surfing vs. kayaking immersion wear

A recent thread here got me thinking: board surfers are active year round, often in very cold water (I saw a surfer out on New Years Day in the Boston area), they must dress for immersion, which is an inevitability and integral to the sport (in kayaking it’s a contingency for which one must be prepared) , surfing requires unrestricted body mobility and exertion while wearing insulating layers , so it would seem (unless I’m missing something, always a strong possibility) that surfing immersion wear would overlap with kayak immersion wear. Knowing ittle about surfing , I ask: is there a new generation of immersion wear (hoods, gloves, wet or drysuits etc ) enjoyed by surfers which kayakers are not aware of or open to , because there is kayak gear and then there is surfing gear, and marketing, dogma etc dictate that things must be done a certain way?

Jeeze, Peter…

– Last Updated: Jan-09-06 12:43 PM EST –

Get a short boat, c'mon out and find out. :) If I were still surfing the waveski for the winter, I would be in my wetsuit. But, I don't trust myself on it as much as I do in my surf kayak. For winter, I'd rather be surfing something I have more confidence in.

Several us of paddle surfers on PNet have maintained that the newer surfer wetsuits do not restrict paddling motion and is less expensive. Personally, it would be my choice, after experience with usage, if I were living in a more moderate climate. But the notion of surfing wetsuits as doable for paddling has been slow to catch on.


PS. The numbers of surfers - both kayak and boardies -- diminish by 80% in the winter. Yes, gear plays a part for those who stay in the game. But skills and confidence play a bigger part.

It’s largely Marketing
Most “seakayakers” with full dry suits are middle aged upper middle class people with expendable income and who don’t mind looking like an inflatable toy trying to swim in the surf. People who want to live in a bubble and never get wet. Board surfers in general are younger have less expendable income, are buff, and don’t mind looking cool and they require the least drag in the water. Diving suits have given wet suits a bad rap. Dry suits would be great for very cold water, but surfing wetsuits work well for surfing and seakayaking when you intend to get wet and the water is still well above freezing.


– Last Updated: Jan-09-06 11:12 PM EST –

Board surfers generally spend more time immersed in the water then most they touring kayakers or paddle surfers. The variety of board surfing wetsuits is extensive, with cut, fabric and material thickness being the primary variables. Most surfing wet suits are constructed of non-breathable neoprene and are fashioned to fit snugly in order to minimize the amount of water that flows into and through the suit. The intent of the contoured fit is to better retain the body’s heat.

Most touring boaters and many kayak surfers find that the absence of breath-ability makes the traditional surfer’s wetsuit uncomfortable and thus not suitable for long periods of exertion in a relatively “dry” state. Conversely, paddle surfers who ride various sit-on-top craft, such as a wave ski, often opt for a traditional surfer’s wetsuit because they are more directly exposed to the elements.

But there appears to be a trend among the paddle surf crowd to don gear made of so-called “fuzzy rubber”. Firms like RapidStyle, Bomber Gear and Mountain Surf offer a selection of wetsuits, vests, shirts and headware made of material produced by Polertec. Feedback indicates that items made of this material are both comfortable and relatively warm, specially when augmented by a splash or paddling jacket. While probably not the best attire for prolonged emersion, it appears to be a nice compromise for most paddling conditions.

Seadart that’s alotta generalisations
a lot of it with a negative bent. do you honestly think it is all about style and marketing that paddlers wear what they do compared to board surfers?

you missed the boat on this one mate and you know it. the last post sums it up objectively. different clothing for different applications. sure there is cross over but swimming with a surfboard is totally different than paddling a kayak, with different clothing requirments for maximum comfort. style and marketing have nothing to do with it.

i agree
with the age issue, I am a young kayaker 32, and I wear a drysuit, mostly I am the only one in a surf kayak around my area. Paddling gear isn’t cheap, but I managed to get a deal on a kokatat drysuit.

not so fast
most surf wet suits are not cut to fit you in a sitting position,i have had a oneal surf wetsuit and found it lacking in comfort in my cobra strike.i use a nrs wetsuit now and it works much better,also reed chillcheater top.


– Last Updated: Jan-11-06 12:06 PM EST –

here I was in my ONeil all day...

Try your suit in the shop. Different brands are cut differently for different body shapes.


What you need to do is
When you try on a wet suit sit down on the floor and grab your toes, swing your arms around. Trust me there are wetsuits out there that work for surfing. Very few people use drysuits on waveskis in very cold water, trust me wetsuits work well.

well maybe my long torso self just dosnt fit oneal suits very well i have found most surf wetsuits ride up the ole crack in the sitting position :),i agree drysuits in surf are not a good mix as i still spend time swimming. i agree you need to try suits on and sit on the floor. i still think the cut of nrs suits are perfect for the sitting position!

dry suit / wet suit

– Last Updated: Jan-11-06 4:14 PM EST –

Hi Peter,
Although I do not do as much paddling as I once did here is what I tend to wear. Early spring and late fall and winter a dry suit. For surfing either a ww boat or a surf boat I use a surfers wet suit.
For surfing I find the wet suit gives me greater mobility. I am built more or less like a fire plug. With getting older and being stocky I much prefer the wet suit as it seems to me the bulkiness seems so much less. I personally do not care for the wet suit for sea kayaking as I find it on the hot side as I do not tend to get to wet in the conditions I typically sea kayak in (not like surfing).

Fatal flaw with paddling wetsuits…
Paddling wetsuits are cut so they fit snug while you’re sitting. Jump in the water and you’ll soon find the extra fabric that makes sitting easier causes a huge, baggy gap in the small of your back when in a more upright position, such as while floating is freezing cold water. Suddenly that comfortable to sit in suit is a giant icewater pump when upright!

Wetsuit materials have become so stretchy and pliable that some manufacturers don’t even bother with zippers anymore! Why paddling gear manufacturers still use crappy, stiff, old school neoprene is beyond me.


Your body type
Certainly not my experience at all.


– Last Updated: Jan-13-06 12:42 PM EST –

wetsuits for "paddling" tend to be farmer john/jane types which even if layered, just doesn't offer the same protection as one piece surfing wetsuits. And those that are one piece, tend to have overly long zippers, lacking good inner overlapping flaps, which are another place for more water infiltration and flushthrough.

I do notice that my surfing wetsuits have a much more pliable and stretchier neoprene than the neo used in my farmer johns.