Get the Right Wetsuit
Having the right cold weather gear can make the difference between getting in some amazing sessions and progressing, or making excuses and cutting sessions short. It is amazing how much suits have progressed in the past 5 years. Super stretchy, warm, and amazingly light weight. Our advice: don't skimp. The better more expensive suits are warmer, more flexible, have better seams, are made from higher quality materials, and will let you ride longer without feeling cold. It is one if not the only item you will buy that can be used year after year. Staying comfortably warm and being able to move makes kite sessions so much more fun. With today's wetsuit technology you truly can ride in extremely cold weather for hours and have a blast.
Wetsuits work by trapping a thin layer of water between the wetsuit and your skin. This layer of water is warmed by your body which keeps you warm. Neoprene has many tiny air pockets inside which provide insulation from the colder water outside the suit while trapping the warm water and heat close to your body. The thicker the neoprene, the better the insulation and the numbers are the thickness of the neoprene in millimeters. The numbers correspond to where in the suit that thickness of neoprene can be found. For example, a 3/2 has 3mm neoprene in the core area and 2mm in the arms and legs. Thicker neoprene provides more warmth but less flexability, so areas like your core get more warmth and your arms and legs that are more mobile have thinner neoprene.
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- Flatlock - This seam will lie flat against your body with no discomfort and may let in a little water.
- Sealed (Glued and Blindstitched) - The neoprene panels are glued and then blindstitched. Blindstitching only goes partially through the neoprene, so no holes are poked all the way through the neoprene. This seam will let in very little water.
- Sealed and Taped (Glued, Blindstitched and 100% Taped) - This seam is glued, blindstitched, and then taped internally. The interior taping adds durability by reinforcing the seam and preventing water from entering.
- Back Zip - The back zip wetsuit is the most common type of wetsuit. The zipper runs down the spine and has a long cord attached so you can open and close the zipper yourself. The back zip suit is easier to get in and out of, but the disavantage is sometimes water can get through the seams and zipper and nobody likes the flush of cold water down your back. Some nicer suits have a flush guard to stop this cold water from entering in the back.
- Front Zip - Front zip wetsuits have a zipper in the chest near the neck, so you step into the suit and then pull the neck over your head. The chest zip provides better protection against the cold water flush than a back zip, but the suit is more challenging to get in and out of.
Warm Water Wetsuits
For water temperatures roughly in the range from 60 to 70 degrees and depending on the air temperature, your cold tolerance, and activity level, you could be comfortable in anything from a neoprene topper up to a 3/2 fullsuit. This range includes the springsuits with either short arms, short legs, or both. These suits are great if you are just heading into early fall or late spring kiting season and need something just a little more than your swimsuit and rashguard to keep you warm. 1.5mm or 2mm tropical booties will keep your feet warm and protected in this temperature range.
Cool Water Wetsuits
For water temperatures roughly in the range from 54 to 64 degrees, we would recommend a 3/2mm or 4/3mm wetsuit. If you live in the Southern US this will be the only suit you really need unless you plan on riding in those few days when the air temperature drops into the low 50's or below. Some higher end suits have ankle vents to keep water from building up in your ankles from the constant spray while kiteboarding and they are great for keeping this annoying problem from happening. If you don't really plan on kiteboarding much after the air drops below 60 degrees or so, less expensive suits will work fine. Spending more means features such as fully glued and sealed seams that will keep you warmer longer so the suit can be used in a bigger range of conditions. Also be sure and grab a beanie, gloves, and booties in a 2 or 3mm thickness, they really do make a big difference.
Cold Water Wetsuits
For water temperatures roughly in the range from 50 to 58 degrees you'll want to go with a thicker suit like a 4/3 or 5/4mm. At this temperature we recomment not skimping on a wetsuit, you never know when you might have to swim in and a warmer suit can make the difference between life and death. Fully glued and sealed seams are almost a must to keep the cold water out and a front zip or suit with an integrated hood will keep you that much warmer. Gloves, booties, and beanies should be at least 3mm, if not 5mm and possibly 7mm if you tend to get cold hands or feet.
Neoprene gloves come in varierty of thicknesses and styles to provide both dexterity and warmth. Five-finger gloves provide the most dexterity and flexibility. Mittens are the best for cold water water use for the extra warmth of having your fingers together, but don't mave much dexterity. Three-finger gloves or claw gloves are a hybrid between the five-finger glove and mitten, proving some dexterity and independent finger use along with the extra warmth of having fingers grouped together. Thicker gloves will provide more warmth than thinner gloves.
Much like gloves, booties come in different styles, thickness, and heights for use in different conditions. Booties come in two main styles, either round-toe or split-toe. Round-toe are much like mittens, where your toes have extra warmth from all being together. Split-toe booties provide a seperate section for the big toe and give a bit better foot dexterity with the added benefit of not rolling around on your foot like a round-toe bootie. The split-toe booties also typically come in two styles, an external split toe where the big two has its own compartment or an internal split (which is like a hybrid between the round-toe and split-toe) where the bootie looks like a round toe design but has an internal division for your big toe to stop the bootie from rolling on your foot. Tropical booties also have lower ankles than booties meant for colder waters. Cold water booties have longer ankles that are meant to be tucked under your westuit legs to keep a better seal and your feet warmer.
Neoprene beanies are meant to keep your head warm during those cold kite sessions. Some beanies are deeper and allow full coverage of your ears while others are shorter and will only cover the tops of your ears. Many beanies have rubber on the inside to stop them from riding up and some come with leash attachments so you could leash the beanie to your wetuit so you don't lose it if it comes off while riding.