What You Should Be Wearing Under a Wetsuit

Lexa Pennington's picture

Wetsuits are some of the most versatile items of clothing on the market, being ideal for swimmers, divers, or water sport-enthusiasts. Constructed from a durable, water-proof material that provides hydrodynamic properties and enhanced capabilities both under and above the water, they are a firm favourite for professional athletes and amateurs alike. As easy as they can be to slip on, many experts recommend complementing the costume with layers underneath. These layers are wide and varied and in this post, we’ll be taking a good look at the types of things that you should consider wearing underneath your wetsuit.

What You Should Be Wearing Under a Wetsuit

What is a Wetsuit?

From men’s wetsuits to women’s alternatives, they are all fairly similar and constructed using the same types of materials. Their main difference will typically relate to the quality of these materials, as well as the colour. Although many people think of a wetsuit and think that black is the only shade, the reality is that these items of clothing are available in a range of tones, and even in a variety of thickness.

It’s also worth noting that although wetsuits may all look similar, there are varying types that are better suited to specific sports. For instance, diving suits are ideal for shallow and deep sea diving, with the thickness of the suit defining the depth that can be reached comfortably. These types of suits will also often feature specific features to allow breathing apparatus to be connected as required, whereas traditional wetsuits are more for surface use (or shallow uses such as swimming).

Wetsuits and Their Thickness

Another feature to look for when buying a wetsuit is the thickness of the material. Most tags and labels will have numbers such as 4/3, or 2/1 and this relates to the thickness in millimetres of the varying material composition that makes up the suit itself. For instance, the first number typically refers to the layer of neoprene around the torso and upper body area, while the second number relates to the thickness of the rest of the suit, including the arms and legs.

A 7mm wetsuit means that the thickness of the material is 7mm in total, whilst a 3mm diving suit will be thinner. Although the thickness is a preference, it can define what you might want to wear underneath a wetsuit, with thicker options requiring thinner under-garments and thinner suits benefitting from a thicker protective layer underneath.

What Are Wetsuits Made From?

Most modern styles, including women’s wetsuits are made from a material called neoprene and then reinforced with a subtle foam layer for added water-protection, durability and flexibility. Neoprene is entirely waterproof and any liquid that makes contact will be repelled, allowing the user’s body underneath to remain dry to the touch. The purpose of a wetsuit isn’t to solely repel water however, in fact the main purpose of its design is to provide a hydrodynamic layer to a person’s body, regardless of shape, hair, and their weight.

Diving suits on the other hand, will often feature a layer of neoprene foam throughout the entire structure (although this isn’t always the case), and this is to help the diver to maintain their body temperature when underwater, which is far more important for those practising diving as a hobby than a surfer, or windsurfer who will spend most of their time at the surface of the body of water.

What Should You Wear Under a Diving or Wetsuit?

The vast majority of swimwear and athletic garment manufacturers will use the same types of soft, flexible and breathable materials in all of their gear. As a result, many water sport enthusiasts opt for under-garments to add an additional layer of protection, or simply to help them avoid having to be fully naked when their wetsuit is removed.

As a result, your options as an athlete will be wide and varied when it comes to choosing what to wear underneath your wet or diving suit, regardless of whether you will be using a woman’s wetsuit, or a deep-sea diving alternative. These garments often come in individual pieces to allow the wearer to pick and choose how they equip themselves for their particular activity.

For instance, cycling shorts, which are constructed using a lightweight material that rejects water in the form of sweat, and likewise they are suitable for an extra layer of comfort when underwater. Alternatively, many divers opt for dedicated diving shorts, which are purposely designed to act as a layer of protection that can be worn underneath a wetsuit. It’s also possible to wear them on their own, but as they don’t cover the entire leg, they can reduce hydrodynamics for the user when under water.

For those that suffer with rashes as a result of the friction caused from a wetsuit, there are rash guards which can be worn in the form of clothing, or purchased in strips to be applied to particular parts of the body, such as the inner thigh, around the ankles, or anywhere else where rubbing may occur.

