A scuba diver wearing specialty clothing designed for scuba diving.

Specialty Clothing For Different Water Sports

A top-rated wetsuit by ONEILL
ONEILL Wetsuit (From Amazon)

Going boating is often accompanied by a variety of fun and exciting activities.  These, of course, are all based on (you guessed it) water. But some of these water sports and activities require that you have some specialty clothing to keep you warm and/or dry and protected.  Let’s review the different types of specialty clothing for water sports and aquatic activities and go over some of the benefits of each. 

Do you enjoy water sports and aquatic activities like water skiing, jet skiing, wakeboarding, and/or snorkeling? They are all wonderful water sports and can be relaxing as well as give you an adrenaline rush. Whether you are a paddler or a diver, every water activity gives you the opportunities to discover nature and learn something new. 

Water-based activities require different types of equipment including wetsuits, drysuits, dive skins, water shoes, wetsuit gloves, and other specialty clothing. When we are submerged in water without the proper clothing, we start losing our body temperature. This is why wearing any exposure suit, whether a drysuit or a wetsuit is a must. These exposure suits are not only required for doing cold water activities but are useful in warmer tropical waters also, where you still need some insulation to keep you warm and comfortable during long dives. Warmer waters also carry the dangers of being cut, scratched or injured from sharp coral so having some protection is always a smart idea.

Let’s Get Wet

The key to enjoying any water sport to the fullest is to do it safely. Whether you are planning to go jet-skiing, snorkeling or scuba diving, it is unequivocally crucial to have the specialized clothing and best safety gear for the water sport you want to indulge in. If you are new to water sports choosing the right clothing can be a little overwhelming. Let’s discuss the various clothing, shoes, and other safety gear which you can wear while doing some popular water sports and aquatic activities.

Wetsuits, Drysuits, and Dive Skins 

Wetsuits

A man surfs wearing a wetsuit.
Surfing requires skill and agility. A properly fitting wetsuit makes all the difference.

Typical Use: Diving, Snorkelling, Surfing

Wetsuits are made of a layer of closed-cell foam neoprene and a thin layer of water trapped between that layer and the skin. This thin layer of water helps you keep warm in cold waters by acting as a temperature buffer. 

Wetsuits can lose some of their buoyancy with depth. When you go deeper in water, wetsuits get thinner and lose their insulating capacity due to the pressure of the water. Wetsuits are less expensive as compared to dry suits. Wetsuits also vary in thickness. The thicker wetsuits give more insulation for cold waters while the thinner wetsuits provide lighter insulation in warm waters. 

Drysuits

Drysuit

Typical Uses: Whitewater Rafting, Sea Kayaking

Drysuits are made of foam neoprene, vulcanized rubber, or nylon and provide insulation against frigid waters. Drysuits are made with a layer of air inside and are entirely sealed to prevent water from coming into contact with the skin. A drysuit has inflator valves that allow you to add gas as the depth increases. They also have exhaust valves that help to release air on the ascent. Drysuits also use a neck seal, wrist seal, and waterproof zipper to keep you fully sealed and dry. 

Drysuits fit against your body with a snug fit and do not allow for clothes underneath. Everyone’s body is different, and so the performance of these exposure suits will not be the same for everybody.

Dive skins

A top-rated dive skin as found on Amazon.
Top-rated dive skins as found on Amazon.

Typical Uses: Surfing, Snorkeling, Diving

Dive skins are best worn for surfing, snorkeling and shallow diving in warmer waters. And dive skins are also called stinger suits and are appropriate for water temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and above. Dive skins are traditionally made from lycra, spandex, nylon, and they are even made from polyester, which is chlorine resistant. 

Stinger suits do not protect you much from water but can protect you from the sun’s UV rays and also from abrasions. The new dive skins use high-quality chlorine-resistant materials that give jellyfish protection and UPF 50 plus UV cover. Dive skins are best donned in warm water when you need a little bit of protection from the corals and floating stinging critters. 

Some divers wear dive skins under wetsuits and drysuits for additional comfort and to avoid allergic reactions from neoprene and the rubber with which the wetsuits and drysuits are made. Wearing a dive skin underneath makes wearing and taking off wetsuits and drysuits easier.

