Do Surfers Wear Anything Under a Wetsuit? (+Pros & Cons)

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Do Surfers Wear Anything Under a Wetsuit
Robert Elgar

Have you ever wondered if you should be wearing something under your wetsuit? 

It can be confusing as it seems as though some surfers do and some don’t.

Some surfers choose to wear rash vests, swimsuits, or underwear underneath their wetsuit in order to reduce wetsuit rash or for the ease of changing.

Let us take a deeper look into the reasons for wearing something under your wetsuit, the pros, cons, and when the best time to do so may be.

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links (clearly marked with ), which means we may earn a commission if you buy something through them, at no additional cost to you.

Should I Wear Anything Under My Wetsuit?

There is no should or shouldn’t when it comes to what, if anything, you wear under your wetsuit.

This is simply a matter of preference. It is acceptable to wear board shorts, a speedo, swimsuits, bikinis, rash vests, as well as nothing.

The best way to know what is best for you is to try it out, and if you find that you are uncomfortable, then switch up your method and try something else.

What You Could Wear Under Your Wetsuit (Pros & Cons)

WearProsCons
NothingEasier movement while surfing

Less wet material to take home

Can reduce wetsuit rash

Could be the most comfortable option
Can encourage wetsuit rash

Harder to change at the beach

May be inappropriate to pull down to your waist if hot
Board ShortsEasy to change at the beach

If it is hot, can be used to surf in without wetsuit
Can bunch inside wetsuit and make it uncomfortable

Adds to wet luggage

Can cause chafing

Can make putting on your wetsuit difficult

Can be constricting when maneuvering your surfboard
SwimsuitEasy to change at the beach

Thin and streamline

Women can pull down their wetsuits to their waist if hot

Low  chance of causing rash
Added wet material

May be too hot in warmer climates
SpeedoSmall and streamline

Makes changing at the beach easier

Does not add much wet material to take home

Can reduce rash and chafing
May feel uncomfortable and restricting
BikiniSmall and streamline

Makes changing at the beach easier

Does not add much wet material to take home

Can reduce rash and chafing

Women can pull down their wetsuits to their waist if hot

Can be used to surf in if it is too hot for your wetsuit
May feel uncomfortable and restricting

Can make putting on your wetsuit more challenging

Can be seen as inappropriate clothing in some places (such as Indonesia)
Rash VestHelps prevent rash and chafing around the neck

Can make changing at the beach easier for women

Can keep you warm in colder water
Can bunch inside wetsuit and become uncomfortable

Can become too hot

Added wet material to take home

What You Should Not Wear Under a Wetsuit

Although in truth, you can wear whatever you would like under your wetsuit, there are a few things that are not recommended.

Instead of creating a list of all the clothing items that are likely to cause problems, it is easier simply say:

Do not wear cotton clothing that is designed to be worn on land.

Wearing cotton underwear, shorts, bras, or shirts under your wetsuit is very likely to lead to rashes and chafing.

These clothing items will be uncomfortable and will likely cause more harm than good.

Cotton clothing also holds a lot of water and therefore can reduce your buoyancy as it becomes wet.

Lastly, cotton takes much longer to dry than polyester or nylon (used for boardshorts, bikinis, and swimsuits).

That being said, some people do wear underwear under their wetsuit and do not find it to be a problem.

Once again, this always comes down to preference.

4 Benefits of Wearing Something Under a Wetsuit

As mentioned, choosing to wear something under your wetsuit when going surfing is completely preferred, but there are some benefits that should not be overlooked.

1. Rash Protection

Especially when using both bottoms (boardshorts, speedos, or bikini bottoms) and a rash vest, or a full-piece swimsuit, the chance of a rash is greatly decreased.

Chafing and wetsuit rash usually occurs around the neck and wrist areas (the spots where there is a seam).

When wearing clothing under your wetsuit, you add a layer of protection between your skin and these areas.

Although wearing bottoms is not as useful in this case, chaffing in this area is less than an exciting idea. 

Your costume bottoms can help keep you safe.

2. Extra Insulation

When surfing in cold water, even a thick wetsuit with internal insulation may leave you feeling cold.

Not having the correct wetsuit for a session can ruin your surfing experience.