Specifically for Women

For women, the option to wear a one-piece swimsuit can be beneficial, as it will typically offer the protection from rubbing that a rash guard affords, with the added bonus of being able to remove the outer layer (the wetsuit) and still remain appropriately dressed so as to avoid being seen naked. The great thing about this option is that a swimming costume is also made from a waterproof material, so instead of just one layer of water-resistance, a woman could enjoy double the protection.

A more common complaint amongst women is the struggle to remain covered in the torso area while removing their wetsuit, which typically unzips from the back and needs to be pulled down and over the body before being slipped off at the feet. A good solution for this, whilst keeping with the theme of wearing garments under a suit, is to use a bikini top to provide additional support whilst underwater, but which can also be used to protect modesty when it comes time to removing the wetsuit.

As you might expect, this will mean that the bikini top must be worn before the rest of the wet suit is applied, and to avoid any issues around the zip area, a good idea would be to invest in a pull-over bikini top, or one without straps or the need to tie strings in general. But doing this, the top will remain as flat as possible, as knots and other types of connections can sometimes cause raises and bumps when the wet or diving suit is applied, which can occasionally interfere with the water-tight nature of the suit itself.

Likewise, bikini bottoms can be worn to negate the need to remove a wetsuit awkwardly, and as these types of underwear are designed to be closely-fitting and comfortable, they shouldn’t need to interfere with the wetsuit once it has been properly placed, and will instead act to provide a little extra support to this lower portion of the body, without detracting from the effectiveness of the suit itself. If this method is chosen, it can be as simple as wearing them first, then applying the suit, and then when it comes time to removing the suit, it can simply be unzipped, slid off accordingly, and then the bikini bottoms will be in place to preserve the dignity of the woman, who will be able to relax in the knowledge that she is covered and comfortable.

Unisex Options

For divers and swimmers that want to protect specific parts of their bodies without using rash guards, they could always wear a generic sleeveless vest, but as they are often made from non-waterproof materials, they aren’t recommended for races, or serious sporting events. Their benefit is that they will cover sensitive parts of the torso, such as the nipple area, which can experience friction burns from neoprene suits.

For even more protection, a full-body jumpsuit can be worn as this will cover the vast majority of extremities including the nipples, elbows, knees and other joints between the neck and ankles, which in turn can provide a far more efficient level of protection. The result will be even better if the material used is similar to cycling shorts, for instance, Lycra or nylon, as these synthetically designed parts are ideal for promoting a smooth, soft contact surface because they very rarely cause irritation and can be worn in addition to a wetsuit.

Do You Really Need to Wear Anything Underneath a Diving Suit?

It all comes down to your preference at the end of the day. Many athletes that practice water sports find that their suits are more than enough, but for anyone that wants to retain their modesty, or experience a little more comfort whilst enjoying their favourite sport, under-garments do come highly recommended by industry experts.

Not only can they provide an additional layer of protection, but they are also a good way to deter rashes, and when the right type of material is chosen, they can add more comfort to the entire experience. Considering that most water sports will take place for several hours at a time, it’s no wonder why divers, surfers and swimmers will want to maintain a specific level of convenience throughout their activities, and this is why under garments can be so beneficial.

Not only can they provide support, but when made from complementary materials such as nylon, they can actually enhance performance as multiple layers of hydrodynamic substances can help to streamline the user’s shape and allow them to enjoy a more seamless approach to their water-based activities.

That isn’t to say that under-garments are mandatory and plenty of people prefer using nothing more than their wet suit or diving suit. It all comes down to how you prefer to perform and one of the best ways for beginners and new practitioners to learn what works for them, is to try going in with just their suit first, seeing if they have any issues (such as rashes, discomfort, or a feeling that the suit is too thin), and then making adjustments to suit their specific needs.

No two people are the same, and what might work for one may be irritating to the other. It’s all about finding a convenient compromise and one that will allow them to enjoy what they are doing, without acting as a hindrance in the process. Some under-garments are better suited to particular activities, while others may be best avoided. For example, when diving, a jump-suit may be beneficial to help to maintain body temperature, but where wind speed and hydrodynamics are important such as with surfing, or swimming, then a well-made, high-quality wetsuit may be all that it takes to perform efficiently. Plenty of water sport athlete keep a collection of items to switch between depending on the activity that they are performing and over time, you’ll likely find that your collection will increase, giving you more options as you go.