July 01, 2021 8 min read

If you are a passionate of water sports, you most probably spend your summers swimming, surfing, or scuba diving whenever you have the chance. In this case you might be familiar with the idea of owning a wetsuit. Wearing wetsuits is essential since they have the capacity to keep you safe and warm in cold water temperatures serving to multiple purposes. A wetsuit can be of great help if you decide you want to go surfing in January, or if you are a triathlete with a long session of swimming ahead of you on race day. 

No matter what activity you choose whether is swimming, surfing or scuba diving, a wetsuit will always be a must to keep you warm in those freezing cold waters.

The Importance of a Wetsuit

The importance of a modern wetsuit consists in its thermal proprieties. These proprieties are provided by the neoprene which is a synthetic rubber used for this kind of suits. The neoprene material that comes in the composition of a wetsuit has stretching proprieties with little cavities that work like a sponge while they get filled up with air of water.

In contact with water, the neoprene incapsulates a layer of water which will later heat up in contact with the swimmer’s body therefore reaching a temperature close to body temperature.

This new created layer of warm water keeps your entire body safe and warm. Of course, the level of thickness of the wetsuit material will determine the level of comfort in different ranges of water temperature. Hence there is a direct rapport between thickness and warmness. Wear a wetsuit is also important for performance, especially in the case of triathletes. The smooth surface of the wetsuit reduces friction and allows a faster swim in open water.

Do Wetsuits Really Help You Float?

wetsuits for men and women

The short answer to this question is…kind of. Modern neoprene wetsuits can enhance the capacity of flotation. What makes wetsuit floats? The level of float provided by a wetsuit has to do with the level of thickness of the neoprene. It is important to know that wetsuits don’t provide the same floating support as a life vest or a throw-able cushion. You should not make any confusion between the equipment designed as an aid to flotation and wetsuits that are designed mainly for their thermal purposes.

With that being said, most wetsuits for men and women work after a basic physical principle. The principle says that an object if immersed in a fluid, whether totally or partially is sustained by a force that is equal with the weight of the fluid in which it is placed. Wetsuits are made of neoprene, a material that weights less than the equal volume of water, therefore, the floating phenomenon appears. When you wear the wetsuit your body weight will combine with the actual weight of the wetsuit. The body weight can be different for each person. While some float easily, others need to swim vertically to keep themselves from sinking. However, a thick wetsuit for women or men, will definitely ensure you extra buoyancy, helping you float. The way wetsuit works is the more neoprene, the more warmth and buoyant.

When May You Need A Wetsuit?

  • For Triathlon

If you are thinking to compete in your first triathlon you will surely be thankful for the extra lift that a wetsuit can provide. In your first race wearing a wetsuit is an important factor. There are triathlon wetsuits designed with more buoyancy in strategic places providing a good advantage in the water on the race day. Triathletes wear a wetsuit in open water swim to gain buoyancy.

  • When Scuba Diving

For this type of activity, the extra buoyancy is something that scuba divers have to take into consideration. You need to aim for a neutral buoyancy to be able remain at a specific depth in the water column. You should also consider adding more weight on your weight belt since your wet suit will have a certain weight as well due to its thickness. A thicker material is required in wetsuits for colder environments like deep waters of the ocean. A thicker wetsuit is something you should go for when you are diving for your comfort and safety.

wetsuits for surfing
  • When Surfing

A neoprene wetsuit is very useful and quite needed when surfing in the chilly days or in some cold climates to ensure you the right amount of warmth. Though you might not depend so much on the buoyancy propriety with a foam filled board, the suit can be very helpful for those moments when your leash breaks or you are caught under a big wave that set pummels on you. A nice thing to keep in mind about wearing a wetsuit while surfing is that it gives you protection from the harmful rays of sun, but it can also absorb some of the waves impact.

Why Choose A Wetsuit?

Here are several reasons why wear wetsuits is something to consider.

1.Help In Swimming

An extra help in floating is always desirable. If you are the kind the person who gets a little panicked in the water, the extra lift provided by the wetsuit will calm you enough so you can focus further on swimming. Wearing a suit in an open water swim can help you float easily and surface even easier when needed.

2.More Speed

Wearing a wetsuit will help you swim faster. According to race directors in a competition every second that enhances your time matters. Therefore, if you wear a wetsuit, it will help you save more energy to swim and resist longer.

3.Warmth Comfort

Being warm in cold water is a crucial thing. The whole water activity depends on your comfort and ability to focus and perform.

How To Choose Your Wetsuit?