Drysuits And Wetsuits Compared – Key Differences

  • The most obvious answer to this question comes from the name itself. A dry suit will keep you dry, whereas a wetsuit won’t. Both of them are designed for thermal insulation from frigid air and water.  Therefore if you enjoy doing cold water activities, then these are what you’re looking for.. Wetsuits and drysuits will both keep you warm, but they are certainly different in their functionality, design, and serve different purposes. Both the drysuit and the wetsuit maintain the same warmth underwater by slowing down the loss of heat. Once you understand the main differences, it comes down to personal preference.
  • Wetsuits are convenient for warm water.  They are great for water sports and activities like kayaking, surfing, canoeing, diving, and for any water sports, and any activity related to water. They are not bulky, like dry suits, and are easier to put on and take off than drysuits. 
  • Drysuits are baggier and make you move much slower underwater than the wetsuits.
  • Drysuits are relatively more expensive than wetsuits, but with proper care and maintenance can last over 15 years. 
  • Wetsuits deteriorate only after a few years of regular use. The price of a wetsuit depends upon its thickness. The thin wetsuits are more flexible and hence more expensive.

Water Shoes

Water shoes

Water shoes are also crucial for almost all aquatic activities. Most water shoes have thick soles to protect you from the sharp rocks, coral, and shells. The outer rubber soles of water shoes offer optimal traction on slippery surfaces like boat decks. 

Water shoes are made of well-ventilated fabrics with multiple perforations to help drain out water from the shoes. They also provide insulation and keep your feet warm in colder waters. Water shoes are ideal for activities such as boating, tubing, kayaking, paddle sports, hiking on wet terrain, diving, and all other water sports.  In fact, water shoes are good for pretty much every water sport or activity.

Life Vests

A top-rated life vest by Onyx, as found on Amazon.
A top-rated life vest by Onyx, as found on Amazon.

Life vests are an important part of the safety gear you should have when doing any water activity and should be a standard part of your equipment. These days there are different types of wearable floatation devices available for different types of water activities such as recreational, sailing, fishing, offshore sailing, paddlesports. PFDs (personal floatation devices) are mainly used for watersports. There are two types of PFDs that are mostly used by water sports enthusiasts – standard PFDs and Inflatable PFDs. 

  • Standard PFDs are low maintenance and often provide lots of pockets for stashing things.  However, they tend to be bulky. 
  • Inflatable PFDs include vests and waist packs. They are comfortable to wear and can be inflated manually or some even inflate automatically. As they are not inherently buoyant, inflatable PFDs need to be inflated for them to provide any floatation. They cannot be used for high impact water sports such as white water canoeing, kayaking, river rafting and also waterskiing. 

Fishing life vests come in two varieties – one with pockets to hold lure boxes, and other fishing tools and the other one is similar to PFDs and can be adjusted for a secure fit. So, before buying a life vest for yourself, it’s best to know how you intend to use it so you can choose the right one for your activity.

Wetsuit Gloves

A top-rated, and quite affordable pair of wetsuit gloves, as found on Amazon.
A top-rated, and a quite affordable pair of wetsuit gloves, as found on Amazon.

The neoprene wetsuit gloves keep your hands warm and protect them from any cuts and abrasions. Wetsuit gloves provide you with a better grip, especially if you plan to do active sports such as windsurfing. If you plan to go diving or spearfishing around the reefs and wrecks, then you need to protect your hands against any scrapes and cuts from rocks and sharp underwater debris. 

Exceptionally thick neoprene gloves will not be suitable for spearfishing.  But thin wetsuit gloves are also available for aquatic activities that require you still maintain good dexterity.  Wetsuits gloves are also typically available in different thicknesses, such as 2mm, 3mm, and 5mm, and you should opt for the ones that combine warmth and flexibility. Wetsuit gloves with 5mm thickness will restrict the movement of hands and can only be used in cold temperatures. If you are diving or surfing in temperatures under 15 degrees centigrade, then 5mm wetsuit gloves should be suitable to keep your hands warm.

