If you are new to wetsuits, you might be wondering what you should wear underneath. We get asked this a lot in the shop by both men and women buying their first wetsuit. Of course, what you wear under your wetsuit should be dictated first off by what is comfortable but there are other factors to consider so here are some of the options you may choose from.
You might go for any or all of these depending on whether you are wearing your own wetsuit or someone else’s, how hot or cold it is, whether you are on your own or at a busy spot or whether you feel sensitive to wearing neoprene on your skin or not. There is no right or wrong except that you should steer away from T-shirts and other cotton items. They will bunch up and could even affect the fit of your wetsuit. Another downside is that because they’ll go soggy when wet, they will make you cold. So don’t wear a T-shirt under your wetsuit, go for one of the options below instead.
1. Nothing At All
The simplest and usually the most comfortable solution is to go au naturel. A good quality wetsuit, bought specifically for one-self should fit in all the right places and be extremely comfortable against the skin. Swimsuits or shorts create an extra layer that could potentially cause discomfort.
However there are other factors to consider including your own sense of modesty - do what feels comfortable for you. Children also often prefer to wear swim wear under their wetsuits.
If you do decide to go the ‘commando’ route, come prepared with your poncho towel or Dryrobe so that changing is made simple. If you are renting a wetsuit or generally sharing a wetsuit then for hygiene reasons you should wear swimwear.
Men can use swim shorts, briefs or jammers to wear under a wetsuit. We wouldn’t recommend boardshorts as your wetsuit is meant to be really tight and boardshorts are usually not. They tend to bunch up and could cause chafing and generally lead to discomfort.
Women can wear a swimsuit or bikini, it’s just important to pick the right one. I would recommend from personal experience to go for ones that don’t have an underwire or are tied with knots to avoid unnecessary pressure marks. The last thing you want is to feel the pinch of discomfort when you could be out there having fun. You could also choose a sports-bra or sports underwear, these are usually quick-dry and made for activities, offering good freedom of movement.
For both men and women, wearing swimwear under your wetsuit means that when you take the wetsuit off, you are still covered, a great advantage when you want to quickly take off your wetsuit after a session - no matter whether you were surfing, paddleboarding or swimming.
If you have booked a surf, paddleboard or kayaking lesson and will be using a rental wetsuit then you need to wear swimwear underneath for hygiene reasons. If you forgot your swimwear, you can wear your underwear, it’s not ideal, but definitely better than wearing nothing.
3. Rash Vests & UV Protection Tops
Spend all day at the beach? Then this is a great solution. When you take a break from kayaking or paddleboarding, you can take the top half of the wetsuit off so you don’t overheat and at the same time stay protected from the sun. This is a favourite for parents to keep the kids protected on sunny days and to keep changing in and out of different clothes to a minimum throughout the day.
For those that are sensitive to wearing neoprene for a long time on their skin, this is also ideal and we would recommend to choose long-sleeved tops if that’s the case. The material of the rash vests is more comfortable on the skin than neoprene. Wearing a rash vest can also reduce the risk of chafing.
Go for zip free options that offer UV protection and a tight fit.
When you are planning on being in cold water, then thermal tops and shorts are soft, cosy and add an extra layer of warmth under your wetsuit. Perfect for colder days or for those that really feel the cold. Thermals are great for all water sports, including windsports as the extra layer will protect against wind chill and cold water temperatures.
Available in long and short sleeved tops or even sleeveless some also offer the option of an attached hood which easily converts a 5mm wetsuit into effectively a 6mm hooded.
5. Neoprene Tops and Shorts
This is popular amongst both female and male swimmers who often swim in thinner wetsuits all year round, for example 3mm open water swimming or triathlon wetsuits. A 1-2mm neoprene top and shorts will give a good extra layer of warmth, more so than thermals and will give your core extra protection.
Go for zip free options to wear under wetsuits, so you don’t get marks. Zips can get really uncomfortable when pressed close to you under the wetsuit. So while neoprene jackets that zip at the front are great as stand alone items, they don’t perform well when worn under a wetsuit.
Whatever You Choose, Go For A Tight Fit
No matter what you choose to wear under your wetsuit, go for a tight fit to avoid wrinkles or folds and so that the wetsuit still fits you snuggly and performs at its best.
What you wear under your wetsuit will mostly depend on personal preference and on your activities, where you are, how warm or cold it is, what you are doing after your session and whether you have your own wetsuit or are using a shared/rental one.