Wearing a swimsuit, rash vest, or other suitable clothing beneath your wetsuit can add some extra warmth and insulation in colder temperatures.

However, you should remember, if your wetsuit does not fit properly, the extra layers will not help.

3. Ease Of Changing

Everyone who surfs is familiar with how difficult it is to put on a wetsuit.

Furthermore, everyone is aware of how difficult it is to take it off when exhausted after a surf.

Taking this challenge and adding the struggle of holding a towel around yourself becomes a particularly difficult task.

Changing at home is sometimes an option, but what about those days that you go straight from the office to the beach, and what about driving home? 

No one wants to get into their car wearing a wet wetsuit.

Wearing a swimsuit or something similar under your wetsuit will make this experience much simpler.

Instead of hiding behind your car’s door with a towel around you, you can simply pull off your wetsuit and carry on with your day.

4. Comfort

Although this point is completely up to the individual, some surfers find wearing something under their wetsuit more comfortable than not.

This can be both physical comforts as well as being mentally comfortable with the situation they are in.

3 Downsides of Wearing Something Under Your Wetsuit

As it is with everything, there are always downsides to oppose the upsides.

Although the downsides of wearing something under your wetsuit are usually circumstantial, they are worth being aware of.

1. Underlayers Move

Some people find it more comfortable to wear swimwear under their wetsuit while others feel the opposite.

Clothing that is worn underneath a wetsuit often moves out of place. This is particularly true for boardshorts as they often roll up and bunch in an area.

Apart from that, imagine your underwear creeping up into an awkward position but not being able to fix it because of your wetsuit.

This is a common problem and can often get so uncomfortable that you may need to leave the water to fix it.

2. Chafing

Ironically, where in some cases wearing something under your wetsuit can reduce chafing and rashes, in others it can be the cause of it.

When your underlayers begin to move as you carve up the waves, the constant friction can lead to chafing that would not otherwise have existed.

This is why it is important to always wear something that fits correctly.

3. Overheating

Just as the extra layers can help keep you warm, they can also be the cause of overheating on sunnier days or when surfing in warmer water.

Overheating is extremely dangerous when surfing as it can lead to heatstroke.

Because of this, when the climate is warmer and you wish to use underlayers you should make sure to wear a thinner wetsuit, or perhaps consider surfing without a wetsuit.

Are the Considerations the Same For Guys and Girls?

As far as the advantages and disadvantages of wearing something under your wetsuit, they are much the same for both guys and girls.

The only major difference is the huge advantage girls will have when using at least a top underlayer.

As mentioned before, when men finish their surf, or before they get into the water they can keep their wetsuits pulled down to their waist.

This prevents them from overheating and helps them remain comfortable.

Girls do not have this advantage (in most places) when they are wearing nothing under their wetsuit.

Besides that, the considerations for men and women do not differ any further than the actual piece of clothing that best suits them.

How to Decide Whether or Not to Wear Anything Under a Wetsuit

If you are wondering whether you should wear something under your wetsuit you have two ways to go about it.

Firstly you can try out the different options and see what best suits you, or you can consider a problem you are having and decide if adding an underlayer could help.

For example, if you are struggling to remove your wetsuit at the beach after your surf because you are hiding beneath a towel and there are 100s of people around, then considering wearing something under your wetsuit may be the answer.

Alternatively, if you find yourself getting too hot in the water but cannot afford a thinner wetsuit, then removing your rash vest could be a solution.

Ultimately, you will need to find out what works best for you, what makes you the most comfortable, and what is the most convenient.

Conclusion

Some surfers choose to wear swimsuits, bikinis, board shorts, or rash vests under their wetsuits, while others prefer to wear nothing at all.

The choice is completely up to you, but there are certainly benefits and downsides to whichever choice you make.

Always choose what works best for you and not what others tell you is the best.

When you do this you will be the most comfortable and therefore have the most fun.

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By Robert Elgar

Growing up in Cape Town, South Africa, Robert Elgar is no newbie when it comes to ocean sports. Rob has been surfing since he was a kid, and later teaching others to surf, so he is as familiar with the ocean as he is with the land. Now living in Malaysia, Rob alternates between his Divemaster work and heading to Indonesia to hit some of the world's most famous breaks. If you would like to contact Rob about surfing, Scuba Diving or freelance writing, you can email him at [email protected]