Advantages and Disadvantages of Surfing in a Wetsuit

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You’ve probably heard a lot of information about wetsuits as you start your journey learning how to surf. The truth is, there are many advantages and disadvantages of surfing in a wetsuit. Right off the bat, you’ll know that since these suits are very tight, they can restrict movements, especially if you don’t use the best surfing wetsuit and end up with a model that’s flimsy or too small. However, there are other issues that you may come across involving wetsuit use that you may not already know about. So, this article will go over the different pros and cons that come with wetsuit life, how you can ensure you end up with the right one for you based on your skill level and surfing needs, and everything else you need to know to determine whether or not a wet suit is right for you.


Wearing a wetsuit can be a great way to protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun, it can keep you nice and warm when you’re surfing in cold weather, and a suit can allow you to stay in the water longer, even on those chilly overcast days. There are many reasons the surfer will want to wear a wetsuit in the water. Below, you’ll find a list of the benefits of wearing a wetsuit while you surf, and what makes them a better choice over a dry suit.

Wetsuits are a Better Choice for Surfing

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Many surfers don’t know whether to choose a wetsuit or dry suit, or what the difference between wetsuits and dry suits are. When it comes to surfing, you’ll want to use a wetsuit. This is because dry suits are actually designed to be loose-fitting. So, while it’s true that a dry suit will keep you dry and warm, because they are not form-fitting they tend to create a lot of drag. Increased drag can hold you underwater, dragging you back while you paddle out. Because of this, a surfer should always choose a wetsuit over a dry suit.


Another advantage that comes with wearing a wetsuit is that it can absorb some of the impact from waves or a board colliding with you in the water. Some models will come with protective features such as kneepads which can add further protection. Additionally, if you’ve ever surfed in trunks, then you know there’s a possibility you can lose them in rough water. That will never happen with a wetsuit, which is definitely a huge plus for every surfer. You also won’t have to worry about pulling up or adjusting your clothing, which can also be annoying and a hassle. Since these wetsuits are also form-fitting, you’ll look pretty cool out in the water.

Improves Swimming Ability

A wetsuit will provide buoyancy. This will come in handy when you’re in the open water and you feel like you’re going to start to panic. A wetsuit will provide the extra lift you need, which will make it easier for you to float as you calm down and focus on lowering your heart rate.

The suit’s buoyancy will also allow you to swim much faster, compared to your speed when not wearing a suit. On average, you can expect to save five to ten seconds per ninety seconds.

Stay Warm

While you won’t stay dry in a wetsuit, you’ll definitely stay warm. These suits can provide warmth in colder water by heating the thin layer of water that’s trapped next to your skin. If you’re sensitive to colder temperatures, then wearing a wetsuit will make you feel more comfortable in the water. If you’re comfortable and warm, you’ll be able to surf longer, which is one of the main reasons these suits are worn during the fall and winter months.


Below, you’ll find a list of reasons why some surfers choose to avoid wearing a wetsuit, whether it’s a matter of skin sensitivity, range of motion restrictions, or budget.

Wetsuits Don’t Keep You Dry

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Most people mistakenly believe that wetsuits actually keep you dry, but this is a common misconception. A wetsuit is designed to allow water in and keep it in. The thin layer of water that’s allowed into the wet suit is warmed up by your body heat. A drysuit, on the other hand, is designed to keep you both warm and dry, while the wetsuit will keep you wet and warm.

Skin Irritation

If a wetsuit doesn’t fit well it can potentially give you a rash. Fortunately, many of the leading wetsuits feature form-fitting designs and are made out of less abrasive materials, so you’ll find them less irritating to your skin and not as likely to give you a rash. Of course, finding a wetsuit that fits properly will be the key to preventing skin irritation altogether. If you find that your wetsuit is causing skin irritation you can wear a rash guard between the wetsuit and your skin to avoid this issue.

Wetsuits Can Start to Smell

If you don’t know how to clean and maintain your wetsuit then it will begin to smell. Just like an old pair of gym socks, wetsuits must be washed and carefully dried in order to avoid odor. Once you’re done surfing for the day, make sure you take the time to wash your wetsuit in freshwater then hang it outside to dry. Avoid hanging it in indirect sunlight.


If you’re not used to wearing a wetsuit, then it’s going to take some time before you feel comfortable in one. They can feel very tight across the chest and shoulder area, which can cause people with anxiety or claustrophobia to panic. It can also make it difficult to paddle and pop up, at least until you’ve broken the suit in.

Wetsuits Don’t Last Forever

There are many people that believe that their wetsuit can last season after season with proper care, this is a common misconception. If you use your wetsuit more than 3 times a week then it will last approximately one season. While this is a rough estimate, and you may be able to get more than one season’s worth of use out of it, over time, the wetsuit loses some of its integrity and will not be as warm or watertight. So, in most cases, the regular surfer will need to replace their wetsuit each year.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are both advantages and disadvantages of surfing in a wetsuit. The biggest reason surfers wear these suits is to stay warm during the off-season. While these suits can feel very constrictive when you first buy one, after you’ve broken it in, it will still feel tight, but not tight enough to really have a negative impact on your movements. With proper care and maintenance, there’s no reason why you can’t keep your suit looking and smelling great.