A good wetsuit can keep the cold at bay and, because any heat lost from the body is a form of energy, can lead to a longer day sailboarding on the water.
One of the most common misconceptions about wetsuits is that they allow a small amount of water between the suit and the body which is heated by the body and this heat keeps the body warm. This is wrong!
The fact that water enters between the suit and the body is the way the suit got it’s name. ‘Wet’-suit as opposed to ‘dry’-suit where no water is allowed to enter. These drysuits are used when scuba diving in extremely cold conditions.
Impact Of The Wind On Body Heat
This is how a wetsuit works in theory when scuba diving, but when sailboarding another factor is brought into consideration. The wind!
The reason for the being on the water, the howling thirty knots, can have disastrous effects on the traditional style of scuba diving wetsuit if used for windsurfing.
A dry wetsuit out of the water cuts the wind and is good for keeping warm until the suit gets wet. When the wind blows on it the water evaporates. For water to change from its solid form to vapour it requires what is called “the latent heat of evaporation.” This heat comes from the body.
This is the same principle as the old water-bags; the canvas bags holding water used on the front of cars and trucks. When the wind blows on the bag, from the movement of the vehicle, the water on the outside of the bag evaporates using the heat from the water inside the bag, leaving the water cool.
This also explains why a wet wetsuit is always freezing to put on. The evaporation of the water has taken heat from the suit leaving it frigid.
Using Scuba Wetsuits For Sailboarding
Some sailboarders use scuba diving wetsuits for sailboarding. They are good for scuba diving as the suit is immersed in water and works as it designed. But when sailboarding the suit is in the wind, so scuba diving wetsuits will not keep the cold away.
The simple way around this is to stop the wind blowing on the suit. This can be done by wearing a lightweight windbreaker over the wetsuit to cut the wind. These can be bought at most sailing shops. A good fitting suit won’t affect arm movement.
The best suit is one made especially for sailboarding or surfing that have a nylon outer skin to cuts the wind.
Heat Loss From The Head
Another point to remember in the fight against the cold is that the majority of heat lost from the body is from the head. If the unthinkable happens and a sailboarder falls into the freezing ocean on a cold winter’s morning, they should try and keep the head dry. This may sound hard but a cold wind blowing on wet hair can quickly drain heat, and consequently energy.
A wool beanie might be the way to go on exceptionally cold days; maybe even start a new fashion!