There’s no doubt that swimming in outdoor bodies of water, like open lakes, rivers, and oceans, is more fun than swimming in a rectangular indoor pool. The water is alive – it’s cold and you can feel it rushing against your skin, taking you to different places. On the surface, you can take advantage of the waves and go surfing, paddleboarding, and kayaking. If you want to explore the depths and do scuba diving, you can feast your eyes on the impressively beautiful marine life.
But in line with the excitement of open water swimming and other fun watersports is a big challenge, especially in colder temperatures. To begin with, you need to invest in a durable and comfortable swimwear – like a wetsuit.
Wetsuits are designed for swimmers, surfers, and water-sport aficionados to enjoy activities in colder waters. Aside from making them comfortable, wetsuits keep their core body temperature warm, ideally above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and avoid hypothermia.
Wearing a thin or poorly-fitted wetsuit during your swim or surf session can drag you back – in a literal sense. Warmth and flexibility is the name of the name. That’s why you need to choose the perfect suit with ample body coverage and thickness to make the most of the water activities you love.
1. Check the fit and flexibility
Fit, above all, is the most important factor to consider. The ideal wetsuit is tight enough to maintain a warm layer of water between your skin and the suit, but is not too tight to cut off your circulation. To avoid chafing, wear a rash guard underneath.
- Wrists. The wrist area should conform well to the body. The suit shouldn’t have loose spots or wrinkles in the arms. It should be snug – you don’t want cold water shooting up the arm, right? This will lead to drag and will fill the suit with water, preventing it from working at its best.
- Neck. Likewise, the neck area of the suit should be snug yet comfortable as well. If it rubs under your neck, wearing a rash guard could help prevent neck rash.
- Legs. To ensure more streamlined kick, look for suits with tapered legs down to the ankles. It will also help you get the suit on and off easily.
2. Determine the thickness based on the temperature
The length and thickness of the neoprene depend on how cold the water is. Generally, more thickness is placed on the torso to increase the body’s core warmth, and less thickness is given to the extremities to boost the range of motion and flexibility.
Here’s a general guide:
- For temperatures ranging from 80 to 74 degrees = Rash Guard will suffice
- 73 to 66 degrees = 2mm Neoprene Top / Springsuit
- 65 to 58 degrees = 2mm Long Sleeve Springsuit / 3/2 Full Suit
- 58 to 49 degrees = 3/2mm to 4/3mm Full Suit + Booties
- 49 degrees below = 5/4mm to 6/5mm Full Suit + Booties + Hood
In temperatures numbing your extremities, you may go for booties to keep your feet warm. You should also opt for gloves and a hood if you’re dealing with extremely cold water.
3. Pay attention to the wetsuit construction
Another important factor in wetsuit construction is stitching. Today, wetsuits are comprised of several pieces of neoprene that are stitched together, and good stitching makes the suit more durable, warm, and comfortable. Common types of wetsuit stitching include Flatlock Stitching, Sealed, and Sealed and Taped,
Picking the right style, including full zipper, half zipper, and zipperless, is also crucial as these help determine the amount of flexibility, a range of motion, and warmth. For instance, a full zipper suit’s zipper runs the full length of the spine. It’s easy to put on and off but it offers the least amount of flexibility. Zipperless suits, on the other hand, doesn’t offer easy entry and exit, yet provides the warmest, and most watertight construction, as well as increased range of motion and flexibility.
4. Buy depending on your activity
One suit does not fit all. The best wetsuit for surfing may not be the best one for open water swimming, so make sure to consider your water activity before choosing a wetsuit.
- Diving. Suits for diving are usually made from a denser neoprene. This can stand up to the changes in water pressure on deep dives. Dive suits aren’t designed with mobility in mind since you’re not going to move around.
- Open water swimming or triathlon. Triathlon wetsuits are designed for speed while swimming. They’re more lightweight and flexible compared to surf wetsuits, especially around the shoulders, to enable easy swimming. Pair your wetsuit with a durable custom swimming cap.
- Surfing, kiteboarding, and paddling. Suits for these activities are designed to balance warmth and mobility. They come in different levels of thickness and style. Spring suits and full suits are two of the most popular options; A spring suit is a combination of a short-sleeved top and a short pair of pants, while a full suit provides an entire body coverage from your neck to your ankles.
5. Try before you buy
Aside from checking if it’s the perfect fit for your desired water sport and temperature, it’s also important to try it on prior to buying to check the snugness, flexibility, and range of motion. A wetsuit should fit like a second skin without any clumping in the arms and legs.
Once inside your wetsuit, practice some arm strokes. Lift your arms over your head and stretch out your shoulders. Squat down as well. You should not feel any resistance from the suit after moving our arms overhead. If you feel too much pressure on your shoulders, the suit may be too small. A wetsuit that is perfect fit allows you to easily squat down and move your arms freely without lots of pressure.
While it’s okay to buy swim accessories like goggles, and rash tees and custom swimming caps online, wetsuits are better tried on first at physical stores. If you need to buy online, pay close attention to its thickness in mm, construction, and internal and external materials.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is one of the writers for Swimprint, a go-to shop for swimming enthusiasts, specializing in custom swimming caps in the UK. She’s fascinated with writing articles focused on sports fashion, health, and wellness.