BlueFlash would be doing it.
So can’t I just get my own drysuit from overseas?
You can, and why wouldn’t you? You could order and pay online for custom made suit from a UK supplier, then fly to the UK, collect it, claim the UK VAT back, and fly back with it. You will probably pay considerably less overall than you would have for the same suit from a SA supplier. Including the cost of the flights! It’s seems impossible but it’s true. But, err it’s not exactly legal; You are going to have to bring the drysuit back without declaring it to avoid duties. Mmm, and then you need to have a few days off to do this, and what about the expense of staying in the UK, and the VISA? And what if it doesn’t fit right or it leaks? So although there is a heck of a lot of money to be saved if you know how to do this there are potentially also some big problems if things go wrong. I obviously can’t advise people to do anything illegal, and as a drysuit retailer it’s not to my advantage, but I do understand why this happens. All I’m doing here is providing you with information which hopefully will get more divers diving dry and grow our industry.
What about buying a used drysuit?
BlueFlash have always tried to help divers selling their used suits by listing them on this website and allowing them to be stored at our workshop where potential buyers could view them and try them for size. Doing this meant that we would quite often make alterations or repairs to suits so we are happy to offer the service. But honestly, matching buyers with suits of the right fit and type is more difficult than one might think and most used suits have problems which may be expensive to correct and some are of poor quality and not really worth spending money on. So unfortunately the chances of matching a well priced but good quality used suit with a buyer that it fits well without alterations or major repairs are not great. But we still advise buyers to check with us about used suits before buying a new suit just in case there is a gem to be discovered.