wetsuits - wet suits  



Wetsuit Guide - Water Sports Protective Apparel

surfer wearing a wetsuit at sunset
Scuba divers wearing wetsuits
diving wetsuits
Wetsuits, or wet suits, are inexpensive insulating suits used for surfing, diving, or other watersport activities.  Wetsuits are designed to protect their wearers from adverse water and weather conditions.  Specific wetsuit designs are available for scuba diving, ocean surfing, swimming, and other water sports.  Even windsurfers, water-skiers, and kayakers use specially designed wetsuits!  Wetsuits can be a bit cumbersome to don and to doff.  However, water sports enthusiasts who are willing to wear wetsuits while enjoying their water activities can often find lower cost resort accommodations during cooler shoulder seasons than during peak vacation periods.

surfer girl wearing shortie wetsuit A wetsuit will not keep you totally dry.  Some water will seep in through the seams, zipper, and bodily extremities; and this water will be trapped in your suit and gradually warmed by your body temperature.  Each type of wetsuit seam construction – overlock, flat stitch, and blind stitch – is designed for comfortable use at a different water temperature range.  Blind stitch construction is usually favored by modern wetsuit makers.  Blind stitch seams lay flat and are sewn with curved needles so that the stitching does not completely penetrate the neoprene layer.

surfing wetsuit Wetsuit materials have improved in quality over the years, becoming warmer, more flexible, and more durable.  Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters; the optimal thickness depends on the water temperature, and the thickness in the torso area is often greater than around the arms and shoulders.  Typically, water temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit require a 7 mm diving wetsuit or a 5 mm surfing wetsuit.  Temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit require a 5 mm diving wetsuit or a 3 mm surfing wetsuit.  Thicker wetsuits generally keep their wearers warmer in cold water, but they tend to be less flexible and restrict their wearers' freedom of movement.  Real cold water?  Add booties.  Arctic air?  Get gloves and a hood.

The three primary types of wetsuits are spring suits, full suits, and long johns.  A spring suit, or shortie, covers its wearer's torso and thighs.  It may have either short or long sleeves for its wearer's arms.  A full suit, or steamer, covers its wearer's torso, legs, and arms, while a long john wetsuit covers only its wearer's torso and legs.  In California, when the water is cold and the air is warm, a long john wetsuit is often the most comfortable choice.  Wetsuit booties, gloves, and hoods are sometimes worn to provide extra warmth and protection from the elements.

Another popular wetsuit shape is the vest, which can be layered over a full suit for additional thermal protection.  In Florida or Hawaii, a simple wetsuit vest may suffice to keep you warm in the water.

Wetsuit Manufacturers

  • O'Neill
    Wet suits, dry suits, rash guards, booties, hoods, gloves, and accessories.
  • Body Glove
    Full suits, spring suits, and accessories for surfing, diving, and general watersports.
  • Henderson USA
    Innovative designer of wetsuits, boots, gloves, and hoods for scuba divers.
  • Xcel Wetsuits
    Offers a wide range of full suits and spring suits for surfers, as well as wetsuits for divers.
  • Bare Wetsuits
    Full and shorty wetsuits, dry suits, and accessories for cold water and warm water diving.
  • Exceed Wetsuits
    This Florida firm features wetsuits and rash guards for surfing, diving, and wakeboarding.
  • Rip Curl International
    Manufacturer of wetsuits, surf wear, board shorts, surfboards, wakeboards, and accessories.

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Guide to Surfing Wetsuits and Diving Wetsuits

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Young Woman Wearing a Gray Wetsuit