How To Choose A Wetsuit For Diving Surfing Kayaking Swimming?

How To Choose A Wetsuit For Diving Surfing Kayaking Swimming?

August 11, 2018

Surfers and water-sport aficionados around the world can thank him for extending their seasons beyond a few short months of summer and their range of surf spots outside of balmy beaches. Wetsuits enable us to enjoy our favorite sports in colder waters by keeping our core body temperature above 95 degrees Fahrenheit and preventing hypothermia. From scuba divers to triathletes to surfers to freshwater rafters and kayakers, there are many outdoor pursuits that require wetsuits in order to fully enjoy them.

how-to-choose-a-wetsuit-for -diving-surfing-kayaking-swimming

First, you should be aware that wetsuits are not “one size fits all” for any activity. Different aquatic pursuits have different requirements, so what works for one may not be your best choice for another.

Diving: Dive suits are usually made from a denser neoprene that can stand up to changes in water pressure on deep dives, which makes them stiffer. Since you don’t move around a whole lot on a dive, they’re not designed with mobility in mind. 

Surfing, paddling, kiteboarding: These are designed to balance mobility and warmth, and come in a range of thicknesses and styles.

Triathlon, open-water swimming: Triathlon wetsuits are especially designed for speed while swimming. They’re lighter in weight and much more flexible (particularly around the shoulders) than surf wetsuits, to allow for easy swimming. On the flip side, theyre less durable and abrasion-resistant than surf suits. The flotation in tri wetsuits has the added advantage of making swimming long distances less tiring. Some have strategically placed flotation to help the swimmer maintain proper body position in the water, which is very helpful for swimmers who aren’t as technically proficient.


The idea behind a wetsuit is to permit a small about of water to seep into the suit initially, which, once heated by your body, forms an insulating layer of warmth. Foam neoprene, treated with water-repellant chemicals, prevents the cold ocean water from continuing to wash in and disturb the temperature within the suit.

 The thickness of the suit determines how warm the surfer will remain after time spent submerged in the frigid water; the fatter the material, the warmer he'll be. Neoprene panels come in several thicknesses: usually between 1-6 millimeters. Depending on the water temp, suits are usually pieced together using different thicknesses of neoprene, heavier on the chest and back areas, and thinner on the arms, legs and shoulders. This multi-thickness construction leads to nominal classifications such as 3/2mm (3mm on the core and 2mm on the extremities, in this case).


Because of neoprene's rigid and grippy nature, it can be really tough to yank on a wetsuit and pull it up into place. Luckily, suit manufacturers figured out a way to lessen the resistance formed between the wetsuit and the rider's skin. Smoothskin nylon facing is attached to the inside of the wetsuit, making getting in and out much easier, as well as providing added warmth to the surfer. Sometimes, the material is attached to both the inside and outside of the suit – a material construction known as Nylon 2 – which increases warmth. Smoothskin was a needed advance in wetsuit construction; however the added bulk coupled with a decreased durability in nylon-backed suits are the unfortunate side effects of such a progression. Manufacturers have now begun using lycra, spandex and even wool blends as a replacement for raw nylon backing, leading to wetsuits with much more flex and stretch, and a more streamlined fit.


As mentioned before, one the most important features of a wetsuit are the thickness of the neoprene. Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters.  The following are the ranges you will find in nearly any brand: 0.5 - 1 MM, 2 MM, 3 MM, 4 MM, and 5+ MM. The first number refers to the thickness of the neoprene in the torso area, the most important area of your wetsuit that protects against hypothermia. The second number relates to the thickness in the legs area, and if there is a third number, it refers to the thickness in the arms area.   That is why the thicker neoprene is placed where you need less flexibility (your torso), and the thinner neoprene is used where your body is constantly in movement (arms and legs).

Below is a comprehensive guide for the wetsuits thickness for different water temperatures and corresponding wetsuit type.  


Water Temperature Range (°F)

Wetsuit Thickness

Wetsuit Type

Seal Type





65°- 75°

0.5 mm - 2/1 mm

Top / Shorty


62°- 68°

2 mm - 3/2 mm

Springsuit / Full Suit


58°- 63°

3/2 mm - 4/3 mm

Full Suit + Boots


52°- 58°

4/3 mm - 5/4/3 mm

Full Suit + Boots + Gloves + Hood

Sealed and Taped

43°- 52°

5/4 mm - 5/4/3 mm

Full Suit + Boots + Gloves + Hood

Sealed and Taped

42° and below

6/5 mm - 6/5/4 mm

Full Suit + Boots + Gloves + Hood

Sealed and Taped


The fit is also an important feature to consider when shopping for a wetsuit. The improper fit will hinder your movement in the water, expose your body to cold, and cause discomfort while in the water.  So make sure to find the correct fit and size for your body type to enjoy the experience to the fullest.  A wetsuit should fit snug to your skin and tight to keep you warm but still allow for mobility and movement. If your suit is loose it will allow too much water to get trapped in the suit, making it less effective at keeping you warm.  Be careful of how tight your wetsuit is!  You want to be able to move your legs and arms freely and also allow for your blood to circulate.  A very tight fit can cause your blood circulation to slow down or even stop which is extremely dangerous.  Next important area to watch for is the neck. Neck fit is also important to prevent abrasion and skin rash.  Most women wear a swimsuit underneath for extra layer of protection.



Wetsuit TOP- Front Zipper


Wetsuit Pants


Wetsuit Fullsuit-Back Zipper


Wetsuit Shortysuit

Wetsuit Accessories : Booties,Gloves,Hoods,

Rash Guard


Rash guard are primarily used in warm water as a substitute for wetsuits, but are also often layered underneath wetsuits for comfort. Most are constructed of blends of Lycra, nylon, spandex, and/or polyester; they therefore don’t provide much warmth but offer excellent sun protection, keep sticky surf wax off your skin, help prevent chafing from your board. They can also protect you from scrapes against coral or stings from jellyfish.

Care Tips

You should always rinse your wetsuit and booties or gloves after use, especially if you’ve been in salt water. This will ensure a longer life and prevent the fabric from getting smelly or breaking down.

You can occasionally soak your gear overnight in cold water with a mild detergent but avoid using a washing machine, which will compromise the neoprene. Let wetsuits fully dry before stowing away. They should be stored in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight, preferably hung on a wide (not wire) hanger.

In my opinion, spending a day out in the water is a day well spent, and the right wetsuit can make it all the better. If you have any questions about choosing a wetsuit, feel free to contact me.


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.