What wetsuit for Delmarva?

Going for the first time to Delmarva in early October to finally get some Greenland paddling instruction. Yay! But I am not at all experienced with colder water protection. It’ll be in a cove and I imagine mostly in shallow water, practicing strokes, rescue, and maybe some baby steps toward rolling.

I imagine air temps could be around 60-70 and water temps probably similar.

I’m thinking maybe a 3/4 wetsuit but not sure, and I’m also unsure if it should be sleeveless and then wear something on top, or full sleeves? I am pretty thin and both intolerant of cold when still and easily overheated when exercising. Yeah, I know…. :roll_eyes:

Thanks for any advice!

went for an intentional swim in chesap. bay just a few days ago, was quite pleasant, you might try asking the instructor and see what they suggest


Take a smattering of clothing. The air and water temp are not the only thing. As you get tired, you need more insulation …it isn’t just about air and water. Have enough with you to ALWAYS be comfortable.

Don’t aim for just the minimum to get by.

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If this includes rolling you need a wind break layer, at least a splash top. Because there is not much colder than being up in the air in a wet wetsuit and not moving a lot. Which is the case between being wet in a Greenland class. Even if the air is on the upper 60s.

If you don’t plan to be wet maybe not so much. But I am unclear on Greenland calasses where getting wet is not part of the equation. Nose plugs too.

I plan on being wet! I have a splash top, nose plugs, splash pants, but I don’t have a wetsuit. So what about the thickness, and sleeves v no sleeves? I have requested guidance from them but thought some real-world suggestions might help me out.

Thank you. I’m not attempting to aim for the minimum but since I don’t have a lot I’m trying to determine what to buy. I’ll buy whatever I need… short of a drysuit, which is a bigger investment than I’m ready to make.

Also: shoes. I have Astral Loyaks which I’m guessing are not warm enough. I’m looking at neoprene bootie-type shoes, but I’m not sure how thick to get. They range from 2-3 mm neoprene with thinner soles to 3-4 mm neoprene with 5 mm thick soles. It’s confusing.

If you get no sleeves in a regular paddling wet suit you will need a thin layer underneath. Rashguard. If a full body, honestly the surfing stuff is pricier but easier to get one garment well matched to your needs.

I am going to suggest a different idea. Get separates, long pants and a long skeeve top. Those be more use to you going forward if a wet suit is outside of what you have already needed.

As to feet, stick a pair of 100% wool socks inside of the neo boot that would fit your normal needs. Peolle have forgotten, before synthetics paddlers wore wool because it retains some warmth when wet.

And a hood, basic neo paddling one will do. You lose some ridiculous high percentage of heat thru your head.


Since what you are asking about is a wet suit. If I were you, I would go with a two piece system. Maybe a .5 Hydroskin pant {to pair with a couple of different tops. A long sleeve rash guard and also a Neo vest.

Bathroom breaks will also be easier with a 2 piece set-up {Women especially} {this is a very basic beginning system}

the rash guard and a neo vest paired with your splash jacket should keep you warm…add another layer under the jacket {maybe a light fleece} mix and match if some more is needed.

Wear one of the smurf tuiliks to the mix and you should be ok. for most of what you will do . {short of a dry suit}

The Hydroskin pants {or Reed pants or Surfskin Pants etc} will also pad your legs from bruising and even if it gets real warm can be paired with a tank top or halter top. They will still protect your legs. {if your legs get cold the splash pants can layer over the neo pants.}

These are things that every paddler , even if they don’t paddle extreme weather can use.

This assumes that your splash top is a semi dry paddling jacket and not just a raincoat}

Simple neoprene socks can also be added for very little expense and little bulk. and can pair with sandals or crocks etc. The neo socks will pad your heels and feet too. Better than bare feet.

I hope some of this helps. I have not been to Delmarva, but these are basics and will work around the world until you need to actually be in a dry suit. To make the outfit go down a notch, the .5 neo pant can be swapped for 3 mm. and a dry paddling top can be added.

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I put that question to the registrar of Delmarva and she suggests much of what I and Roy have: NRS hydroskins long pants and top. And a windproof long sleeved shell top, preferably one with neoprene or latex cuffs and beck gasket… If you consider hydroskin pants (honestly one of the best investments I have made in kayaking garments and the most useful) try on the mens sizes as well as the womens if you can find a stocking dealer. I found the mens size was better designed and fit me better than any of the womens, which surprised me because I have a long crotch rise.

What Roy calls “smurf” is the bright blue neoprene tuiliks (hooded pullovers with an integral sprayskirt that QajaqUSA provides for the training events) that you will be able to use for full rolling coaching. Since this venue has a swimming pool, you won’t be having to worry much about thermal loss in the earliest training.

Since you have mentioned needing to be able to cool down with exertion, if you get a neoprene or htdroskin top, look for a sleeveless one that has a front zip for venting. Since you are on the petite side, you have a good chance of finding a good deal on this sort of wear — overstock sales of smaller sizes are fairly common.

