Water is not mens natural environment and since we can not breathe underwater a jump into the sea is always also a bit of a jump into the unknown. Of course fear is not the reason to wear a wetsuit, there are many much better reasons, but a wetsuit will also give you some comfort.
So what are the main three reasons why should you wear a wetsuit? I will list them here and then we will take a look at each one of them in more depth. 1. Wetsuit will keep you warm. 2. Wetsuit will give you extra protection. 3. Wetsuit will improve your buoyancy.
1) Protection against hypothermia. There are times when water is so cold that no one in their sound mind would enter it without a wetsuit. So wetsuits are great because the allow us to surf, swim, dive etc.. in the sea at temperatures that we would normally not be able to. But it is not just about the really cold water. Since water is 25 times more heat-conducting than air you lose your body heat much faster when you are in the sea. So even in warmer weather and water you can get hypothermia if you stay in too long without a wetsuit.
How does the wetsuit keep you warm? A thin layer of water comes between your body and the wetsuit. Body heats it and the wetsuit prevents the heat from escaping further, hence you have an insulation layer. Because neoprene contains many bubbles the air in them also acts as great insulation. This of course only works if fresh cold water doesn't constantly flush your wetsuit. So your wetsuits should be tight fitting, snug. I suggest you also check this wetsuits guide. Actualley here are a few links that I suggest:
- the most comprehensive wetsuit guide on the web: http://www.wetsuitmegastore.com/wetsuit/58-wetsuits-guide.html
- water temperature guide and chart for wetsuits - http://www.wetsuitmegastore.com/wetsuit/6-wetsuit-temperature-guide-and-chart.html
- more wetsuit info - http://360guide.info/wetsuits.
2) Wetsuits as protection. I covered protection against cold but wetsuits also act as protection against physical damage. The soft, rubbery neoprene will dampen the blows if you hit a rock, coral or your own or somebody else's equipment. For instance in surfing really shallow reef, if you are not 100% confident that you will make it, wear a wetsuit and save some skin.
3) And finally there is buoyancy. I already mentioned that neoprene is full of air filled bubbles, so wearing a wetsuit will help you float better. Here I would like to warm you that before you take on any water sports you need to know how to swim - swim good! Wetsuit is not a life vest.
And this is why it is hard for me to imagine what the water sports world would be like without wetsuits.