The difference between cool water and cold water can sometimes be as little as a few degrees but this small change can make a big difference to the way in which you prepare and dress for the water. In a cool water environment it's important to ensure you have the right wetsuit and any additional hoods or booties that you might need. To often we see people think the water is warmer than it actually is. They dive in without the right wetsuit on and you often see them get out early because of the cold or you see them after looking slightly blue and a little cold. Don't fall into this trap. Make sure you chose the right suit for your conditions and you will have a much better experience in the water.
Next step is to choose what water-sport activity you participate in. Are you in the water
or on the water
? This makes a big difference. You can use any wetsuit for any water-sport activity for a short time, but the difference in using the right gear is more comfort, flexibility and warmth. These 3 factors determine what style or model will be best for you.
what activity do you participate in?
why are wetsuits activity dependent?
A wetsuit is a wetsuit is a wetsuit and you can use it for any water activity imaginable, right? Well... yes you can, but the right style of wetsuit for the right activity will give you additional benefits that will increase your comfort and performance levels immeasurably. Think of it as having the 'right tools' for the job at hand.
Different sports have different needs. Some are quite specific, so think about the following characteristics when choosing your suit:
A surfing wetsuit needs to be comfortable yet durable in the right areas; e.g. it needs to be flexible enough to allow for easy paddling but you will need strong neoprene on the knees suit. The warmest and most flexible surfing wetsuits are firm but not restrictive.
Compared to surfing flexibility is not as important here, but you still need to be able move your arms easily. Superstretch arms are an advantage. Wind chill can be an issue, so smoothie panels can help prevent evaporative cooling. Small drain holes can also be added to eliminate flushing water up the legs.
Hard-wearing suits are great for waterskiing because of the hammering they need to take on the boat and in the water. Leg straps are good on short leg suits to prevent spray going up your suit. Sleeveless suits are also popular during the summer months or in warmer water.
Because you are mostly out of the water there are many options, combinations and accessories to choose from in this category. Steamers and two piece wetsuits are both popular, as is extra padding on the bum.
Surf lifesaving gear is usually lightweight to enable maximum movement. Some lifeguards like to train in full length suits in the colder waters, and through the summer lite gear like wetsuit tops and shorts are worn.
Swimming wetsuits require the lightest, most flexible neoprene because you don't want to be fighting against the stretch of the suit and expending more energy. Suits with large amounts of smooth skin are the fastest for races/triathlon because smooth skin has less drag.
Steamers are usually used when free diving. Thicker, sealed suits are needed when you are diving deeper, due to the compression you can experience at depth. Picasso-style suits with cell interior are usually used for free diving, but these are hard to put on because of the sticky lining.
Canyoning wetsuits really depend on the water temperatures. Colder waters mean sealed suits are a must. A full wetsuit is also a must because they offer excellent protection and added buoyancy. An easy entry, hard-wearing suit is the best option. Padding can also be added for further protection.
Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) requires a broad range of wetsuits and accessories because there is a lot of variation in the sport. For example you won't need as much gear if you are flat water touring compared to wave riding, or if you are in a warmer climate.
Wind protection is a big factor to think about—if you aren't wearing enough layers you won't last the distance. Gloves and boots are sometimes worn in the summer. Also on coastal waters wearing a full wetsuit is a good safety option, just in case you went overboard.