Special thanks to club member Jeff Stearns for his blog contribution:
A Brief History of Wetsuits:
In 1951 a guy named Hugh Bradner, who was working for the Navy got an idea that if a small layer of water was trapped between the skin and something it could act as an insulator against the cold water. That something became neoprene, a buoyant, flexible material and in the mid-1950s the idea of the wetsuit was born. It was not until Jack O’Neill (O’Neill Wetsuits) from the San Francisco area with surfing roots and the Meistrell Brothers (Body Glove Wetsuits) from Southern California with scuba diving roots did the idea become a marketable reality. However, neoprene is a very sticky material and is extremely hard to take on and off. I remember more than once laying in the sand, locked in an un-winnable wrestling match with a piece of neoprene only to lose as the waves got the better of me and the material finally ripped. When you tossed in the other elements, like salt, sand and sun you would be lucky if a wetsuit in the 1960’s would last a year. Then came the invention of nylon, which made it a lot easier to take on and off. Nylon worked so well on the inside that it was also added to the outside of the wetsuit in the 80’s for color and flexibility. Stitching the neoprene was as important to the wetsuit as the material itself. In the beginning, the pieces of neoprene were simply sewn together, but this created holes that water eventually could flow through. Big Mythbuster—water can pull heat away from the body 26 times faster than air. This is not a factor if the water is in the 70’s and it is sunny, in fact, most wetsuits in the 1/2M range have a stitch, which is called the flatlock stitch. So for use in colder waters the seams were sealed with nylon and glued. This process is found in wetsuits called steamers, semi-dry suits and drysuits. Today you can find wetsuits that have titanium strands in the inside which helps retain a larger amount of body heat of the users body, wool/fleece are also used as an insulator on those really cold days and if you are really interested there are electrically heat wetsuits as well. Batteries, however, are extra. Today’s wetsuits are even lighter and more flexible than ever before with the introduction of lycra, spandex and advancements in neoprene material.
Also thanks to our surfer/shaper friend Todd Johnson for his contribution to the wetsuit discussion including his:
Top 5 Wetsuit Tips:
- The wetsuit seams are very important to keeping the warmth inside the suit. Taped seams leak less than stitched ones and a rubber coated/welded seam is the best.
- Flexibility is key especially when buying a thicker suit (say over 3/2mm). Don’t buy too thick of a suit if you don’t need it, check your water temps and buy the right suit for the conditions.
- Different brands have different cuts. For example, one brand’s Medium Tall (MT) might be another’s Large (L). Always try suits on whenever possible to find a suit that fits your size and body type.
- Exposed stitching, cheap or dried-out neoprene, and improper sized suits will give you wetsuit rash and will make you very uncomfortable in and out of the water.
- SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHOP
For winter time surfing or paddling we definitely recommend a wetsuit and some booties from Body Glove. Pick up yours today at DFW Surf Shop.