There is a large variety of wetsuits to choose from and key factors to take into consideration. What is the right length? Should I wear a short sleeves suit for a good swim? What is the suited thickness? What is the right suit that would fit best? To make things easier for you here is what we suggest. Consider these three things: the water temperature you will be exposed to, the level of confidence when swimming and the level of comfort you have with the neoprene compression.


Keep in mind that the thicker the material, the lesser flexibility. If you will be exposed to cold water, choose a full wetsuit with long sleeves. The multiple cuts type of wetsuit like a sleeveless wetsuit or short legs wetsuit is a fit for warmer water. You may also opt for swimming leg wetsuit for open water swimming. When it comes to fitting criteria, you should pay attention that your wetsuit is tightly fit so water won’ t fill in and make you sink. On the same time though, make sure you have free of movement in the shoulders and free arm rotation.

Some other things to consider when choosing your wetsuit:

The Modesty Factor. Going naked under your wetsuit is not a good option considering you might need to change on a busy beach, or you might be at a diving class. It is up to you and your comfort if you choose to wear rash guards or underwear. Having some clothes under your suit has also a practical side as you can continue to swim in your underwear clothing after you remove the diving suit.

The Quick Drying Factor.No matter how much time you will be in the water, there will also be moments you are out of the water because you might need to change places or just go to take lunch. A quick drying suit will come very handy for these situations.

The Comfort Factor. Comfort is essential in water and out of the water as well. Try out the wetsuit in advance and make sure it doesn’t rub against your skin and just feels comfortable to wear and to move. Some people prefer to wear swim suits underneath or any kind of water friendly underwear for a plus of comfort. This way a lot of chafing and rubbing is avoided. For comfort factor is very important also to choose proper size of wetsuit


Does a wetsuit make you float? Though you may think by now that the answer is “Yes”, you have certainly found out more than that. In matter of floating, wetsuits will never replace a life ring or a life jacket. However, wearing a wetsuit will give you a certain level of buoyancy that is quite desired for your water sport activities. But one thing makes it quite essential when you swim in cold conditions: its ability to keep you warm and safe. We hope this article has given you the information you were looking for so keep an eye on our new posts to find out more great stuff about your passion in water sports.

People Also Ask :

do wetsuits help you swim?

Yes, it’s true that the wetsuit increases your buoyancy and helps you swim. That’s because it decreases your skin-water friction during swimming, which allows you to swim faster without increasing your expenditure of energy. However, if your upper body is not moving quickly enough, then that actually causes you to lose balance, lose your stroke tempo, and your lower body actually takes on too much of the work. So it might actually take more effort to swim in a wetsuit.There are two main reasons why the wetsuit makes it easier to swim through water. The first is because of the decrease in skin-water friction. If you are swimming, you are really only pushing the water aside.

why am i swimming slower in a wetsuit?

The simple answer is you cannot swim as fast as you usually do in a wetsuit as your hand and feet movements will be more restricted. A wetsuit is indeed a good thing. You can swim faster and longer in a wetsuit than without one, and it will give you a nice, dry and warm feeling as you swim. On the other hand, the thickness of a wetsuit will prevent your body from getting the quite optimal amount of water friction, essential for you to swim as fast as your body allows. The science of swimming is more complex than you think.

how much buoyancy does a wetsuit give you?

The buoyancy of a wetsuit is dependent on the quality of the wetsuit. If you are using a better quality wetsuit you will be able to stay afloat for longer.

is a thicker wetsuit more buoyant?

Buoyancy in a wetsuit is a trade-off between flotation (to keep you on top of the water) and insulation (to keep you warm). Wetsuit makers must make the suit thick enough to keep your core warm but thin enough to maintain flotation. You can vary the make of the suit by choosing thicker or thinner wetsuit material; the thickness is measured in millimeters (mm). A 10mm wetsuit will be slightly more buoyant than an 8mm wetsuit. Lighter suits are more flexible, making them easier to paddle, but they will insulate you less. Heavier suits generally offer better insulation, but will be harder to move around in because they are stiffer.

can you drown in a wetsuit?

Yes you can drown in a wetsuit. Although it may seem to provide extra safety when in deep waters, drowning is still possible in a wetsuit, but the occurrence is less likely. Briefly speaking, your body is usually able to float in water at a certain depth due to the pressure on the chest and the pressure of the water itself. Drowning happens when your body weight exceeds your buoyancy and you’re kept underwater and unable to surface and fill your lungs with new air.

Author - Fred Felton
Fred Felton          

Content Creator / Editor

Fred Felton is a copywriter, editor and social media specialist based in Durban, South Africa. He has over 20 years of experience in creating high end content. He has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world. Currently Fred specialises in the adventure watersports space, focussing on surf, kayak and rafting. He is also a keynote speaker and has presented talks and workshops in South Africa.

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