Are you debating if you should be investing in a wetsuit? Here are some reasons why you need a wetsuit for bodyboarding and how it took our bodyboarding experience to the next level.
Bodyboarding doesn’t have to be limited to the summer months when the water is warm and the weather is balmy.
We typically spend anywhere between 4-6 hours in the water when we venture out into the surf so investing in a good wetsuit for the everyone in the family was as essential as the getting the right bodyboard.
This way we are also able to bodyboard towards the end of spring and start of autumn.
Here are our genuine reasons why we decided to buy wetsuits for bodyboarding and why it was the best decision we ever made:
Wetsuits Keep You Warm
Have you ever tried swimming in the water down in Tasmania or Victoria in Australia in the cooler months? The water is icy, and you don’t even have to wait until its winter!
In the middle of the year, the water temperature drops significantly. Most people probably wouldn’t venture out during the winter months but if you are super keen, there are often serious swells coming up from the Southern Ocean during that time of the year.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In the southern states, even bodyboarding in the spring and autumn can get cold.
By wearing a wetsuit, you can extend your bodyboarding adventures to a year-round outdoor activity, or least for 7-9 months of the year.
So how does a wetsuit work? How does a wetsuit keep you warm?
The wetsuit works by letting in a small amount of water that sits against your body to heat up and acts like insulation. Insulation means providing a barrier to stop heat escaping.
It’s a common misconception that we think the wetsuit will keep the cold out when in fact it’s about keeping the warmth in. Much the same concept as insulating the roofs and walls of our house to keep us nice and warm.
There are many different types of wetsuits. Even a kid’s wetsuit can come in all shapes and sizes.
This means that they also come in various types of stitching that can affect the amount of water that gets in. The fully sealed or welded seam styles tend to be better than the old-style flatlock stitched models.
The zip can also affect water seepage. Generally, wetsuits with back zips will let more water in than the styles with chest zips.
You can also add hoods, gloves, and booties to your wetsuit for extra warmth if you are going bodyboarding in really cold water. As I wear fins when I bodyboard I always wear booties or fin socks and I find that it makes a big difference.
I personally wear a 3/2 wetsuit (3mm thickness in the core or torso and 2mm thickness in the arms and legs) as it gives me good coverage in both autumn and spring.
But if you live in an area where its perpetually warm all year round, don’t think you may not need one. There are many other advantages of a wetsuit and we outline it all below.
For a full understanding of what type of wetsuit to get and if you’re trying to make sense of all the jargon about seams, zips, and thickness, read this article Ultimate Wetsuit Buying Guide.
Wetsuits Provide Buoyancy
Wetsuits are made from a synthetic rubber material called neoprene. Neoprene has thousands of tiny bubbles in it. These help you stay afloat on top of the waves when bodyboarding.
The 3/2 wetsuit that I wear is very buoyant and makes a big difference in the surf. It also means that if a wave dunks you, you will come up to the surface quicker in a wetsuit which can be a life saver!
I tend to use the rips to get out the back of the breakers to catch the bigger waves before the break.
Having a wetsuit on gives me a little more confidence to do this. This is not for everyone though and I would only suggest doing this if you are an experienced ocean swimmer and have a good understanding of rips and tidal currents.
Better buoyancy also means you are floating higher above the surface of the water. If for some reason you’re not paddling out on your bodyboard, this will certainly help with swimming and just treading water if you’re trying to catch your breath.
The more your body is submerged in the water, the more energy you will expel. This in turns also assists with water safety.
Wetsuits Improves Speed
Wetsuits are coated with a special surface that acts like Teflon when you are in the water. This helps to reduce your body’s natural drag.
This is particularly useful when you are taking off to catch waves both with a bodyboard or even if you are just body surfing.
Do you duck dive under the waves as they come crashing over the top of you?
Well, a wetsuit proves to be super handy in this instance as it allows you to glide through the water easily and you won’t lose your position in the water.
Nothing worse than surfacing back up from the wave only to find yourself back where you started and having to work your way forward again.
Wetsuits Are Versatile
There are many different types of wetsuits which allows you to pick the best one for your own bodyboarding experience.
There are steamers with long legs and arms that are designed for colder water. And in the warmer waters, spring suits with short legs and arms work really well. Kid’s wetsuit varieties are also just as extensive.
I went for a steamer wetsuit with long arms and legs in a 3/2 which I found to be great for late autumn and allows me to get started with bodyboarding in spring.
During the summer months, on really hot days, I tend to put the wetsuit away and just wear shorts and a rash vest.
As the water cools down you can change to a short arm and short leg spring suit that still offers many of the benefits, but you won’t over heat.
Amy on the other hand who is never warm in the water, wears her wetsuit even in the summer months.