Some Common Watersports – Proper Clothing And Other Safety Gear

Diving

A diver in the tropics.
Diving.

If you want to explore the hidden world of the ocean then diving is an excellent way to do just that.  Apart from the technical training, you would need the right diving clothing to help you protect against the sun and aquatic hazards. Both a wetsuit and a drysuit can be worn for diving and will depend upon the type of diving you are planning to do.  It will also depend on the water temperature, and how sensitive you are to the cold. 

For cold water dives, a drysuit will keep you a lot warmer, and more dryer than a wetsuit. But, if you are going to be diving in warmer areas, a wetsuit should be sufficient. As a drysuit has air valves to control the buoyancy at different depths, it is recommended to take a drysuit specialty course from a diving instructor. 

A dry suit will leave you dry after the dive is over, leaving you warm in your undergarment clothing. 

Cold Water Diving

Thick wetsuits are perfect for cold water diving as they help keep the body temperature regulated. Dive boots help keep your ankles, feet, and toes warm both during and after the dive. Dive boots can also protect your feet against a sting, or a bite from a marine creature so that you can focus on enjoying the dive and not about a bleeding foot.  That might be extra important when diving near sharks, for obvious reasons. 

Sometimes the fins that you strap around the feet while diving can cause blisters on the skin and even bleeding. If you find diving boots too heavy, you can opt for a pair of dive socks, which may provide the same warmth depending upon their thickness but a little less protection from cuts and scratches, especially on the soles.

Water Skiing And Wakeboarding

Wakeboarding is a high-speed water sport and injuries can happen.
Wakeboarding

Water skiing is a surface water sport and does not require any clothing. Not that you want to be nude either.  The only clothes you need to wear is a swimsuit. However, both water skiing and wakeboarding require you are holding onto a rope/handle.  Some people who are avid water skiers or wakeboarders like to wear gloves to protect their hands from blistering.  

Water ski gloves can be worn to protect and keep your hands warm. If you are Wakeboarding in summer or winter, you may require wearing a wetsuit. The thickness of a wetsuit will depend entirely on the temperature of the water you are boarding on. But thickness can limit the movement also. 

When wakeboarding in severely cold conditions, wakeboarders often opt for membrane drysuits that have tight seals to prevent water from flowing in. A drysuit can be worn with warm clothes underneath, but it can be very uncomfortable to wear as it seals around the neck and arms very tightly. You can wear a thicker wetsuit of 5mm during winters and thinner one of 2mm thickness during summer, again depending on where you live. 

Colder Conditions And Wakeboarding

During winter, wakeboarders should wear neoprene gloves to keep their hands warm. You can wear wetsuits with cropped arms and legs for warmer waters. Beginners should wear buoyancy aids even while they are waiting for the boat to pick them up. A buoyancy aid can keep you afloat in case you are knocked unconscious, heaven forbid. Expert wakeboarders often wear impact vests which are not as buoyant as the regular buoyancy vests but provide more protection while riding at high speeds. 

The buoyancy vests are available in two different types of materials- nylon and neoprene. Nylon vests are cheaper and ideal for kneeboarding and waterskiing. Neoprene vests are more comfortable and are made of the same material as the wetsuits. They are incredibly soft and also keep you warm. However, they are substantially more expensive than nylon vests.

Snorkeling

Snorkeling is a fun activity.
Snorkeling is a fun activity.

Many people think that they don’t need a suit for snorkeling. But this is a misconception. With a dive skin or a wetsuit, you can snorkel for much longer. Also exploring different types of water will require different clothing, depending on the temperature. However, there are a few essential clothing types that you will need to make the most of your snorkeling experience. 

When you snorkel, you are exposed to winds also because you are on the surface, which is not an issue with scuba diving. So, snorkeling can make you feel colder than diving. There is also a significantly greater chance of getting sunburnt.  

