Scuba Diving Wetsuits FAQ

1. What wetsuit is best for surfing?

Surfing is a very active water sport and requires a full range of movements in the legs, arms and torso.  This is why it is important to have a very flexible wetsuit that will provide you freedom of movement.  You should invest in at least a 60% super stretch wetsuit.  If the water conditions are warm then a 3/2mm option is ideal as the arm sections are slightly thinner providing better flexibility across the arms, shoulders and back.  You may also prefer a shortie option as this leaves your legs and arms free to move unrestricted.

2.  What does wetsuit thickness mean?

Wetsuits are designed in a number of different thicknesses.  This is important as the thickness of the wetsuit will tell you how warm the wetsuit is.  Also the thicker the wetsuit is the less flexible it will be. Wetsuit thicknesses are often measured in two or three parts.  The first number will tell you the thickness of the torso section, the second number the thickness of the arm section and the third number the thickness of the leg section.  Choosing a wetsuit that has different thicknesses can be useful if you take part in an active sport.  You can then select a thicker body section for warmth and a thinner arm/leg section for additional flexibility.  It is important to balance wetsuit thickness carefully as you will want to be able to move as freely as possible whilst still remaining warm and comfortable when you are in the water.

3.  How do wetsuits work?

Wetsuits do not keep you dry.  Instead they use a very simple method that keeps you warm in the water.  When you get in the water the wetsuit will fill with a thin layer of water.  This is kept close to your skin with the body hugging design of the wetsuit.  Your own body heat will then heat the water and this will remain trapped in the wetsuit.  This can be a surprisingly effective way of keeping warm in most water conditions and wetsuits up to 7mm thick can offer effective thermal insulation in temperatures as low as 10 degrees centigrade.  The tight fitting cuff sections of the wetsuit will then prevent any further cold water from entering the suit which could flush out the warm water.  This is why it is so important to have a wetsuit that fits properly.

4.  What are wetsuits made from?

These days wetsuits are almost exclusively made from neoprene.  This rubber material is flexible and provides an effective body hugging fit.  Neoprene has tiny bubbles of nitrogen trapped into the material and this provides additional heat insulation and also assists with buoyancy.  Although there are other some other materials that can be made into wetsuits neoprene is the most popular as it combines flexibility, durability and affordability.

5. What size wetsuit do I need?

You will need to consider the size of your wetsuit carefully.  It is almost impossible to get a perfect fit but you will need to ensure that the wetsuit is body hugging without being too tight.  This could restrict your body movements and make it difficult to breathe.  You also don’t want your wetsuit to be loose as this will allow cold water to seep in through the cuffs.  This will flush out the warm water in the suit and make you feel cold very quickly when you are in the water.  Check the manufacturers sizing instructions and make sure you try on the wetsuit before you wear it in the water to ensure it fits.

6.  Can wetsuits be altered if they do not fit properly?

Some dive shops do offer alteration services for wetsuits.  However alterations can be expensive and it can be difficult to reshape wetsuits so that they fit comfortably once they have been made.  You may be better off buying a new wetsuit that fits you properly.

7. How can I stop my wetsuit from smelling?

If your wetsuit smells it is probably because you didn’t wash it after your last session in the water or let it dry properly before you put it away.  Wetsuits can get just as dirty as any other item of sports apparel and so they do need to be washed thoroughly after use.  It is a good idea to soak your wetsuit in some cold water or rinse it off with a hose.  This will help to wash away any salts or chemicals that could degrade the neoprene.  Every now and then you do need to wash your wetsuit with proper wetsuit wash.  This will clean away any body oils, sweat and bacteria.  It is this bacteria that makes your wetsuit smell if you put it away damp and unwashed.

8.  What are glued seams?

Wetsuit seams are important as different designs can be more effective at keeping you warm.  For example blindstitched seams are much more effective at keeping out cold water than standard flatlock seams.  If these blindstitched seams are also glued then they offer even more thermal insulation.  If you are going to be in water conditions under 20 degrees temperature then you should invest in a wetsuit with glued and blindstitched seams to help keep you warmer.

9.  What happens if my zipper breaks?

Breaking zippers are a common problem with wetsuits and you should be able to find a decent repair service through your local dive school or dive shop.  It is much cheaper to get your zipper repaired rather than buy a whole new suit and repair services will also be able to fix tears and rips in the neoprene of your wetsuit as well.

10.  How do I store my wetsuit for the winter?

If you are putting your wetsuit into storage for the winter then there are a number of ways you can help to make sure it is in good condition for the next season. Firstly wash and dry the suit thoroughly before you put it away.  Either hang the suit up or lay it flat on a shelf. If you bend the suit the creases can become permanent so this must be avoided.  Also keep the wetsuit away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures as these can both cause the neoprene to degrade.