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Wetsuits have quickly become one of the most important things to bring with you on a cold day out on the water.
Whether you’re a surfer, a paddleboarder, a diver, or just love a swim in the ocean, wetsuits can be one of the handiest tools at your disposal.
Water can be deceptively cold, even on a warm day – so it’s important to keep warm. Do wetsuits keep you warm? How do they work? Follow our guide to find out more.
Table of Contents
What Are Wetsuits?
Wetsuits are a handy piece of clothing that do exactly what they say in the name. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this useful piece of equipment is there to keep you dry.
It’s actually there to do the complete opposite. Wetsuits are there to make you wet. Most wetsuits on the market are made out of double-lined neoprene, which is a rubber that has been laminated to the fabric material.
These fabrics are usually something stretchy like nylon so that people wearing them don’t feel too constricted.
Having this stretchy fabric makes sure that the person wearing them is able to move around freely without the suit causing problems for them.
These suits can be seen on anyone and everyone in bodies of water, especially when it’s cold. There are long-sleeved and short-sleeved variations to allow people further options on mobility and effectiveness. Deep-sea divers will often use the full-bodied version of these suits for extra warmth.
Do Wetsuits Keep You Warm?
The answer is yes! Wetsuits do keep you warm and can be the difference between life and death in a lot of cases. Wetsuits are designed to ensure that the heat from your body stays trapped between you and the suit, keeping you warm.
A lot of people use wetsuits for diving and snorkeling. These activities in particular, sometimes require you to dive deep into the water, making it hard for your body to retain heat. Wetsuits do this for you.
You start to feel cold when nerves in your skin send signals to your brain informing you that the surface of your skin is getting colder.
So when people jump into a cold body of water their skin rapidly declines in temperature, forcing a lot of swimmers into a state of shock. This can make it hard for you to breathe and can cause a lot of problems for those in the water.
How Do Wetsuits Work?
Wetsuits almost act as another layer of skin, sitting closely on top of your natural skin. As previously mentioned, many people think that wetsuits are designed to keep you dry. However, they do precisely the opposite, to a lot of people’s surprise.
Wetsuits are designed to absorb water and trap the liquid in the space between the clothing lining and the skin of the wearer.
By doing this, the wetsuits use the human body’s body heat to their advantage. It works by having the natural body heat warm the water under the wetsuit and trapping the heat close to the body.
This keeps the person earring the suit warm and prevents them from going into shock or having their muscles seize up. Because of this,
wetsuits are now regarded as a vital piece of equipment for anyone looking to take part in activities such as swimming and diving.
How Cold Is Too Cold For A Wetsuit?
Although wetsuits are incredibly useful, they obviously don’t work in all types of conditions. Extreme cold can cause the material to seize up and become frozen, but we’re talking minus degrees south of zero!
It’s recommended that wetsuits are used in temperatures of around 50 to 78 degrees, where they perform best and keep you warm.
At the end of the day, the wetsuits use your body heat to warm the water in the suit. If the water is too cold, your body heat won’t react quick enough and just make you colder.
Anything under about 50 degrees can cause the wetsuit to not work as efficiently and will cause you to feel cold and could possibly lead to shock.
However, there are more suits that are better suited to these sorts of climates. These may be more expensive and suit the more extreme conditions that deep-sea divers and other explorers are used to.
Are Wetsuits Good For Surfing?
A lot of surfers won’t care about how warm or cold the water is, so they will usually have a wetsuit spare, just in case.
A lot of the time the weather is warm enough that you won’t need one when surfing, however, avid surfers will know that a lot of big waves will appear during weather conditions such as rain and high winds.
These are opportunities for a great surfing session that you won’t want to miss.
By having a wetsuit at your disposal you can ensure that any day can be a great day for surfing, providing that the waves aren’t too hostile.
For within reason, most weathers can be warm enough with a wetsuit on your back. By wearing one, you’re not only ensuring your safety, but you’re limiting the amount of time between surfing trips and snorkeling sessions.
On top of surfing, wetsuits are great for paddleboarding. Because you’re not as involved with the water as the aforementioned surfing, you can expect to feel a lot colder.
The ocean winds and weather can have a greater effect on someone who isn’t actively moving to cut the waves. The lack of motion can cause the blood to move slower around the body, making you colder.
The wetsuit will act as insulation and will keep water warm on the skin, should you fall in.
Wetsuits are a great way to stay warm when the water has other ideas. Although many believe that wetsuits keep the water out, they keep you warm by trapping the water in, working side-by-side with the human body to ensure you avoid possible injuries and shock.
Because of their flexibility and stretchy nature, wetsuits are classed as one of the most useable and important things to have when entering the water. So what are you waiting for? Get yourself a wetsuit and take a plunge!
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I’m an Colorado native, who learned to surf in the Pacific Northwest, and SW Canada. I live inland near the mountains now, and love to get out on my SUP. It’s weird, but I love windy, choppy days as no-one is out and I like the challenge.