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Wetsuits Explained

back shot of a woman zipping up a wetsuit with the help of another person

One of the main pieces of equipment used in scuba diving is the wetsuit. As we briefly touched on in a previous article, wetsuits serve to keep a scuba diver warm and protect them from cuts and abrasions when diving near corals or wrecks. In this article we will touch on wetsuits a little bit more and explain the differences between them.

Most scuba diving wetsuits are made from neoprene because neoprene is soft, flexible and has good insulating properties. Neoprene was invented by DuPont in 1931 and is a highly resistant material. Also known as polychloroprene, it is produced by the polymerisation of chloroprene. Neoprene rubber resists degradation more than natural or synthetic rubber and the material has good chemical stability and is flexible over a wide range of temperatures; thus it is used in a variety of outdoor and marine applications.

Neoprene gets its properties from a process in which nitrogen gas is baked into it, forming tiny air bubbles within the rubber that gives neoprene its insulating properties. This is the main reason why scuba diving wetsuits are made from neoprene. The air bubbles in neoprene also make them slightly buoyant; a great property to have when you are scuba diving.

Neoprene wetsuits usually come in three main thicknesses: 3mm, 5mm and 7mm. Thicker wetsuits provide more insulation, but the trade-off is that they have less flexibility, so you always want to find the right balance. For diving in Townsville waters, a 5mm wetsuit is the best option for year-round diving as 5mm wetsuits are rated for waters between 22-25 degrees Celsius. The following is a guide when it comes to picking wetsuits:

  • For warmer waters between 25-29 degrees Celsius you would pick a 3mm wetsuit
  • For colder waters between 20-22 degrees Celsius you would pick a 7mm wetsuit

For anything less than 3mm divers have the option of a shorty suit which has short sleeves and legs. For wetsuits thicker than 7mm divers have the option of going for a semi-dry wetsuits. Semi-dry wetsuits have reinforced seals at the neck, wrists and ankles to prevent water from escaping, therefore insulating the body for longer. And for even more insulation there is the option of dry-suits – usually reserved for diving in the waters between 15 degrees Celsius and -2 degree Celsius. Dry-suits insulate the body by maintaining a layer of air between the diver’s body and the water, which is achieved by preventing water from entering the suit.

A wetsuit is one of the first pieces of equipment that a scuba diver will buy, there it is important to get the right one. Consider the level of insulation versus flexibility that you need. When buying a wetsuit also make sure that you try it on first, because a wetsuit has to fit snugly to prevent any pull on the diver’s body. A manufacturer’s size chart may be useful but nothing beats going into a store and trying on one personally! Remote Area Dive in Townsville have an extensive retail section so definitely stop by if you are looking for a new wetsuit!