Wet/Drysuit for early spring season in WI

Many of the responses here seem to be from kayakers, which is slightly different need than a SUP person. My suggestion isn’t as strict as what you have heard before.

Assuming you are proficient at quickly getting back on to your board (and you are wearing a decent leash, so won’t get separated from your board), there would be less risk than if you fell out of a kayak (which is usually a slower process to get back on, so kayakers usually need more thermal protection to protect them for the extended time swimming). Not no risk, but less risk.

A wet wetsuit doesn’t do much to help you when it is out of the water and exposed to wind. The solution for that would be to have a paddle jacket and/or paddle pants over the wetsuit.

When I am SUPing in water that is 55 or above, I would choose between:

  • 2 mm shorty farmer john
  • .5 mm hydoskin shirt
  • no wetsuit but have clothing (like fleece pr polypro) that would keep me warm if wet

Add some sort of paddle jacket or wind breaker if windy (though I generally avoid winds when I can).

Colder water temperatures and I would be in a paddling suit or dry suit.

Thanks, those are good points. And wearing something thinner may be more comfortable in the warmer air. More comfort is a safety feature as well since that makes it more likely to actually wear it. If it is not comfortable when paddling, I may be tempted to take them off.

Yes, I was planning to use the leash. I also will have a large drybag to take dry clothes with me. So if I get desperate, I could change. Obviously this trick only works for the first time i fall off. For now I also will have a kayak seat on my iSUP. So if conditions are bad, I would sit and paddle with less chance of falling.

  • Are there specific types of material that work better for sweating (or not sweating) in the air? My regular clothes are all wicking and they are great no matter how hot it is.
  • Assuming I go for the thinner 2mm + dry clothes, is short sleeved OK? I assume we mainly talk about core temperature. Or do my limbs fail as well when cold?
  • is a hood recommended? A cold head could make me unconscious.
  • Can a wet suit keep me warm in the air if I put some other clothes over it? I realize they get wet on the inside. but do they dry on the outside so I can put regulars clothes over them to keep warm? Or do I need to change them? I’m mainly talking about air temperature above 65°F.

Edit: I’m starting an amazon wishlist for pants, socks, hood, gloves, and top. Is there nay sense in picking different thicknesses for each type? Or should I just get the same thickness for all items? I’m inclined to get some inexpenive 2mm stuff for now and see in spring how that goes.

Running off or Peter-CA’s comments and the assumption that you can either remount the board or get to shore in a couple of minutes, you might want to start with a couple of layers of Hydroskin and an inexpensive splash top for wind protection. Consider long pants, a vest ,and a long sleeve top in Hydroskin. You can use wicking or smart wool under layers.

Back in the day (30 years ago or so) running OC-1 & OC-2 on Eastern Class II & III Pool - Drop whitewater rivers I was fairly comfortable, as were most of everyone else on the trips, in a Farmer John wet suit, Polypro undershirt, A fleece top, and a splash jacket. Swims were expected and usually short. I remember more that once wringing out the fleece after dumping the water our of the canoe & practicing my language skills.


I think the hydroskin idea is great since that seems to be comfortable and is most likely to be worn even when the air is a bit warmer. I see my local REI has some of the NRS hydroskin actually on site, but only the 0.5mm.

It looks like NRS calls it hydroskin for 0.5mm, 1mm, and 1.5mm. which one would I look at for top and bottoms? I have no idea how much warmer each 0.5mm feels.

This guy seems to recommend the 0.5mm hydroskin for a combined 110°F and in his example he uses 47°F as water temperature. Assuming my water always will be 55+°F and air temperature will be 70°F, would a short sleeve be an option? To me it would make some sense to get the 0.5mm in short version, and the 1.5mm in long sleeve version. But somehow I would like to start with one set only and see how it goes. I’m OK paying the NRS prices as long as I know it will be good. but i like to avoid buying a set I won’t use because it is too warm or cold.

Would you still recommend a hood and socks for my conditions? there doesn’t seem to be a hydroskin option for the NRS hood and socks.

I’d suggest starting with 1.5 material. I have no idea about footwear for SUPs. From a canoe & kayak view I’d use booties but feet are pretty expendable so somewhat it depends on your circulation and appreciation of discomfort. Heck, a pair of wool socks & worn out tennies work. A full hood is probably over kill for any conditions that you SHOULD be going out in. A wool cap is fine & keep a neo beanie or a helmet liner in your PFD.

As one of the more consistent user of a wetsuit for paddling, I’ll share this older thread from 2018 regarding wetsuits.