Don’t forget that you can use your wetsuit for so many other water activities such as water skiing, kayaking, windsurfing or simply to play in the surf for long periods of time.
A good wetsuit for bodyboarding is the same wetsuit for surfing too so if you love to do both, it’s a worthwhile investment.
Wetsuits Offer Protection
While bodyboarding, if you come off a big wave, the wetsuit helps absorb some of the impact. If you have ever fallen into the water and landed awkwardly, you know how painful this can be.
They also protect your knees and thighs if you like to ride the bodyboard all the way to the sand. My daughter and even Amy sometimes still do. Without their full-length wetsuit on they get sand scrapes down their legs, especially in the knee area.
Wetsuits these days almost always have sturdy knee pads that offer additional padding that is particularly useful if you get battered in rougher surf. The knee pads are great if you like riding your bodyboard on your knees.
Wetsuits Prevents Rashes
It will also stop you from getting a rash from the wax on your bodyboard, which can be a real nuisance.
The wax is important as it helps you stick to your board, but it can also give you a rash on your chest and lower abdomen from the base of the board as you move around. The wetsuit doesn’t reduce the stickiness that the wax offers either.
If you’re wondering if you need wax for your bodyboard, this article may help: 11 Things to Know About Bodyboard Waxing
Wetsuits are great for protecting you from the sun. You only need to worry about applying sunscreen to your exposed limbs and don’t have to put any on your back, which is always hard to do properly when you are by yourself.
This is particularly important in Australia where the sun can be pretty intense even outside the peak summer months where the weather is warm, but the water is still pretty cool.
There is nothing worse than going on a beach holiday and getting sunburnt day one!
Jelly Fish Protection
Another great advantage of wearing a wetsuit is that they protect you from jellyfish. These can be pretty nasty!
In Australia we are exposed to over 100 species of jellyfish. Although most are relatively harmless, there are those that are downright dangerous with stings ranging from mild pain to possible death.
Even though it is not generally a problem all year round, a wetsuit almost eliminates the risk from these pesky little sea friends. If the water is on the warmer side, you could invest in a thinner wetsuit.
The further north you go, the more you need to be wary of jellyfish. Having an understanding of tidal patterns can be a huge advantage in determining the risk of jellyfish being around and always pay attention to signage at the beaches.
Consulting surf life savers is a great way to find out if there are any jellyfish present.
It is important to understand that a wetsuit is not designed to keep you dry. The intention of the suit is to not only allow water in but to also keep it in.
This way, your body can heat up that water which keeps you warm. Hence the term wetsuits!
I thought I’d clarify that as you’d be surprised how many people think that the purpose of the wetsuit is to keep you dry.
Frequently Asked Questions
The same way as it would fit an adult. It should fit snugly especially in the neck, leg and arm area where water can come in and flush the wetsuit. If it is too loose, the wetsuit will be pointless and you may as well go into the water without one.
Shorty wetsuits definitely work. Warmer than not having one but certainly not as warm as a full steamer. They do give you enough relief, just to take the edge off without over heating.
You should always get the perfect size so that it fits snugly. This may be tempting especially if you’re buying for kids as you’d like to get another year in so it’s not wasted. But wearing a wetsuit that is too big for you is a pointless exercise. All the water will get in and it won’t be able to keep you warm.
For girls/ladies, just wear a bikini or bathers. From a vanity point of view, if you’re intending to spend some time on the beach after you bodyboard, you might like to wear something you’d be happy to sit on the beach in. If not, a good pair of training swimmers is the most ideal. Don’t wear swim wear that has zips, buckles or big knots. They can start to dig into your skin and even damage your wetsuit.
For boys/men, you can wear boardshorts (make sure it doesn’t have too much fabric though) or training swim wear. You can wear underwear too if that is your preference.
Alternatively, you can go commando and wear nothing although you would be more susceptible to chafing.
I cannot recommend investing in a wetsuit enough and I hope I have illustrated the benefits of getting a wetsuit well enough to convince you to get one.
This extends the bodyboarding season by months and you can enjoy the surf for a longer period of time.
A good quality wetsuit will last you for years and the return on investment is well worth it.
Now I get to bodyboard with my family even more which also means my daughter is improving every time we are out in the water.
- Ultimate Wetsuit Buying Guide
- 8 Ways to Take Care of a Wetsuit
- 11 Things to Know About Bodyboard Leashes
- 11 Things to Know About Bodyboard Waxing
- 8 Reasons You Need Bodyboard Fins
We’re Andrew & Amy and we are a small blended family that love to bodyboard! We’re here to share everything we know to help you with your bodyboarding adventure as a beginner, with your family or if you’re transitioning onto intermediate level. Let’s go!