Choosing the Right Wetsuit: Surfing vs. Diving

When it comes to water sports, the right gear can make all the difference. Whether you're catching waves or exploring underwater reefs, one of the most critical pieces of equipment is the wetsuit. However, not all wetsuits are created equal, and the choice between a wetsuit for surfing versus one for diving depends on several factors. This blog will guide you through the key differences and considerations to help you select the perfect wetsuit for your aquatic adventures.

Understanding Wetsuit Fundamentals

Before diving into specifics, it's important to understand what wetsuits are designed to do. Essentially, a wetsuit's primary function is to keep you warm by trapping a thin layer of water between the suit and your skin, which your body then heats. Wetsuits are made from neoprene, a type of synthetic rubber that provides insulation against cold water. The thickness of the neoprene varies and is a major factor in how warm the wetsuit will keep you.

Water Temperature and Wetsuit Thickness

The thickness of the wetsuit you choose should be appropriate for the water temperature you plan to be in. Generally, thicker wetsuits are better for colder waters. Here’s a quick guide:

  • <18°C: Consider a wetsuit that is at least 5mm thick.
  • 18°C - 23°C: A 3mm to 4mm wetsuit is usually sufficient.
  • >23°C: A wetsuit of 1mm to 2mm, or even a rashguard might be enough.

Wetsuits for Surfing

Design and Flexibility

Surfing wetsuits are designed with mobility in mind. Since surfing requires a lot of arm rotation and lower body flexibility, these wetsuits are engineered to allow for a wide range of motion, especially around the shoulders and knees. The neoprene used is often lighter and more flexible.

Key Features:

  • Stitching: Flatlock stitching is common and tolerable in warmer water as it allows more water to penetrate.
  • Zippers: Typically, surfing wetsuits have a back zipper to make them easier to pull on and off.

Considerations for Surfers

When choosing a surfing wetsuit, think about the balance between warmth and flexibility. A snug fit is essential, but not at the expense of your movement.

Wetsuits for Diving

Thermal Protection and Durability

Scuba diving wetsuits are generally thicker because divers are not moving as vigorously as surfers and thus generate less body heat. Moreover, divers are often exposed to colder, deeper water for longer periods.

Key Features:

  • Stitching: Blind stitch or sealed seams are preferable as they minimise water entry, which is crucial in maintaining body temperature at depth.
  • Zippers: Many diving wetsuits have front zippers to accommodate the use of diving gear.

Considerations for Divers

A tighter fit is more crucial for divers to prevent water flow, which can lead to rapid cooling. Divers should also consider wetsuits with reinforced knees and elbows to withstand the wear from underwater environments.

Can You Use a Surfing Wetsuit for Scuba Diving?

While you might be tempted to use a surfing wetsuit for scuba diving, it's generally not advisable. Surfing wetsuits are not designed to handle the pressure and cold of deeper water. Moreover, the flexibility that makes them ideal for surfing can mean less insulation and durability, which are vital for diving.

When to Consider a Dry Suit

For extremely cold conditions, neither a surfing nor a typical scuba wetsuit may suffice. In such cases, a dry suit, which completely prevents water entry, might be necessary.


Choosing between a surfing wetsuit and a diving wetsuit largely comes down to your specific needs regarding flexibility, warmth, and durability. Ensure you consider the water temperature and the nature of the activity. Remember, the right wetsuit not only adds comfort but also enhances safety during your water adventures. Whether you’re riding the surf or exploring the depths, the right suit can make all the difference.

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