COLDWATER SUP Safety – Wetsuit VS. Dry Suit
There are several extra precautions to take when paddling and training in the winter months. One of the most important being how you dress to stay safe & warm! With both wetsuits & dry suits being the two best options, we often get asked which option is better.
“Should I get a Wetsuit or Dry Suit for SUP?”
Just like many things in life, there isn’t one simple right answer, because both are great! There are several factors to consider when making your decision:
- Fit – Do you want a tighter or looser fit?
- Is there anything else you are looking to use it for other than SUP?
- Air and water temperatures in your area
- Do you want to stay completely dry?
We also asked a couple avid paddlers what they like about their dry suit or wetsuit! Jennifer Carlson uses a dry suit to SUP for fun and train in the off-season here in Annapolis. Coach Chris uses a wetsuit and leads our SUP Race-Training Program. Here is what they have to say about theirs…
“ I have been using my drysuit for three seasons. I was never fond of wetsuits due to difficulty getting in and out of them, the restriction I felt in the arms/shoulders, and the fact that they’re designed to work best only when they’re wet. I also despised the “flash freeze” I would feel after sweating and then cooling down.
My drysuit has been one of my best investments. First of all, I feel more confident in colder conditions knowing that if I fall in, I will stay dry. It is important to note that while drysuits are very effective in keeping you dry, they will only keep you as warm as whatever you layer underneath them. It’s taken some trial and error to figure out what works best, but on colder days I normally wear thermal long underwear and a rash guard plus thin fleece. On milder days I wear yoga leggings and a light thermal top (or just a rash guard).
Despite full body protection, the extremities can still get cold. My drysuit has built-in latex booties. I wear Smartwool socks underneath (sometimes liners plus a thicker pair of socks). I then wear neoprene booties over the built-in booties. The neoprene booties are needed to give extra traction and protection from damaging the latex. TIP: Size up to have enough room to fit your now very thick feet in them! Make sure you can still wiggle your toes to prevent circulation issues.
Many people are weary of the wrist and neck gaskets, thinking they will feel claustrophobic. When I first got my drysuit, I had a difficult time getting it over my head. The neck gasket felt way too tight (so tight I had trouble turning my head once I finally got it on). Fortunately it has loosened up enough to where that is not an issue. TIP: I recommend neoprene gaskets vs. latex. The neoprene will give/stretch a little more. Put a generous amount of baby powder on your neck (and carry extra with you while you paddle…you can sweat through it and reapply apply so the gasket isn’t sticking to your neck). Also, when putting the drysuit over your head, put a scarf or neck gaiter over your hair! Trust me on this one!
The only drawback of drysuits is that they can be bulky and are certainly not aerodynamic. (Drysuits are not recommended for racing!) I wear a full vest PFD over the drysuit. This helps to contour the suit and keep your head above water should you fall in. It’s imperative to test your drysuit (or any cold weather gear you’re using) to make sure your body can handle the water temperatures. When testing the drysuit, you’ll quickly notice that the air between your base layers and the suit will rush from the legs to the upper body area. This is another way your head will stay above water.
Overall, if you want to extend your paddling season through the colder months, I highly recommend a drysuit. Mine is made of nice breathable material, so I do not overheat (and in fact I wear my drysuit up until it’s warm enough to not need any cold weather gear). If you have any other questions, I’m happy to try to answer them for you. Feel free to email me at [email protected].“
“ I got hooked on surfing in college. When I would go surfing in the winter whenever waves were good, the best option was a wetsuit. Now that I paddle more than surf, a drysuit is a possible option. However, drysuits are very expensive and my 4/3 is warm enough for winter paddles and can still be used when I go and surf cold water. My farmer john is good in the spring when the temperatures warm up and the water is still cold and in the fall before the water gets too cold.
What suits I have:
4/3 mm Body Glove Red Cell Chest Zip, 2 mm Body Glove Farmer John
Boots- ONeil 5mm and 3mm