Water activities are not only fun, but they’re a great way to stay cool during the summer. For example, you can go surfing, scuba diving, jet-skiing, parasailing, kayaking, or even fishing.
There’s just one thing—things can get cold when you’re in or near the water (assuming that you’re partaking in the activities during the colder months). And that’s why it’s so important to wear the right gear. It’ll lower your risk of getting yourself into an unwanted situation. For example, it might be a good idea to wear a bathing suit if you’re surfing. After all, there’s a high chance that you’ll end up in the water.
Wetsuits are another option. If anything, they’re one of the best things that you can wear for surfing and other water sports. The way they’re made, they’re specifically designed to keep you warm even when you’re wet. On top of that, they’ll protect your skin from the sun, which is important, when you’re spending many hours outdoors.
Different Types of Wetsuits
There are several types of wetsuits and while they’re all made for the same purpose, they do vary in thickness, style, and material. Here are some of the most common kinds.
The Full Wetsuit: This kind of wetsuit covers your entire body—from your legs all the way up to your neck. Given that, it’s not surprising to know that it’s also one of the most popular styles. In terms of thickness, it usually ranges from 3/2mm to 5/4mm.
The Hooded Full Wetsuit: This type of wetsuit comes with a hood that prevents heat from escaping from the head. In addition to that, it’ll also keep your ears warm.
The Long John Wetsuit: The long john wetsuit is different from the full wetsuit in that it doesn’t have any sleeves. While your arms won’t be protected, it allows for better paddling, which makes it ideal for certain sports such as kayaking.
The Spring Wetsuit: The spring suit is called that because it’s usually worn during the spring (and sometimes the summer) when the water temperature isn’t as cold. Unlike some of the others that we’ve mentioned, they do not provide full coverage.
The Short Arm Steamer Wetsuit: The short arm steamer wetsuit is a popular style that’s both armless and legless. As it is, it’s usually worn by surfers in warm waters who are wanting an extra layer of protection over their skin.
What Material Are Wetsuits Made Of?
Almost all wetsuits are made from neoprene, a synthetic rubber material that’s known for its insulating properties. Not only is it durable, but it’s also flexible, which allows it to fit tight on the body. On top of all that, it’s entirely waterproof.
Choosing the Right Wetsuit For You
As you can see, not all wetsuits are the same. Considering that, you want to make sure that whatever you pick is suited for your needs. Here are a few things that you’ll want to consider.
The Water Temperature
First things first, you’ll want to consider the water temperature. After all, that’ll determine the thickness of the suit. Generally speaking, the colder the water, the thicker you want it to be. Generally speaking, you won’t need to wear a wetsuit if the temperature is above 73F; you can just wear a rashguard instead for sun protection.
Note: Some wetsuits will have to numbers—this means that two different thicknesses are used for suit. For example, the leg or arm area might be thinner for mobility purposes.
Different activities call for different wetsuits. For example, you might want something with a little bit of extra padding if you’re paddling in rapids. In contrast, you’ll want something thinner for lower resistance if you plan on swimming.
The Proper Fit
Proper fit is crucial. As a general rule, you want your wetsuit to fit as snug as possible—that way, it’ll be able to prevent your body heat from escaping. Given that, it shouldn’t be bunching or folding under the arms or behind the knees; it should take you a bit of effort to put on.
At the same time, however, you don’t want it to be too tight. You can tell if it’s too tight if it’s painful restrictive or if you can’t freely move your legs or arms. In some cases, it might also feel like it’s riding up in your crotch area.
Safe Washing Instructions for Wetsuits
The Importance of Rinsing Your Wetsuit
Wetsuits are similar to swimsuits in that you always want to rinse them with cold water after each wear. That’ll remove any sand, salt, or body oils that might be on the suit. Make sure that you don’t use hot water as heat can damage and break down the neoprene material.
Can You Put Wetsuits in the Washing Machine?
Generally speaking, you don’t want to put your wetsuit in the washing machine. With that said, it is possible as long as you take the proper steps. For one thing, you don’t want to wash the suit with anything else as it can cause damage. In other words, place it in the washer by itself.
As far as soap goes, you want to use something mild and natural like ACTIVE detergent; other products would be too harsh on the material. For instance, it can cause the neoprene to become brittle, which can affect its qualities. And like we said earlier, you want to use cold water.
In terms of the actual settings, it’s best to skip the spin cycle. If anything, it can seriously affect the life expectancy of your suit. That is, it can easily damage the seams, which are responsible for keeping you warm when you’re out there in the water. Given that, it’s super important that you use the delicate or gentle option.
Once the wetsuit is done rinsing, hang it up to dry right side out (do not leave it outdoors). After a day or so, you’ll want to flip it inside out so that you’re drying the inner layer of the garment. The last thing that you want to do is let the moisture build up as it can lead to mildew growth. Depending on the thickness of your wetsuit, it can take several days for it to dry completely. Remember to keep the zippers open—that’ll give you more air flow, which will speed up the drying process.
Note: Do not hang your wetsuits with wire hangers; it can cause irreversible damage to the neoprene (it’ll cause the shoulder area to stretch out). Instead, use padded hangers.
Never should you put your wetsuit in the dryer. The high temperature inside the machine will ruin the neoprene and your suit.
Washing Your Wetsuits By Hand
It’s always best to hand wash your wetsuit. It’s not that difficult either; you just need a tub or washbasin that’s big enough to fit the garment. Start by filling it with cool to tepid water. Do not use hot water—it can damage the neoprene. The next step is to add half a scoop of ACTIVE detergent; that will give you the bath that you’ll need to wash the item.
Prepare your wetsuit by opening all of the zippers—that will give you easy access to all of the areas. Also, it’s a good idea to turn it inside out; that’ll allow you to clean the interior, where most of the sweat and grime accumulate. Once you’ve done all that, submerge your wetsuit in the water. Gently knead the material to work in the detergent and maximize its effectiveness.
Allow it to soak for at least 20 minutes before emptying out the dirty water from the tub. Rinse your wetsuit thoroughly with clean water until all traces of detergent residue are gone.
Hang your wetsuit with a padded hanger and allow it to air dry. Flip the garment after 24 hours or so to dry the other side. The zippers should be left open for maximum air circulation.
How to Remove Odors From Wetsuits
It’s not uncommon for your wetsuit to develop a mildew smell, especially if you leave it wet for a period of time. The good news is that there are a few ways to deodorize it. For one thing, you can use baking soda. As with hand washing, you want to start by filling a large tub with cold water. Add your detergent and submerge the suit, making sure that it’s inside out.
Add one cup of baking soda to the water and agitate the solution with your hand to mix everything. From there, knead the neoprene material to work in the mixture. Let it soak for at least 15 to 20 minutes—the baking soda will help to neutralize the smell. Rinse well afterward with clean water.
Alternatively, you can use white vinegar. Basically, the steps are the same but instead of adding baking soda, you’d add a cup of vinegar. The acidic nature of the solution will help to neutralize any odor that’s present. Rinse the suit clean with water afterward; there shouldn’t be any vinegar scent when you’re finished.