What to Wear Under a Wetsuit
Many first timers ask us at The Watersports Centre – “What do you wear under a wetsuit?”. From board shorts, to a bikini, to nothing at all, what to wear under a wetsuit is a matter of personal preference. Most people prefer to wear a swimsuit or board shorts, and others may need to wear sport specific gear underneath their wetsuit depending on the activity they’re participating in.
Activities requiring a wetsuit
Wetsuits are designed keep you warm without anything special worn underneath. Here’s what most people do:
- Surfing, Kitesurfing & General Watersports: Most surfers, kiters and riders wear board shorts or a swimsuit. It’s easy, convenient, and flexible. Guys who mind the bunching of board shorts wear Speedo style suits, or rash undershorts.
- Triathlon: Open water swimmers typically wear a Speedo style swimsuit underneath. Competitive triathletes will wear bike shorts, or a one-piece tri suit to smooth the transition from swim to bike.
- SCUBA Diving: Most divers wear a swimsuit. Cold water divers often opt for a full body rash guard, or poly fleece base layer. A full body rash guard makes it really easy to slide into a thick SCUBA suit. Poly fleece thermals do the same while wicking moisture and keeping you warmer.
Can I Wear Nothing?
Absolutely! Other layers underneath a wetsuit can bunch, punch, and make getting in and out a pain. Wearing nothing under your wetsuit is totally acceptable, and a matter of personal preference. However, consider these factors:
- Chafing: Wetsuits can chafe. Give it a try, and wear a swimsuit if it’s uncomfortable.
- Destination: Keep in mind where you are going, and whether or not it is appropriate to have nothing underneath your wetsuit at your final destination. Wearing nothing may inhibit changing in and out of your wetsuit, which can be a hassle even for an experienced user.
- What if you need a break or get hot? Guys can easily roll the suit down to the waist to cool off. Girls might find themselves in a jam.
Deciding what to wear under a wetsuit
Added warmth & Protection
The biggest reason why some surfers wear undergarments under their suits is that the extra layers keep their bodies much warmer in colder temperatures—both above and underwater. Instead of wearing a very thick wetsuit that will restrict movement and drain their energy faster, seasoned surfers and kitesurfers choose to wear thin layers (rash vests) underneath to serve as additional insulation for the body.
Aside from the coldness or warmth of the water, the temperature of the air and wind above the water is also an essential factor to consider when deciding whether or not to wear an undergarment with your wetsuit. Mainly kitesurfers often have to deal with different temperatures during a single session – riding, the event of a swim to shore, standing on the beach, rigging up etc, which makes it crucial to choose the right material and type of undergarment (full-body, one-piece, or two-piece) that can keep your body at a comfortable temperature throughout your session.
Some undergarments also offer UV protection, plus they provide added protection against bites, stings, cuts, or scrapes by serving as an additional layer between the elements and your skin.
Many surfers and kitesurfers opt to go nude under their wetsuits, but it can sometimes be uncomfortable—not to mention painful—due to the constant rubbing of the skin against the inside material of the suit. After wearing a wetsuit for an extended period of time, some people find that their skin begins to chafe and feel sore.
The usual areas that suffer from wetsuit or harness chafing are the neck, armpits, behind the knees, and the crotch. You can apply anti-chafing gel or cream to avoid this problem, but sometimes wearing a bathing suit or spandex/lycra underneath is the more convenient solution.
Surfers and kitesurfers often have to change in public places – such as on a boat, by the car/van or on a busy beach. Wetsuits are also notoriously hard to put on and take off, which means it’s typically not something you can do quickly and covertly behind a towel.
Wearing a bathing suit, a thin rash guard, or any other type of garment underneath will help give you the coverage you need to avoid flashing other people as you change.
If you have to rent a wetsuit, you may not like the idea of your skin rubbing against places where other people’s skin have rubbed before—particularly in your more sensitive areas. It’s not exactly hygienic, especially if the person who wore it before you also went commando in the suit. You may also want to keep in mind that some people do pee in their wetsuits – so that’s even more incentive to put some undergarments on if you are renting for example. In such cases, your best bet would be to at least wear a swimsuit or some trunks to protect your delicate body parts.
Do you wear a bra with a wetsuit?
For women you can wear a sports bra and some sort of compression shorts, or you can wear a swimsuit. You do not want to wear something cotton-based, such as regular underwear, which holds water because and it will increase your risk of chaffing.