Posted on 30 April, 2014 · Posted in All the post

Surfcamp Gran Canaria: How a wet suit keeps you warm while surfing Gran Canaria

Again and again you force your way into the tight, intractable whole-body suit and you ask yourself, why you have to suffer this torture every time surfing Gran Canaria. Until you are finally in the water, you feel the awfull cold water temperature not more than on your feet and you don’t shiver or even freeze standing on your surfboard while surfing Canary Islands. But how is this great so called wet suit working, keeping you warm without any hidden intern heating, and why does it has to be so tight-fitting? To get answers to those and further questions, the surfcamp Las Palmas explains to you in this edition of “Big Surfing 101” the functionality and consistency of a surfsuit.

To understand how this thin layer of material around your body can keep you warmer in water than any heavy sweater and also prevents that your body becomes cold, it is important to know about the material and the processing of a wet suit. Here you will find all necessary information so you know how a wet suit keeps you warm and why it wouldn’t be a good idea to buy a whole-body suit made of cotton for your next surf trip Gran Canaria.

The material

A wet suit is also known as a neoprene suit what contains practically the name of the mainly used material for creating a wet suit. The neoprene material also contains the biggest magic of a wet suit. The material is an alterinative to rubber, but longer durable and better insulating. Furthermore it saves the temperature of your body in the interior of the suit and insulates the body protect it against water entering the suit to your body while surfing Gran Canaria.

A man known by the name Jack O’Neal, from who you might heard of, was one of the first people working with neoprene material to create an isolating surf suits. He then founded his successful company called O’Neal in a garage.

Especially foam neoprene is nowadays used to create wet suits for any water sport, also for the surf suit. According to the kind of suit the thickness, which is represented in millimeters, can differ. The thicker the neopren the more coldness it can insulate. There are also labels like “3/2” which usually say something about the thickness of the neoprene layer of a wet suit. So it is possible there is a thicker part to guaranty more warmness, for example at the torso, and a thinner often super-stretch layer that cover arms and legs to provide more flexibility. While surfing free movement for the arms is necessary when it comes to paddling.

There are two mainly different kinds of neoprene used. At one hand there is the double-lined neoprene which consists of a durable fabric.

At the other hand smooth skin neoprene is also used. This kind of neoprene has a flat, cell-closed surface. Through its characteristics smooth skin neoprene is warmer because there is much less cold caused by evaporative coldness. If you want to surf very windy surfspots Gran Canaria you should wear more smooth skin neoprene, so your wet suit and even you don’t get too cold.

Originally wet suits were only made of a neoprene layer. But those neoprene suits riped very fast caused by the combination of water, sun and movement used often at this sport. Although it was even way more harder to get into a wet suit then today, what you don’t want to imagine, because it is exhausting enough nowadays. But there are also linings that helps you getting into one, often cover the inner site of a whole modern surf suit. Material that is more pleasant to the skin, like nylon, makes it easier to get into a wet suit. The lining also extends the lifetime of a wet suit. There are more other features that we will return later to, so the wet suit becomes a great, water-resisting skin for surfers. But what holds together all that material, so the transition will also be closely water-resisting?

The seam of a wet suit

There are two different methods to assemble the different materials that gained acceptance.

On one hand there are glued seams, whereby the edges of the materials just get glued together without any actual stitching. This method is more pleasant for the skin because the transitions don’t rub the skin sore, but with this method the surf suit is also relatively easy to rip. Because of that this method isn’t used often to create a modern wet suit.

Taped seams are stitched transitions which are covered by glued rubber with the result that no water can leak through the stitchings of the wet suit. Although the rubber prevents the skin against rubbing itself sore, so the suit won’t become a vicious instrument of torture.

Furthermore there are two further accepted techniques of stitching the neoprene suit together. The so called blindstitching is a combination of glued and stitched seam to make it water-resisting.

The other method is called flatlock stitching. The advantage of this method is that the seams lay very flat on the suit, so that the seam is more pleasant for the skin and a better flexibility is provided. Because of that this method fits more to the surfing sport. But this method lets water through the wet suit.

So that further not completely insulating weak spots will be prevented, the manufacturer of surf suits invented some improvements.

More features a of wet suits

So it will be furthermore prevented that too much water enters the openings of your wet suit and it stays nice and warm inside of your surf suit, there are gaskets. Those are seals on the openings of the suit at the wrists, ankles and neck.

Although there are touch-fasten neck seals that don’t allow to enter through the zipper at the neck and fix the zipper so that it won’t open itself.

Floodgates are buckles that also prevent water against leaking into the suit.

Extended Zipper Pulls are ribbons that makes it easier for you to close your wet suit when the zipper is on the backside.

Knee Pads prevent the surf suit against getting riped in the weak knee area.

Flex Zones improve the flexibility at the limbs.

To reinforce the body temperature there are some suits with an extra titanium lining in the interior of the suit. It reflects the body temperature and in this way helps the body to warm the forced water.

For further improvement of insulation from the cold water, there are hoods, which protect the neck, head and combined with a face-mask also the face.

Not all those things are included in a wet suit and some are not necessary in every case. Though most of the features help insulating the body from water. With this paradox statement we return to the actual magic of the functionality and also the name “wet suit”.


The functionality of a wet suit

A wet suit doesn’t insulates the body completely from water. That doesn’t mean this kind of a surf suit is a faulty design. It is part of the warming process that small amounts of water enters through the openings and seam of the wet suit. This layer of water is easy for the body to heat to body temperature. When you jump in the water with your wet suit on it is normal that it is getting a little bit cold for some seconds because the body begins then to heat this entering amount of water. So that this warmness exchange works well and just little amounts will enter the surf suit a small layer of warm air accures before water enters the suit. This happens because of tiny air pockets. This layer is getting filled with water when you do atlantic surfing and gets warmer while the body heats it to body temperature.
Now the second function of a neoprene suit comes into play. Because of the gas bubbles including neoprene material the body is insulated from cold outside temperatures and the body temperature stays inside of the wet suit and won’t get drained.

But also the outside of a wet suit plays a role in the heat process. Because of wind and sun the water on the outside of the neoprene evaporates and cools down. This is the so called wind chill effect which can have a great effect in cooling the body down when the wind is strong. So the better the neoprene material drains water the less the wind chill effects the heating process.

Now that you know how a wet suit works you can deal with your own surf suit with more continuousness and pay more attention to get the best out of your wet suit. If you don’t have a wet suit but you don’t want to freeze in the cold water of your Gran Canaria surfspots you can rent a suit in our surfcamp Las Palmas or have a look null about how to buy your own perfect fitting wet suit.

To demonstrate you how “cool” a wet suit is and how you can resist even extreme temperatures and conditions as a surfer, we show to you this video made in Alaska:

Be excited about the next part of the Big Surfing 101!