Published on February 5th, 2013 | by K44
Water Temperature Chart And Required Wetsuit Thickness
What wetsuit, what thickness of neoprene to choose for certain water temperature? It depends on a couple of factors and water temperature is just one of them. When choosing the right wetsuit for a certain water temperature and conditions, the main factors to consider are water temperature, air temperature, wind, cold sensitivity and activity. Lets take a quick look at what each of them means:
This one is the main factor and the most obvious one. The colder the water the thicker wetsuit you need. An interesting fact when it comes to water is that it pulls heat out of the body at a rate which is about 25 faster than air!
Air temperature is a lot of times connected with water temperature. Warmer air & water in summer, colder in winter time. Obviously! But there are a lot of places where ocean currents influence water temperature so much, that it can be way off from what you would expect. So there are times when air and water temperature are “out of sync”. This is usually a problem if you expect warm water in hot weather. If its vice versa and you are surprised by warm water in cold winter you can just do a fist pump :).
Wind cools the surface of your body and increases the feeling of cold. So if you use your wetsuit in wind you need a thicker one. Wind is a serious factor and has quite a big influence on the feeling of cold. Check out this chart to get the feeling what kind of wind chill certain wind strengths bring:
Just how quickly do you get cold? Everyone has a bit different personal aversion to cold. Usually also men are more “immune” to cold than women.
What are you doing in the water, how active are you? For instance, you can surf so hard smoke comes from your ears or you can sit on your surfboard thinking, meditating and contemplating whatever. You can be in the water most of the time or above the water or even under the surface.
The wetsuit thickness chart below is just for your orientation and is a bit on the safe side, so you can stay in the water longer. Or lets put it this way – it takes into the account that there is some wind present. Every waterman knows for himself how sustainable to cold he is and how quickly he gets cold. At some point, when the water temperature gets to low you also have to wear booties and when it gets even colder also gloves and a hood. Thicker wetsuit also means you get tired sooner because the movement is more restricted. Also completely new and fitting wetsuit is warmer that an older one that is already a little loose and stretched. And at lastly – quality of the wetsuit definitely counts (this is why good winter suits for low temperatures aren’t cheap).
Before we get to the temperature chart I can see some hardcore surfers complaining that they can surf in a shorty wetsuit in 59F (15 C) degree water, but why would you want to be cold if you don’t have to be? Just to be HC? When blood slowly starts coming back to your fingers that are so numb you can’t get out of your wetsuit for half an hour and every heartbeat feels like someone is smashing your fingers with a hammer? When your feet feel like they belong to some rubber dummy when you are slipping and skipping over rocks on your way out of water? It is a part of why we love what we do but I am sure I can live without that :)
In recent times, you can find some funny wetsuit – water temperature charts done by major wetsuit companies, that are in my opinion not very realistic. I guess they also use them for promoting the quality of their wetsuits. Like: “You only need a 3/2 XY wettie in 54F (12C) water. Yeah, its so advanced you can sleep in a freezer.” If they are not talking about the new battery heated wetsuit, then they are probably full of shit. Also, check out this article as well.
WATER TEMPERATURE WETSUIT CHART
WHAT TO WEAR
|> 77 F
> 25 C
|You don’t need a wetsuit, unless you usually wear a wetsuit to jacuzzi, sauna, to the beach…|
|Shorty when it gets colder outside, like in the morning, evening and if it is windy. If the weather is warm, you still don’t need a wetsuit.|
|68F–72F 20C–22C||This is the comfortable bottom limit for surfing in shorty. Spring suit or 3/2 full suit is better when it gets cold and windy.|
|Spring suit or full suit 3/2. If you only have one wetsuit and it is 4/3 you no worries, you can also use it.|
|A good 3/2 full suit is still OK, if you get cold, wear booties. Otherwise wear a 4/3 wetsuit and you will be comfortable in any weather.|
|At this water temperature booties become necessary, at least if you like to feel you feet. 4/3 wetsuit is OK, but if you will do a lot of surfing in water at the bottom of this temperature range, you should probably get a 5/3.|
|5/3 or 5/4/3 wetsuit with booties and gloves. Hood depends on other conditions like wind etc.|
|< 48 F
< 9 C
|5/3 can work, 6/5/4 is better, depends on how extreme do you want to get. Often it is not the thickness of the wetsuit, but bad booties, gloves etc that are the source of cold. So not only the wetsuit, also the booties, gloves and hood must be thick (5mm).|
With good equipment, there is no limit for cold water surfing. The bigger problem is getting out of your wet wetsuit in the freezing parking lot.
To sum up this chart in one sentence: “In our experience: if you only get one wetsuit – get a 4/3!” It is the most versatile and useful in widest range of temperatures.
TWO ADVANCED COLD AND WET WETSUIT TECHNIQUES
Since we finished the chart with some really cold water, here are also two useful tips for putting on a cold wet wetsuit. Wet wetsuit is harder to put on than dry, not just because of the great and enjoyable wet and cold feeling but also because it sticks to your skin and it won’t go on. So to do it faster you can try this:
- It helps to put a PVC bag on you leg or arm before you push it through your wetsuit. Your arms/legs will slide through the sleeves like a hot knife through butter.
- The other trick is to have a dry rash guard in store. Put it on before you get into a wet wetsuit and you won’t feel the cold neoprene on your body. But really, just get it over with as quickly as possible and get into the water.