Kayaking is a very engaging and fun activity for anyone, even when young, as long…
When you go kayaking or surfing or any other sport and recreational activity that involves you getting into the water, you might be asked to wear a wetsuit.
Some of us might think, a wetsuit must be essential in keeping you dry when you’re in the water right? Otherwise – why can’t I just wear my regular clothes?
Well… that’s not true. Wetsuits don’t keep you dry, but that’s not their purpose.
This guide will examine what the purpose of wetsuits is, why we use them and answer some other burning questions you might have about wetsuits!
What Exactly Is A Wetsuit?
A wetsuit is a specifically designed piece of clothing that is used by people who spend a lot of their time in the water. Therefore, it is often used by swimmers, divers, surfers, kayak enthusiasts, canoe enthusiasts and more.
They are made with neoprene, which is a special type of rubber. The wearer of the wetsuit must be tight to the material, and it’s common that they might have additional protection equipment too, such as a helmet, goggles, or foot protection.
Wetsuits can be tailored to the wearer and made thicker or thinner depending on what the wearer prefers or is going to take part in. It’s possible to get a full wetsuit or have “parts” of a wetsuit, like legs or arms specifically.
What Does A Wetsuit Do?
Wetsuits do what their name sounds like – they keep the person who wears it wet. The rationale behind this is that it will absorb the water when the wearer jumps into the water and, although the wearer is soaking wet – they will remain warm.
This is due to the design. Wetsuits provide a gap between the water within the suit away from the wearer’s skin directly and the body warmth will warm the trapped water.
Not only this, the small air holes in the suit allow for the wearer to remain buoyant and remain lightweight in the water. These small holes also prevent the suit from getting over-encumbered with water, so although your skin is in contact with the water – it will not soak your skin.
This allows for your body to remain warm and reduces the risk of things like hypothermia because the wetsuit is helping for body temperature regulation. This is further assisted by that special rubber we mentioned earlier – neoprene.
Neoprene acts as a type of heat insulator. It can’t provide you heat because it doesn’t heat up, and it’s not made of warm material like fur for example – but it allows your body heat to warm the area around.
Typically, in the important areas like your torso, where the vital organs are – the neoprene is thicker. Whereas, legs and arms typically have a reduced amount of neoprene. This is to allow the wearer to move much more easily in the water.
Too much of this rubber would prevent wearers from moving their arms and legs naturally, which would cause further issues.
We mentioned that some wetsuits can be tailored to the wearer, and this is indeed true. One of the reasons for this is to adjust the thickness of the suit. This is significant when it comes to some specific bodies of water.
If you are in an area of warmer water, the thickness of the neoprene does not need to be too high – it’s usually around 2 mm thick, but if you’re planning to enter a colder body of water, you could look at a thickness of about double that.
To trap the heat, the wetsuit needs to be tight to the skin. If someone uses a wetsuit that isn’t tight enough, the suit can fall loose in the water, and they will feel the negative effects of cold water temperatures – as their body warmth cannot be regulated or warm the water inside the suit.
What Protection Does A Wetsuit Have?
A wetsuit’s primary goal is to keep the wearer warm in the water, but they also have added protection. Wetsuits are also designed to protect the wearer from things like jellyfish stings or sharp reefs slicing the skin.
If you’re planning to get involved in something like kayaking, you might want to get some extra protection. Whichever sport you’re choosing to get involved in, you should ask your instructor about what added protection you’ll need to have.
But I Thought Wetsuits Kept Me Dry?
No, it’s a common misconception. If you’re looking to enter the water, and it’s of dangerously cold temperatures – you would need to obtain a dry suit.
Drysuits, much like wetsuits, do what their name says. They keep the wearer dry when they enter the water. Their design is to keep water away from the wearer because freezing water reaching the skin can cause hypothermia, frostbite, and even lead to shock and heart attacks.
Drysuits are almost the opposite of wetsuits in how they operate. They are loose to the wearer, which means that moving around in the water can be extremely difficult. If divers use dry suits in their chosen body of water, the likelihood is that they will not dive as deeply as they might elsewhere.
This is because it can be dangerous for them to go too deep with such struggles to move around in the suit.
Can Wetsuits Be Dangerous?
Not dangerous as such, but if you’re not looking after your wetsuit, you could be causing yourself problems. Always check for holes in your wetsuit after and before every use.
Avoid skin conditions and reactions by washing your suit thoroughly before the next use and dry it out all the way. This is easier in warmer and windy conditions.
Wetsuits do not keep you dry, but that’s not their function. What you need will depend on the task you’re wanting to complete. Always ensure that you’re deciding the right type of suit before you go ahead with your plans, and get the suit that fits you properly.