My caveate about immersion gear is always to relate it back to the skills/attributes of the specific paddler, the particular venue/conditions, and the expected time to self or assisted rescue. Two weeks ago, with water temp in the low 60’s, I did long boat surfing with a 2mm surfing wetsuit coupled with a semi-drytop. If I were in my waveski (and fully exposed to the water), I would probably be in 3/2 wetsuit without a top. Between 55-60, I would be in 4/3 wetsuit for the waveski. This weekend, with water temp at mid 50s, I expect to be in a 3/2 with a semi drytop for a longboat. The thing is that I sprint a lot and sweat a lot. I have rolling skills and can do that to cool as needed. If I were on a SUP and can perform a relatively fast remount, I personally would go with either a 4/3, or with 3/2 (with access to splash top) for 55 plus water temperature. Again, it is highly dependent on the level of exertion you put into your SUPping and the level of self rescue skills.

You can find a decent, very flexible 4/3 wetsuit from Wetsuit Warehouse for under $200:



Thanks. I then start with the long 1.5 hydroskin top and pants. Once it gets too warm for that, I will add the 0.5 short top and pants.

In summer I used some cheap water shoes for my IK. That was more to have something to walk in to the shore and to give me some protection in case I step on something under water. They don’t do anything for temperature or wetness. So I guess I will want to wear something and on an iSUP I assume more water will get on my feet just from paddling or occasional wave. So i will buy some of those wetsuit socks as well. I actually just started paddling this June and next year will be my first iSUP use. And with the supply line issues, I needed to theorize now to buy ahead of time.

Thanks, for all the advice. I learned a lot and feel will be well prepared.

You pay premium price for hydroskin (NRS) and these don’t offer much thermal protection. For 55-60 degree water, I would not go lower than 2 mm wetsuit, and only if you know you can get back onto your SUP real quick.



Ok. Sorry, read through your original post and the link to an inland lake, not a GL. I think of Great Lakes as akin to oceans where challenging conditons can develop. With an inland lake, I think you have more leeway and ability get off the water and out of conditions quicker, provided you don’t lose your leash connection.


here’s what I’d go with

be sure to check out the sizing chart, particularly the chest size

Thanks for the responses. Another wrinkle and issue with the full-suits is, that they don’t seem to have a relief zipper. On my IK I (male) used a bottle to pee and envision some similar procedure in a somewhat private area. It looks like all the full wet suits don’t have any sort of zipper. How do people pee?

That kind of drives me towards a solution with separate pants and top. I realize that leaves more room for cold water to enter.

I also have the option to move my anticipated start of the season from beginning to mid-May when water is closer 60°F and air will be 70°F-80°F. I have other land-based hobbies I can do when conditions aren’t great. And I think whatever solution I come up with, I will try to at a swimming beach to see how it feels before I go out with my iSUP.

Our waters are calm and I wouldn’t go out on a cold or windy day. So I wouldn’t be in the water for too long (hopefully). I’m actually more concerned that whatever I use will be too warm when paddling. That is where i think the hydroskin could work well. Maybe in future years i will be more brave and add thicker or even dry-suits.

I have another idea. Could I wear the 0.5mm short hydroskin and wear the longer 1.5mm hydroskin over it? That way I can take off layers, but at least end up wearing some wet suit when it gets warm. Or are they too tight to put them on top of each other?

I have the .5 mm top and long bottoms. I also have the 1.5 long bottoms. Truthfully, I don’t wear these for paddling except in the summers for minimum water temp protection and full sun protection. It’s really weird but I actually can’t differentiate the thermal protection of the .5 from the 1.5 m. The most used context I have for the hydroskin bottoms is for wet wading while flyfishing trout steams when water temps are 55 and over and the air temp is higher.

If you want to add thermal protection to your hydroskin against wind while on the board, you simply bring along cheapo nylon windbreaker and wind pants. Again, in immersion, the external nylon cover will add NO thermal protection.

Regarding how to pee in a wetsuit – just do it. For waveskiers, surfers and SUPers, you can simply jump in the water and let a little water in to flush through. Or, you can pour a little bit of (warm) bottom water through the neck to flush through. I find this much more convenient than when I used to use a drysuit, when I had to paddle to shore and find a “private place” (hard on popular beaches, or along shoreline privately owned) to relieve myself.


Forget about these ridiculous “temperature rules”; 100°,120°, etc. Once you are in the water the air temperature is irrelevant. Although long discredited these rules were proposed by ACA and unfortunately copied by the USCG and many other organizations. Once in print, people are resistant to change. You would think that the ACA would know better being located if Fredericksburg, VA, not far from the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay, with its large surface area and relative average depth warms and cools very rapidly. In the Spring especially, water temperatures still in the 40s and air temperatures in the 80s are not uncommon. Multiple deaths occur every year in the shoulder seasons due to cold water immersion often combined with not wearing a PFD.

Our Club requires cold water gear starting at 60°F in protected waters and higher water temperatures depending on conditions.

How a person reacts to cold water can vary considerably. Temperatures are deceiving. Air at 60° is reasonably comfortable. Water at 60° feels pretty cold to me and tolerable for a fairly short time.

