|Wetsuits - Definitions for the Clothing & Textile Industry|
A wetsuit is a protective garment used for watersports such as scuba diving, surfing, windsurfing, and triathlon. A modern wetsuit is mostly made from thin neoprene, which provides limited thermal protection for activities in cold water. It is usually lined with a nylon fabric to strengthen it and make it easy to put on and take off. Some newer wetsuits, usually marketed as "superflex," contain spandex in addition to neoprene to allow the suit to stretch (the panels of a wetsuit of this type typically contain 15-20% spandex). This counteracts neoprene's tendency to shrink with age; it also allows for some changes in the wearer's size without making the suit uncomfortable.
A wetsuit allows water inside the suit, but it is trapped as a thin layer between the skin and the neoprene, and body heat warms it. The neoprene insulates the warm water layer against the surrounding cold water. The wetsuit must be a close fit to make the suit work efficiently; too loose a fit will simply allow the warmed water to be flushed through and be replaced by cold water. Flexible seals at the suit cuffs aid in the retention.
It is difficult to credit a single individual for the creation of the modern wetsuit. In 1951, while working for the US Navy, Hugh Bradner had the insight that a thin layer of trapped water could act as an insulator. It was a colleague of Bradner who suggested neoprene as a feasible material. However, Bradner was not overly interested in profiting from his design and never marketed a version to the public; nor did he patent his design. The first written documentation of Bradner's invention was in a letter dated June 21, 1951.
Traditionally, most say it was Jack O'Neill who invented the wetsuit and started using neoprene, which he found lining the floor of an airliner. However, this is disputed by some aviation experts because neoprene and other rubbers are not fire retardant; therefore, they would not be found on any passenger aircraft. O'Neill went on to found the successful wetsuit manufacturer, O'Neill. But Bob and Bill Meistrell, from Manhattan Beach, California, claim to have started experimenting with neoprene around 1953. Their company would later be named Body Glove.
Wetsuits come in different thicknesses depending on the conditions for which it is intended. The thicker the suit, the warmer it will keep the wearer. A thick suit is stiff, so mobility is restricted. A wetsuit is normally described in terms of its thickness. For instance, a wetsuit with a torso thickness of 5 mm and a limb thickness of 3 mm will be described as a "5/3". Some suits have extra layers added for key areas such as the lower back.
Different shapes of wetsuit are available, from the "shorty" that covers the torso and has short arms and short legs; the "jacket" covering the torso and arms; the "long johns" that covers the torso and legs only; and the "full suit" or "steamer" that covers the torso and the full length of the arms and legs. Some suits are arranged in two parts; the jacket and long johns can be worn separately in mild conditions or worn together to provide two layers of insulation around the torso in cold conditions.
A specialised kind of wetsuit, with a very smooth (and somewhat delicate) outer surface is used for long distance swimming and triathlon. These are designed to maximize the mobility of the limbs while providing both warmth and buoyancy.
If you are interested in shopping for wetsuits for women, you can try the surfing & windsurfing shopping guide for e-bay.
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