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Wet Suits


Wet Suit Guide - Water Sports Protective Apparel

Scuba divers wearing wet suits
diving wet suits
Wet suits, or wetsuits, are inexpensive insulating suits used for surfing, diving, or other watersport activities.  Wet suits are designed to protect their wearers from adverse water and weather conditions.  Specific wet suit designs are available for scuba diving, ocean surfing, swimming, and other water sports.  Even windsurfers, water-skiers, and kayakers use specially designed wet suits!  Wet suits can be a bit cumbersome to don and to doff.  However, water sports enthusiasts who are willing to wear wet suits 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 wet suit A wet suit 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 wet suit 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 wet suit makers.  Blind stitch seams lay flat and are sewn with curved needles so that the stitching does not completely penetrate the neoprene layer.

surfing wet suit Wet suit materials have improved in quality over the years, becoming warmer, more flexible, and more durable.  Wet suit 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 wet suit or a 5 mm surfing wet suit.  Temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit require a 5 mm diving wet suit or a 3 mm surfing wet suit.  Thicker wet suits 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 wet suits 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 wet suit covers only its wearer's torso and legs.  In California, when the water is cold and the air is warm, a long john wet suit is often the most comfortable choice.  Wet suit booties, gloves, and hoods are sometimes worn to provide extra warmth and protection from the elements.

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

Wet Suit 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 wet suits, boots, gloves, and hoods for scuba divers.
  • Xcel Wet Suits
    Offers a wide range of full suits and spring suits for surfers, as well as wet suits for divers.
  • Bare Wet Suits
    Full and shorty wet suits, dry suits, and accessories for cold water and warm water diving.
  • Exceed Wet Suits
    This Florida firm features wet suits and rash guards for surfing, diving, and wakeboarding.
  • Rip Curl International
    Manufacturer of wet suits, surf wear, board shorts, surfboards, wakeboards, and accessories.

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Guide to Surfing Wet Suits and Diving Wet Suits

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