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Do I Need a Wetsuit or a Drysuit?

A big clue is in the name! Want to stay dry, you need a dry suit. Don’t mind getting wet? Well maybe a wetsuit might be what you need. OK, it's not quite as simple. Read our lowdown on what to take paddleboarding.

What you will want to take paddleboarding will depend on the following:

  1. What the air and water temperatures are and where you are paddling.

  2. How energetic you are and the amount of time you intend to be paddling.

  3. Whether you are dynamic on the board, stretching boundaries and therefore likely to fall in.

Let's look at the pros and cons of each to help make up your mind!

Wetsuits

In cold weather, a wetsuit keeps you warm when it's wet. Your body warms the water between you and the wetsuit, providing an insulating layer in addition to the thickness of the wetsuit. Typically, the colder it is, the thicker your wetsuit needs to be. BUT for it to work in this way it needs to be a skin tight fit all over, so it takes some effort getting it on and off. A full wetsuit is rarely a good choice for SUP.

Pros

  • Flexible options Available as a shortie, long johns, full body short or long sleeve, bottoms and jackets. You name it there will be an option available to suit you and in a range of thicknesses (in mm). If you’re looking for that ultimate flexibility then separates or long johns and a jacket are a good option.

  • Low cost Wetsuits can be purchased new or second hand and there is plenty of choice. You’ll find both new and pre-loved on the likes of eBay. There will be something to suit every budget.

  • Managing Thermal shock Practising a new move? Paddling on the sea? This is when you are likely to fall in, maybe repeatedly until you crack that trick or build your stability. This is when a wetsuit comes into its own, reducing thermal shock and enabling you to keep at it persistently. In summer, when the water is warm you can dispense with the wet-suit and opt for swim shorts and a synthetic T-shirt.

Cons

  • As it is a skin tight fit it can take some considerable wriggling to get in and out of a wetsuit. This also means they can be very restrictive and limit your movement depending on how thick they are.

  • Risk of overheating - If you put a lot of effort into your paddling or get warm quickly when exercising, a wetsuit is likely to be much too warm. In summer they are generally far too hot and we tend to recommend them only for kids who enjoy spending lots of time in the water.

Dry suits

As you may have guessed, a dry suit keeps you dry and as warm as the insulating layers you have on underneath. For a drysuit to work, you must put it on correctly, avoiding the potential for accidental leaks with the zip securely fastened. For safety, you must let out any excess air within the suit before paddling. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘burping’ the suit.

Pros

  • No Thermal shock If you fall in, it's only your head that gets wet so a dry suit can give you the confidence to try new moves in the colder months. Think of it as a really good insurance policy!

  • Flexibility of movement The right dry suit should be roomy enough not to restrict you in any way. That means no excuses not to practise that yoga pose you struggle with.

  • Warmth You decide the number and thickness of the layers you wear underneath depending on how cold it is.

Cons

  • Expensive Dry suits generally start from £350 and quickly increase in price as you change the location of the zip, quality of construction, breathability etc. Second hand options are available, but much more care is required in checking the quality of what you are buying to avoid ending up with a damp squib.

  • Care You have to take extra care of the feet to avoid punctures. This is easily managed by wearing the correct footwear over the suit and by standing on a mat to change. Some drysuits have ankle seals rather than socks, but we prefer keeping dry feet so recommend drysuits with inbuilt socks. It’s important to maintain all seals and zips carefully.

  • Warmth There is a potential for overheating as the weather warms up, rolling your sleeves up is not an option and the tight fitting seal around the neck can take some getting used to. It's not for everyone.

Other options

If you’re still a bit undecided, buying separates can be a really good option. You could choose dry trousers and a semi-dry ‘cag’ jacket. A long-john wetsuit or wetsuit trousers can also be a good budget winter option when paired with a cag. The sleeveless style isn’t as restrictive as a full wetsuit and you can still layer up under and on top of it.

In summary

It’s about choice, how much you are pushing the boundaries when paddling and of course your budget. We now have drysuits available to hire for all sessions. It’s a great option if you’re a beginner starting out of season, or taking part in a Safety, Skills and Rescue lesson. Dry suit hire can be added when you book your session online. Why not come and try before you buy!


Happy Paddling!


Now you know what to take paddleboarding you're ready to join us for a SUP adventure. View our latest schedule here.