My Experience Snorkeling In Central America

The first time I went snorkeling, which was off the coast of Costa Rica, I got a pretty good wake up call.  First off, I assumed that I would need nothing more than my swimsuit. So, I went out and did a few hours of snorkeling with flippers, a mask and snorkel and of course my swimsuit.  After a while, my back started to sting. I was quite sunburnt, despite having on water-proof sunblock. It was rough because I also got my knees and hands cut up from trying to navigate coral in an area where there was a bit of current.  I sure wish I had worn a wetsuit or at least a dive skin, and gloves, let me tell you.

Dive Skins And Wetsuits

A dive skin or a wetsuit can keep you warm and also reduce the sunburn considerably. They also protect you from many marine stinging creatures such as jellyfish, and/or cuts from shells or coral. If you get cold quickly wear a 3mm thick suit while snorkeling. Wetsuits can also keep you afloat. If you are snorkeling in warm water, wetsuits with short sleeves and knee-length leggings should be adequate to provide protection. 

If you are a professional swimmer, you may not need a life vest. However, for people who are just starting, going with a life vest isn’t such a bad idea as it can help you with buoyancy. For newbies, a life vest can give a lot of confidence and safety. 

Snorkeling fins, especially the small ones, can help you change direction quickly and are easy to kick also. You may also need a snorkeling vest, which is different from a personal floatation device (PFD). They provide you enough buoyancy to allow you to float along the surface of the water comfortably. They have pockets to keep a whistle and knife, or other equipment also. Wearing neoprene socks can help you avoid blisters on the back of your feet, and on the ankles and also give you the right type of comfort when using flippers.  A lot of flippers have built-in shoes, but for those that don’t dive socks are a good idea.

Kayaking

Kayaking gear.
Kayaking

When going kayaking, dress for the water temperature and not the air temperature. Therefore, wear a drysuit, or a wetsuit. When kayaking, always wear a personal floatation device and do not take it off as long as you are on the water. A PFD gives warmth to the core of the body and keeps it buoyant. Do not step into the kayak until you have the PFD properly secured. 

If you are going to be paddling in warm conditions for shorter durations, wear a swimsuit as a first layer and then top it up with a rash guard, which is made of nylon or polyester and blended with lycra. A rash guard stretches well and dries quickly and also protects you against the UV rays. A rash guard can be layered under a wetsuit or any other clothing. On your bottom half, you can wear whatever is comfortable such as quick-drying pants. In case your kayak capsizes in cold water, you can suffer from immediate lung and heart shock, and hypothermia.  So, putting on a wetsuit when kayaking in cold water should be a must. If the air is hot, but the water is cold, you can consider wearing a sleeveless wetsuit. 

Drysuits and Kayaking

Drysuits will give paddlers more protection and comfort. Some drysuits come with booties on the feet to provide an extra level of protection. A wetsuit would be perfect for mildest conditions if the temperature is 60 degrees Fahrenheit or below. If it is more than 60, then you need to consider the air temperature. If the combined air and water temperature is less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, you should still wear a wetsuit or a dry suit. In the feet, you can wear neoprene paddling booties because they are lightweight and protect your feet. When kayaking in colder conditions, get waterproof paddling booties and socks.

Deep-sea fishing

Deep sea fishing gear.
A man gets ready to go out deep sea fishing.

When heading out for deep-sea fishing, you must take rainwear or a windbreaker to keep you dry from sea sprays and downpours. They will also keep you warm if you go in the early morning for the activity. If it is likely to be sunny and warm, bring light clothing you are comfortable in. You can also take a hat to keep your head cool, and eyes glare-free.

Jet skiing

Jet ski with protective gear.
Jet Skiing

When going out on your jet-skiing adventure, the first thing to consider is to wear full-bodied swimwear. Wear bathing suits that are not too tight because mobility is imperative when controlling a jet ski. Dive skins and thin wetsuits are well suited for jet skiing.  Next, are the water shoes. There are several options available from porous which allow breathability to closed-toe that keep your feet dry. Safety is the most crucial part of jet skiing, and so you should have a properly-fitted life vest for optimal safety and comfort.

It is essential to wear the correct clothing appropriate for the weather while enjoying different water sports. So, if you do not want to limit your experience when you are out on the water, wear appropriate and comfortable clothing and other essential safety gear for an unforgettable experience.

Sources: 

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