The Different Types Of Wetsuits ( Scuba, Surf, and Free-diving suits)


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A wetsuit is a special kind of suit worn by people who spend a huge amount of time in water like surfers, divers and those who swim in cold water. Wetsuits helps the wearer to retain body heat, thus protects from hypothermia, a condition in which the individual is at a dangerously low body temperature.

The name wetsuit originates from the ability of neoprene, which is the major material used in making wetsuits, to retain a thin layer of water and, as such, causes the wearer to be constantly wet. Some wetsuits have seals attached to them at the wrist, neck, or ankles and are referred to as semi-dry suits. Wetsuits are a major part of equipment and materials used by surfers and underwater divers all over the world.

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Brief History Of Wetsuits

Wetsuits, as it is now called, were developed in the 20th century. There are still debates as the original inventor of the wetsuit, but the credit of that feat is usually accorded to Hugh Bradner, who at one point in his life worked with the US Navy.

Hugh Bradner created the first wetsuit in 1951, using neoprene as his primary material. Another key contributor to the development of the wetsuit was Jack O’Neill, a businessman born in Oregon. Jack was also a well-respected pioneer of water sports surfing. Wetsuits, over time, have evolved from the bare coated neoprene to the inclusion of tougher materials like spandex and nylon.

How Wetsuits Work

The primary purpose of wetsuits is to ensure the dryness of the wearer in very wet conditions and help maintain normal body temperature. For the wetsuit to work correctly, it should fit tightly against the wearer’s body. The level of thickness of the wetsuit largely contributes to the warmth eventually produced.

The mechanism of the wetsuit is pretty basic as it allows water in when the wearer is submerged in a body of water. Water allowed in is then warmed up to normal body temperature by the heat produced by the body. This warm water is then released directly within the wetsuit rather than into the water. Wetsuits are usually coated in comfort layers, heat-reflecting, outer, and neoprene layers.

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Functions of wetsuit

They are excellent thermal insulators for people who frequently engage in water activities where regular clothes cannot serve. Wetsuits are widely used by people involved in water sports such as underwater diving, surfing, sailing, kayaking e.t.c. It can also be used in sea rescue operations. Wetsuits made of Lycra or spandex also protect the wearer from stings from jellyfishes and other water creatures.

Different Categories Of Wetsuits

Wetsuits are majorly categorized into three; scuba suits, surf suits, and free diving suits.

Surf suits

Surf suits usually vary in thickness and may range between 2mm and 7mm. The average water temperature is considered when adorning surf suits. Surf suits allow for torso movements and quick limb coordination.

Scuba suits and generally free diving suits

They can be broken down into the following:

Spring suit wetsuit

This is categorically used in spring and autumn. They usually have short arms and leg lengths. The Long John wetsuit with no sleeves is usually short in the legs. It mostly covers the whole legs but leaves the arms bare. There’s also the wetsuit top covering from the waist upwards and is usually long sleeves.

The full-body wetsuit

As the name implies, covers the entire body, including the ankles and wrists. The thickness of the suit ranges from about 2mm to 9mm, depending on the water temperature.

For divers in cold water, cold temperature, and at deep lengths, commercial wetsuits are suitable as they are made from thicker neoprene tough enough to keep divers warm.

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How To Care For Wetsuits

Wetsuits are arguably different from regular laundry and should be treated as such. They require extra care and attention. To keep your wetsuit in good condition, here are a few tips you should take.

– Use fresh water to rinse your wetsuit properly each time after use. Avoid using hot water as hot water diminishes the flexibility of neoprene.

– Wash your wetsuits separately from the other garments.

– Hang wetsuits in the shade to dry and never in direct contact with the sun as ultraviolet rays can be harmful and toxic to it.

– Use a designated hanger specially meant for wetsuits to hang and store them.

– Never iron wetsuits – high heat should always be avoided at every point in time.

– Avoid folding the wetsuit as this can weaken the material. It is advisable you keep it on a hanger.

– Stay away from oil, gasoline, and chemical solvents as they can indirectly weaken the fabric.

– Never wad up your wetsuit and store it in a box or trunk. Rinse immediately after use.

Differences between wetsuits and drysuits

Most people find it hard to tell the differences between a wetsuit and a drysuit as both of them are used by divers, and they perform very similar functions. As confusing as this may seem, certain things mark them apart.

Wetsuits must be fitted tightly against the wearer’s body for it to work properly, but drysuits don’t need to be. Drysuits are usually loosed, and they keep the cold away.

Wetsuits provide insulation in moderately cold conditions and waters, while drysuits insulate the wearer in very cold and icy conditions. Drysuits are mostly used by underwater divers in icy regions as it keeps the wearer totally dry and warm. Drysuits also last longer than wetsuits and are usually waterproof.


Although wetsuits can be expensive and may be regarded as non-essential, it is advisable that they be made a part of wardrobe essentials as they go a long way in ensuring survival, especially in tropical countries and regions with large water bodies. Consider getting one before your next dive.