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The wetsuit/drysuit debate

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Postby alpower » Thu Mar 08, 2007 7:22 pm

I have both a 5/3 wetsuit and a Gull breathable drysuit with built in rubber socks that you pull your booties over. I seldom use the wetsuit, much prefer the drysuit. I did put a small hole in my drysuit last spring (from a sharp fin) and had about a cup of water in the bottom of the suit 15 minutes later when I got in. As OR says it would take a long time to fill up and was easily repaired. I wear ski wear under it, thin long johns and a thin polar fleece sweater. I also typically put a life jacket on to. This gives more flotation and keeps your core warm. I wouldn't wear an impact vest over a drysuit though as it makes it hard to burp and if trapped air gets forced out when you crash water usually ends up coming in. You can get very hot if the water temp is colder than the air but just rest in the water for 5 minutes to cool down. Last time I used it was on Jan 4th in Lake Ontario and will use it again within a week of the ice breaking up. Looking forward to it.

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Postby Dave K » Thu Mar 08, 2007 9:32 pm

What do you do with warm air temps (60 F or so) and cold water (high 30's)? Wet or dry? It's not completely uncommon in the spring around here.

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Postby zfennell » Thu Mar 08, 2007 9:38 pm

Dave K wrote:What do you do with warm air temps (60 F or so) and cold water (high 30's)? Wet or dry? It's not completely uncommon in the spring around here.
i believe it would be prudent to dress for the swim home.

if you choose to wear a shorty, stay close to the beach.


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Postby ORSales » Thu Mar 08, 2007 10:51 pm

Dave K wrote:What do you do with warm air temps (60 F or so) and cold water (high 30's)? Wet or dry? It's not completely uncommon in the spring around here.
I'd just wear a very thin set of long underwear under the drysuit so that the suit is still comfortable but not overly hot...

Tom, regarding the 3mm wetsuit quote that is the truth! :)

We don't make wetsuits, you are right...there is little point when you should be using our drysuit for all but 2mm or less water temps. At 3mm you are wasting energy in a wetsuit and will just end up cold.

Great thread!

Kahuna - I am checking my pm now...I never do as I have a lot of mail to deal with too. Anyone wishing for immediate service is more than welcome to contact us at the office toll free in NA - 888-544-4969 or

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Postby kjelleren » Fri Mar 09, 2007 1:44 am

I have been using drysuits and wetsuits for over 20 years. I live in cold water country and switch to dry when the water is below about 60. I have had multiple bag, full on neoprene and am now using the Bare Polar Dry hybrid. They all work. I always wore my wetsuit under the bag. Go from the dry to a short sleeve 3mm with long legs, then to the shorty. After breaking my leg a couple miles from shore, I now always dress for the swim, not the air temp.

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Postby Kite Scarecrow » Fri Mar 09, 2007 3:53 am

The one thing I think is being missed here is that in water temperatures as cold as the origonal poster is kiting in, hypothermia is a very likely thing if he had to spend any length of time in the water.

For the same reasons we dont go out further than we are willing to swim in, we prepare for the "unlikely." In this case, I dont think a wetsuit will protect him from cold water if submerged and swimming(IMO).

one thing I learned in cold water survival training in the Coast Guard, Your core temperature only has to drop 3 degrees before hypothermia starts to set in...Imagine how quickly your core temp will drop if you dunked your kite and spent a half-hour trying to re-launch it?

I think in the origonal posters situation, a dry suit is the only option. You can layer below it to any degree, even down to just a pair of cycle shorts you can use it in most cold conditions. In fact, I go from my shorty straight to my drysuit when the seasons change...very rarely do I use my full length wet suit.


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Postby Tom183 » Fri Mar 09, 2007 6:31 am

I agree with Ian - it's easy to underdress by wearing just enough to stay warm above the water, and assuming you won't spend much time submerged. But if you lose your kite or even if you just can't relaunch it, you're going to spend a lot of time in the water - and that's the level of protection you need.

I still think a thick wetsuit (6mm?) would provide as much protection as a drysuit, but ended up opting for a drysuit because it was no more difficult to get into (possibly less, with a little practice), and it's easier to move around in than a thick wettie, which means better riding - I'll stay relatively close to shore (it's not crowded this time of year) and watch for rips and whatnot, but should be more comfortable (and having more fun) overall. And when it warms up enough for the 3:2 steamer (mid-May?), that's what I'll wear.

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Postby tautologies » Fri Mar 09, 2007 8:41 am

I have a friend in Norway, he surfs even during winter, but always in a wetsuit, so his core does not drop fast. He can stay out for hours, his main point id to get something that fits. He says after getting a custom made suit, he uses a 6 mm even in the winter, because it is made for him...not in a general way such as you would get from O'neill or whome ever. I think a drysuit might be better for kiters, than surfers, but I do think wetsuits can be used...

for me this is all theoretically though since I only have a 1.5 mm shorty for the super windy winterdays here...I would need something more if I travel though....


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Postby jhonson » Fri Mar 09, 2007 12:44 pm

The bigest problem is foot and hand.I kiting on the water in Norway whit wetsuit 5/3 and wool underwere but allways have cold on my foot and hands.Westerday I found som "foot and hand warmer" you put in your gloes and boots and they will be warmer antil 70¤.I wiil try tomorow and write.

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Stop the pimping. Listen to Reason.

Postby gideonlow » Fri Mar 09, 2007 3:21 pm

OR, please stop the hard-core pimping, I can't believe much of anything you're saying when it's so obvious you're just trying to sell your own product. I find it particularly offensive when you mix useful facts with marketing blather, because for most people it's very hard to tell these apart (or isn't that the point of what you're doing?). One must view cold-water riding from a safety perspective first, and a comfort perspective last.

In extreme conditions, you have to prepare for the worst. Riding surf in very cold water, powerful winds, with a sharp object attached to your feet, and with many sharp objects hiding under the surf, there are many, many ways that a drysuit can suffer a catastrophic failure. If the water temp is below 40, you'll be dead in 5 minutes. No so with a cold-water wetsuit.

If you're an experienced rider mowing the lawn on a lake or bay with no ice around, the drysuit is probably fine. If you're into more serious riding (and maybe have a family at home that's hoping you get back in one piece), stick with the safest alternative.

Several folks from CT responded to this post. You had a rider in your community pass-away last winter after being caught on the sound for several hours. The reports said that he likely died when the seals around his wrists/ankles/neck inevitably failed and the 38 degree water filled his drysuit. Since this issue is close-to-home for you guys, what do you think of that incident in the context of this thread?



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