Wetsuits and Water Temperature

What the water temperature will be?

This question is important in determining the thickness of wetsuit you will need, but you there are also additional elements to consider.

It is important to consider the air temperature too, and the amount of wind-chill likely.

It is also important to consider how much time is likely to be spent below the water and how much above, and how energetic the sport is.

The first thing to learn, or to remember, is that the human body loses heat around 25 times faster in water than in air of the same temperature. And water evaporation when above the surface can make this process even faster!

This is why we are looking at wetsuits in the first place!

The shallower the water, the warmer it will be in general as the sun’s heat is able to warm a greater percentage of the entire body of water.  This is why lake and river temperatures are usually warmer than sea temperatures in a similar area.


As a starting point, here is link to a map indicating sea temperatures around the world in August 2001


Map Indicating Sea Temperatures around the World


Due to the seasons, these figures vary by up to around 8 degrees Celsius. For example the sea temperature around the UK will drop to around 10 degrees Celcius in February, whilst those around eastern Australia will raise to about 25 degrees Celcius.


Rough Guide to Wetsuit Thickness required

Depending how much you feel the cold, once the sea surface temperature gets over about 20 to 25 deg celcius, you probably will not need any wetsuit at all.

This is typical sea temperatures in the Mediterranean. In these situations it can make sense to wear a lycra diveskin, as this will fend off stings scrapes and sunburn! It does not have any thermal properties, so will not add any warmth.

If the temp is nearer 15 degrees then for most people a suit between 3 and 5mm may be required.

If the water temperature is nearer 10 degrees, then somewhere between 5 and 7 mm may be required,
All the above figures rely on minimal wind-chill.


Wind Chill

Whatever the water temperature, the wind-chill can easily make it feel the equivalent of 5 degrees Celcius cooler, so around the UK in the winter an additional layer may be required along with a hood, gloves and boots!

This applies to the majority of water sports where you are being fairly energetic, and you spend a lot of time near the surface.

Above the surface sports such as sailing and jet biking leave you far more exposed to wind chill. The wind itself may be moving at 10 or 20 knots, but you may be moving at a high speed too. For some jet bikes this can be over 50 knots!
In these cases you may require an additional top to specifically protect against this ‘wind’.


Scuba Diving and Freediving

The most obvious except exception to the above is diving, where as you go deeper, the water gets cooler due to the suns energy only reaching so far.  This is why many dive suits include an option of an additional layer over the torso, giving a doubling of the heat retaining properties.



Once you have considered the effects of the water temperature, wind chill and the partular sport, it is time to look at what else is important to you.


When you think of the best wetsuit, what else do you have in mind?


You may also want to consider


If can add any further information around water temperatures, then please add your thoughts below. Much appreciated!

If you are a supplier of manufacturer with specific expertise in this in this area, PLEASE get in touch!



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