Why wear a wetsuit?

Wetsuits help keep you and your family safe in three ways

1.

Wetsuits protect against the elements: sun, wind, and cold water

2.

They reduce physical injuries: cuts and grazes from beach, rocks and equipment.

3.

They help you float.


1. The Elements
Would you let your children go skiing dressed in just their underwear? Of course not. Yet parents routinely allow their children to play in cold water dressed in swimsuits that do nothing to keep them warm. In British waters, even at the height of the summer, it's possible to get hypothermia in as little as three hours. Hypothermia is not the same as feeling chilly- it's a life-threatening condition. Here's a diagram that summarises the risk:

The orange zone is where the combination of water temperature and immersion time is unlikely to result in hypothermia. As water temperature drops, or immersion times increase, the likelihood of hypothermia increases. People cool at different rates - the light blue zone indicates when 'fast coolers', such as children, are at risk, while the deeper blues indicate the increasing probability of hypothermia for even the slowest coolers. The important conclusion is simply that you need to guard against hypothermia at the British seaside, even on the sunniest of summer days.

Wetsuits protect against hypothermia by trapping a thin layer of water next to your body. You warm this layer, so while the sea may be at 16°C, you feel like you're swimming in a tropical lagoon. When you're out of the water, the suit is 100% sunblock, and is also windproof . Water will evaporate from the fabric and cool you down in the same way as it does evaporating from wet skin. From summer holidays in Cornwall, our personal experience is that our children can play in and out of the water for much of the day without getting either uncomfortably hot or cold. This means that they, and their parents, enjoy their holiday more.

2. Physical protection
The seaside is full of sharp objects- barnacle-encrusted rocks, bits of shell, anti-skid surfaces on windsurfers, all kinds of gear on sailing dinghies. Wetsuits are made of fabric-covered neoprene foam with reinforced knees. Although they are not indestructible, given the choice of grating my wetsuit or my skin I'd sacrifice my wetsuit every time!

3. Flotation
Neoprene foam is gas filled. At the sea surface, a wetsuit will provide a certain amount of buoyancy. It's not a life jacket or a life preserver, but it will allow a competent swimmer to expend little or no effort in staying afloat. Our children enjoy wearing their shorties even in swimming pools, because that little bit of buoyancy, evenly distributed, allows them to swim more comfortably.

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Legal Disclaimer

Nothing on this site should be taken to be authoritative safety advice. Please refer to acknowledged safety experts such as the RNLI, RoSPA, and local authorities for detailed advice on safety in the water. We provide general information only, and make no claims whatsoever for wetsuits as life preservers or life saving garments. It is our belief that properly fitting wetsuits have three useful scientific properties: they reduce the rate of heat loss in water from the human body, they offer a degree of physical protection against abrasion, and the gas filled sponge construction of neoprene provides useful positive buoyancy at sea level. We believe these properties will under normal circumstances enhance the safety and comfort of individuals undertaking normal leisure activities at the British seaside, compared with the same individuals undertaking the same activities for the same length of time in the same environment wearing normal bathing suits. We offer this information as opinion only and remind the reader that personal safety, and the safety of their children, is at all times their own responsibility.