I will check my kit — I have been downsizing my excess and rarely used gear and may still have a Kokatat innercore paddling shirt similar to hydroskin that was always way too small for me — if I still have it I will bring it and you can have it. I’d say it is about a size 8. I’ll update you (by private nessage) with what I find in my overstuffed gear closet.

Neoprene socks are useful, as Roy describes, but I have found the seams blow out in a few years. I am on my third pair even though I don’t use them that often due to that flaw. Meanwhile the $30 Deep See shortie 5mm hard soled side zip dive boots I bought 13 years ago have held up great to annual use — I wore them every day at Michigan kayak camp and they are perfect for that sort of event where you are in and out of the water and often walking around on land. Deep See is not a typo, by the way, that is the brand, and they are reasonably priced still.

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correction to my earlier comment on Hydroskins. just checked and my pants and Fatmer Jane are 0.5 weight, not 1.5 Only my zip jacket is the thicker stuff. and for a multi day event the 0.5 will dry better overnight (hang it inside out).


Thanks, that’s very helpful. It seems as if getting the right clothing is kind of similar to getting the right boat and paddle: you have to try a bunch out to see what you like. Lucky thing that they have the “Smurf” tuiliks. That made me laugh.

All very interesting and helpful, thank you so much. Very happy to know that they have extra “Smurf” tuiliks for us newbs. I have to spend some time reading about various gear and trying to decide what I think will work best for me and the spouse. Just another stage in the journey!

Thank you. I read in a different thread where Sing recommended a surfing wetsuit to someone else, so I’m looking into that as well. But the separates do seem to be much better in terms of convenience. Also I guess he is usually out in surf most of the day, so a somewhat different situation.

Yes, thanks, I did. I’m hoping for the warmer side of normal but trying to plan for the colder.

The surfing suits are really better than the basic paddler hydroskin. But they are also more specialized and pricier than the basic Farmer Jane, and as I an others mentioned separates are likely to be of more use to you going forward. If you have not needed anything like a wetsuit for your paddling up until now, your next most likely major jump will be to dry wear.

Check out Ebay. There is a set of pre-owned NRS 0.5 Hydroskin pants and zip jacket in women’s small listed (bid starts at $69 and “buy now” is $110). And quite a few other pieces in men and women’s sizes.

And the consignment site, Geartrade, has a pair of women’s Small long pants for $50 (less than half what I paid for mine.)

NRS women’s Small is a 4-6 though. Their stuff does run small. I found even the XL women’s uncomfortably binding though I am a size 12 and their XL is supposed to be 16-18 with a 32-34" waist. My middle hovers around 32-33" but I felt constricted in that one and the thighs were baggy. The men’s L at 32" to 35" waist fit perfectly all the way around.

Per the REI site, NRS has improved the hydroskin this year and it is faster drying, which is a bonus. As I said, the pants are probably my most used bit of kayaking clothing year round and I have never been chilly or too hot in them. And easier to manage for pee breaks than other options.

I’ve gotten stuff from Wetsuit Warehouse and they often have leftover clearance items. Here’s a size 10 (chest 35", waist 26", 130 lbs) chest zip full suit marked down from $360 to $100. It is plush lined, like Hydroskin which is way more comfortable on wet skin than regular nylon backed neoprene. Only drawback to my full surf suit like this one is the long back zip that can get uncomfortable under the PFD all day and won’t let me ventilat. Front zip is easier to vent and less apt to chafe. Good deal on that suit if it would fit you.


Another thing about neoprene wet suits is that you can cut them up and the material doesn’t unravel. i am short waisted and my first Farmer Jane wet suit, a front zip that I got for a PADI dive certification class many years ago, never fit well because it was too long in my short body and bunched around my middle. I eventually cut off the legs below the zipper and used it for a sleeveless jacket, hemming the edge on the sewing machine (though I really didn’t need to).

I have had to cut too-long legs shorter too, since the people who size outdoor clothing seem to think that both genders expand proportionally in height as they grow in girth, which is rarely the case! Despite the fact that the average American woman between 20 and 50 weighs 170 pounds but is only 5’ 4" and with a 37" waist, the fit charts presume any woman above 160 pounds is 5’ 10"! Barrel chested stocky men, even super fit ones, run into similar issues.

Great, thanks so much, Celia and Willowleaf. I have been looking on eBay and will try the other places mentioned. I think I need a medium, alas. But there are lots of possibilities.

The Bay gets really warm in summer up to 80 degrees or more. Sept is still pretty warm. It takes time for large bodies of water to cool off. A shorty wet suit would work or a farmer john. You don’t need to get carried away with a lot of equipment for early October. The spring is when you will find cold water.

We used to surf at Ocean City into the fall. No one had wet suits in those days. We were young and did not notice the water temperature.

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