I used to wear a wetsuit down to about 50°, but since I bought a drysuit I don’t wear a wet suit anymore. I find a drysuit more comfortable and versatile. It’s very expensive, but considering many of the top brands have a lifetime warranty, the financial pain fades over time

A wetsuit is more affordable in the shoulder seasons, but bear in mind that a wetsuit by itself is really designed to be comfortable when one is in the water. Out of the water they can be very hot when exercising and not very warm when in the wind on a cool breezy day. You will want some wind and thermal protection when out of the water that you can put on and take off.

Ultimately I have to find out what my temperature tolerance is. People in Russia meet at frozen lakes, cut through the 2’ of ice and swim in the water with just speedos. I wouldn’t be one of them for sure. I recall swimming in the Baltic Sea at 60°F, and it wasn’t fun, but OK in just speedos. So my hope is with at least some layers I can do a few minutes safely.

So I’ll start with the Hydroskin and socks and see what date I feel OK being in the water and if I can get back on the iSUP OK. Maybe the year after I upgrade to warmer gear depending on how much I value the ability to start the season even sooner.

As for peeing: that has to happen on the boat since going on land wouldn’t be convenient or private at all. And jumping into the water to do that would only be possible or convenient in warm weather. Even in warm water I wouldn’t want to fight with plants and algae at many of the locations beyond the absolute necessary. My plan here is to never fall into the water when the water is cold. This suit is just for the off-chance of falling in to save my life, not to willingly go into the water. I realize the suite will be sweaty etc. and needs to be washed after use. But I prefer not to pee inside, although that would be warm :-). I came across some diving forums and adding a relief zipper with glue actually is a thing there. Some custom-manufacturers also add them for a fee. IMHO, that really should be more common on a full suit.

Relief zippers are a pretty common request in a drysuit. As probably the majority of wetsuits are used for scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, etc. where you are in the water a lot of the times, relief zippers are not common. However, I would pay for one for use with a kayak or SUP.

I just watched the PaddleTV video last night and he clearly recommends the zippers as well.
There just don’t seem to be any wet-suits with one already included.

As mentioned above, wetsuits are mainly used by scuba drivers and it is common to just pee into the wetsuit, hence no need for a relief-zipper.

When diving, one is surrounded by water. So whatever runs out, will be gone. I also assume some new water will go through the suit every once a while.

But kayaking isn’t under water. I’ll sit on my seat and that will be full of pee or I will sit on a liter of pee inside my suit. Everyone’s comfort level is different… but I prefer to pee outside whatever I wear :slight_smile:

pee zippers are a nice addition to a drysuit. Most of my paddling trips are day trips that only last a few hours. So I frequently pee before I put on the suit and wait until I take it off. Even with a pee zipper, if you’re wearing bunny fleece, you will have another zipper to access. Under that fleece I usually wear a fine wicking layer so peeing is a bit complicated, thus I tend to wait until the end of the trip. Sometimes it is just as easy to unzip the main zipper and peel the suit and under layers down to pee. You don’t need a pee zipper to do that but if you can get to your equipment then the pee zipper could be the ticket.

So i think it is kind of a hassle to pee in either a drysuit or wetsuit. Relief zipper in a drysuit helps a little bit but still not necessarily easy depending upon under layers.

Another nice feature in a drysuit is a built in tunnel for a skirt. Definitely keeps boat drier. You can get much of the same benefit as a tunnel by simply taking an oversized splash top over the drysuit and sprayskirt.

So why do I recommend these cheap semi drys? I find them more comfortable (no latex neck or wrist gaskets, and less prone to total failure (gaskets ripping out). I don’t disagree that full drysuits are drier. If your immersion times are long (far from shore) or conditions extreme then the full drysuit is the way to go.

Often the conversation is centered around an op who says I don’t want to spend much money but want protection. I think the semi drys that are marketed as drysuits for sailing, kiteboarding, and windsurfing will work for many. They often have no pee zipper or tunnels but are still functional.

yesterday, before leaving the house to run the cherry (richwood wv) I get a text, “Can I borrow a splashtop. I ordered a drysuit but it hasn’t come in yet”. I throw in a couple of the extra semi drys - a large and xl (not knowing what is going fit better) and some extra fleece. Now, not only is my paddling companion going to be more comfortable, but my own safety has improved as well. Should I end up being the one to be rescued, I now have a rescuer who is properly dressed to assist me.

Then there is the whole front or rear zip discussion. I prefer rear zip but it does require help. I have a hard time getting front zip suits to fit over my shoulders. I have to go from a large to an xl in a front zip. As a result the suit is too long and becomes baggy but I can get it on and off myself.

If cost is a big concern be sure a visit your local thrift stores regularly. If you go frequently enough you can get the staff to tell you what days they put fresh merchandise out. I got a brand new semi-dry top for $20. Splash jackets and pants for $4 to $10.