Wetsuits are a common piece of gear used by athletes of various water sports. Swimmers, surfers, divers, canoers, and other water athletes use this essential gear in their athletic activities.
What Is a Wetsuit and Why Are They Worn?
A wetsuit is a piece of clothing usually made out of a material called neoprene, which is designed to be used in the water. A wetsuit is so called because it allows water to permeate underneath the fabric between the body and the suit. This is opposed to dry suits which keep water out from under the fabric, allowing clothes such as underwear to be worn comfortably underneath.
Wetsuits come in a variety of styles and colors. There are also different wetsuits for different purposes. Many different wetsuits are tailored to be appropriate for different temperatures. Wetsuits are very helpful for keeping swimmers warm. The fabric has nitrogen air bubbles within it, which has an insulating effect. This means that the cooler air is unable to leech body heat from the swimmer as easily, especially considering that nitrogen gas is a poor conductor of heat.
The air bubbles also contribute to the buoyancy of the wearer, helping them swim. However they may need to carry additional weight if they plan to dive while wearing their wetsuit. Thicker wetsuits that cover a greater portion of skin can be worn in circumstances where the water temperature is particularly low. Thicker wetsuits also unfortunately have the disadvantage of restricting freedom of movement, as the thicker rubbery material becomes less flexible the thicker it is.
Wetsuits are not always allowed in formal swimming competitions, where they may be seen as providing an advantage to their wearers. However, in open air swimming competitions where temperatures are very low, wetsuits may be allowed as a safety measure for race participants.
Wetsuits are typically allowed in triathlons. However most typical wetsuits must be changed out for biking clothes when transitioning from the swimming portion to the biking leg of the race. One particular kind of triathlon wetsuit called a tri suit is designed to be wearable for all segments of the race. Tri suits however do not have the insulating and buoyancy advantages of a standard wetsuit, and so they may not be appropriate for beginners or in triathlons held in cold temperatures.
Hoods, gloves, and boots can also be worn with wetsuits. Such accessories made out of the same neoprene material is ideal. Hoods can be useful to protect the head from the effects of the cold, while gloves and boots prevent hand and foot exposure.
Gloves can especially be useful when having to handle hazardous items, such as venomous corals, though boots may be less useful than flippers in many situations. However they will be necessary when walking on rocky beaches and similar types of shores that hard on people’s feet.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Wetsuit?
There are many wetsuits available on the market, including from trusted brands such as Xcel and Xterra. However it is important to remember that not every wetsuit is the same, and the wetsuit that is right for you depends heavily on what kind of activity you need it for.
One of the biggest factors for consideration is the ambient temperature where you will be doing your aquatic activities. During the hot summer months, thinner wetsuits are ideal, as you need less insulation and the additional maneuverability will be welcome. You can likely also don more minimal wetsuits, such as those that are sleeveless or don’t have leggings that extend to the ankles. These will help allow the water and air to keep you cool in the heat.
Your other primary consideration should be the type of sporting activity that you will be doing in your wetsuit. Water sports that are likely to result in you being submerged in water merit a thicker wetsuit in order to keep you warmer. Even in warm weather, you should consider thicker wetsuits if you will be spending most of your time underwater, such as if you are scuba diving.
People who are only boating such as rafting or kayaking are not likely to need thicker wetsuits unless they are outside in colder weather. A thin suit is suitable for them in most spring, summer, and autumn temperatures.
You may want to invest in wetsuit hoods, gloves, or boots depending on your activity as well.
Of course, the final consideration is price. Higher end wetsuits will feature superior materials and may feature extras such as interior linings for added comfort. The better materials will produce a wetsuit that is more durable, allowing it to last longer.
If you plan to engage in your aquatic hobby frequently, then it may be worthwhile to think of your wetsuit as an investment. A cheaper wetsuit is likely to be lower quality and may not last as long as you need it. Consider paying more for higher quality if you plan to use it frequently.