What are wetsuits and how their design keeps you warm in the cold oceans?

The first-ever wetsuits were invented by Hugh Bradner, a physicist at the University of California in Berkeley. Wetsuits are tight-fitting and sturdy. Neoprene which is known to be a stretchy synthetic rubber is the base material in the construction of wetsuits. The intended audience for wetsuits are mainly surfers and scuba divers, and the purpose of a wetsuit is to keep the surfer warm in cold waters.

The build of a Wettie

A ‘wettie’ often referred to as a wetsuit, in the modern advancement is produced in many different sizes and variations. There is a shortie, where the wetsuit ends shorter at the arms and legs, and there are wetsuits with detachable arms and legs and there are full suits and there is Vissla 4/3 wetsuits. Regardless of the variation they are all made based on neoprene in different thicknesses to accompany different coldness’s of the water. Neoprene, is such a material that traps tiny nitrogen bubbles in its foamy rubber structure that also makes it a good insulator of heat.

How it is made?

Layers and layers are what make the insulation work in a wetsuit. These layers are combined together by various methods depending on the type and use of the wetsuit. But generally, it can be blind stitched (no holes in the stitches to prevent water leakage), glued, taped and even heat sealed.

How it works?

The layers in a wetsuit can vary but usually consist of about 4 to 6 layers. These are: a layer of trapped water that is warmed by your body heat, comfortable fabric such as nylon or rash vest, to prevent the neoprene from scraping your body, a very thin layer of metal that reflects heat such as titanium, copper or aluminum, a thick layer of neoprene (depending on the intensity of the cold water), which has trapped nitrogen air bubbles and followed by a long-lasting outer layer that can resist the wear and tear of the water.

When an individual wearing the wetsuit enters the water, there is a small amount of water that becomes sandwiched between the wearer and the wetsuit. This water is then warmed up by conduction from our body, to a temperature close to normal body temperature. Thus, the multiple layers of insulation including the water body help to retain heat when engaged in cold waters.

Why it is crucial to wear a wetsuit?

When the waters are freezing cold and you resort to different or no protective suits, it can lead to a life-threatening condition due to the extreme temperature known as “hypothermia.” This can cause your body to lose heat faster than it can produce heat for its normal function, after burning up all your stored energy. In the end, a person suffering from hypothermia if left untreated can die as a result of their heart-stopping. Therefore, it is crucial that you wear a wetsuit when engaging in cold water-based activities and it is even more important that the wetsuit is fitted properly.

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