The first neoprene wetsuit was designed in 1951 by Hugh Bradner with the U.S Navy in mind. Since then, various styles have been used by divers, swimmers, surfers and paddleboarders, basically, anyone who wants to spend significant time in the water.
Wetsuit technology has come a long way since its inception and now there's a range of wetsuits keeping you warm all year round, with flexibility and durability to withstand nature's elements. For example, the latest innovation in thermal design from C-Skins includes high pile lining and reflective copper within the layers, to keep your body heat locked in for longer.
So, how do you know if your wetsuit will keep you warm?
Choosing the right thickness can be a bit overwhelming. Ultimately, the thickness depends on the water temperature and your tolerance to the cold.
On the whole, the typical sea temperature in the British Isles ranges from 6-10 °C in the winter to 15-20 °C in the summer, depending on region and yearly variation.
Cornwall temperatures range from around 7°C during a cold winter up to 18°C in the warmer summers.
Average UK sea temperatures:
July - October (15°C): 3:2mm wetsuit
Autumn and spring (12°C): 4:3mm wetsuit
November - April (9°C): 5:3mm/5:4mm and thicker wetsuit (hood, gloves and boots very useful too!)
If you won't be using your wetsuit all the time and you'd like one suitable for the majority of the year, then a 4mm wetsuit bridges the gap between summer and winter quite well.
Always rinse your wet suit in cool or warm freshwater as soon as possible. You can invest in a wetsuit shampoo or Milton tablets to rinse them out. For more tips head to “how to find the right wetsuit”.
Cold water specialists, C-Skins test their suits in the most extreme places on the planet, including the Arctic circle. "Reliably radical," they often push the limits of wetsuit design and materials. They are fast becoming the wetsuit of choice for cold-water surfers and swimmers. Founded in Cornwall, they are nearby neighbours of Watergate Bay.
When you book a lesson with the Extreme Academy, all the kit to keep you warm is provided, including boots, gloves and hoods. They are open seven days a week, all year round.
Neoprene is a stretchy, closed-cell foam with insulating abilities, it's made from tiny enclosed nitrogen air pockets. The air space helps to prevent heat transfer, allowing you to retain body heat rather than losing it in cold water.
Once water penetrates the suite, it's essential that it remains trapped so it can keep you warm. Water can't actually pass through the neoprene, it finds its way through the legs, arm and neck openings and any dodgy seams!
If the wetsuit does not fit you correctly it will not keep you warm, if your core is not warm, then your body slows, blood flow to your feet and hands. Your wetsuit should be tight, essentially fitting like a second skin.
Shop on the Beach stock C-skins wetsuits if you'd like to try the sizes out before you buy.