When your activity is in freezing water it's important to understand the changes in your body and the need to protect your head, hands and feet as well as your core. Our parents always told us about loosing the most heat through our head, hands and feet. Well its the same for water activities in the freezing water. Not only will you want the warmest wetsuit available but additionally a hood and / or gloves and booties will provide that additional level of warmth to see you get the most enjoyment our of the activity you choose, freezing water or not!
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.