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Why Do Surfers Wear Black Wetsuits?

   May 6th, 2020   Posted In: Articles   Tags:

Why Do Surfers Wear Black Wetsuits?

Whether a surfer is new to chasing swell or a seasoned pro, a wetsuit is the second skin that’s taken pretty seriously for most surfers. It’s the first layer of protection from the elements. Whether keeping your body warm or shielding skin from the harsh sun. When picking out a wetsuit, first understand what you’re using it for. There are virtually endless options for diving, surfing, and more, ranging in material, paneling, thickness, and compression, depending on water conditions. Those surfing in cooler waters will opt for thicker suits than those surfing in hotter temperatures.

why do surfers wear black wetsuitsA great place to start is by seeking advice from the people who use them the most. Styles and thickness may vary, but if you ask around, most surfers will tell you that their wetsuit is black. While many of the reasons might stem from personal preference, a black wetsuit does have its advantages. Whichever color you choose, you’ll still get the protection and comfort you’re looking for, but here are five reasons why some surfers say black is best.

It Can Boost Your Performance

It’s been proven that there is a connection between uniforms and performance. It’s like the saying goes, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” This is because the clothes you wear not only affect how others perceive you but also your mental state when working toward a goal. Research from Rice University looked at doctors to study the theory of “enclothed cognition,” or how clothing shapes a person’s psychological process. They found that the doctors who wore white coats—a powerful symbol for every M.D.—performed better than those who didn’t.

This concept is also applicable to sports and, in particular, surfing. Although it may seem like a completely different breed of uniform, a black wetsuit is part of a surfer’s arsenal. And, once that garment is on, enclothed cognition can kick in, putting you in a better mindset to rip.

It May Be Better for Regulating Body Temperature

When surfing in colder temperatures, you need to regulate your body heat to avoid quitting early, and water conducts heat away from the body much faster than air. Wetsuits are effective because, with the right material and a snug fit, they limit water circulation as you’re moving in the water. Thus keeping your body warm. Darker colors are especially effective since they absorb more heat and light than brighter colors. Black—which actually isn’t a color, but the absence of color—absorbs the most light, reflects very little, and therefore traps in the most heat for the wearer.

Black Provides Ultimate UV Protection

why do surfers wear black wetsuitsOn the other hand, while spending hours under the sun, your skin takes a beating. To avoid any long-term consequences, the right wetsuit protects surfers from harmful UV rays. And, it starts with the material. Neoprene, the type of rubber your wetsuit is likely made from, starts off as a milky white color. Carbon black is a key ingredient added, turning the rubber black to increase strength. It also provides heightened UV resistance for the same reason as heat absorption. Black is the best option to absorb light versus reflecting it, meaning that sunlight is less likely to reach your skin. And, since the material lacks reflective properties, the skin on your face, hands, and feet will also benefit.

It Will Likely Last Longer

Most wetsuits are made from neoprene because, with prolonged sun exposure, varying water temperatures, salt, and other elements, the material is incredibly durable. The carbon black added into the material also helps to reduce rubber degradation that often happens to the polymer is exposed to sun, water, and other elements.

Novice Surfers May Not Want to Attract Attention

Every surfer has to start somewhere. It can be intimidating to head out on the water with experienced surfers on either side. We get it. You might not want to be the neon-clad newbie struggling to drop in. Or, maybe you’re traveling and eager to try a local surf spot hidden from the usual tourists. Even while practicing your best surf etiquette—letting locals catch the first few waves of the set and keeping your distance—it’s best to blend in.

Technology has brought today’s wetsuits into a new era, so even if you’re inclined to explore beyond black, reputable wetsuits will still do their job to protect your body. But, when you’re talking tried-and-true methods, black wetsuits have always been preferred surf gear.

Paige Rosenthal

Paige Rosenthal

As a proud born-and-bred Miamian, Paige can’t imagine a life away from the ocean. She’s a travel, food and lifestyle writer hell-bent on uncovering new, under-the-radar destinations, sights, sips, and bites. When she's not busy writing, Paige can most likely be found throwing together a new recipe, running around Downtown Miami, trying out a new restaurant (most likely sushi), or heading to the beach with her black lab, Remi.
Paige Rosenthal

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26 Comments

  • Avatar Bee says:

    I wonder if a black wetsuit makes a surfer look from below in the water more like potential food for a shark!

  • Avatar Fozsteve1 says:

    Question I’m from the Midwest
    Never surfed. A lot of us Midwesterners ask the same question why do wet suites make you look like a seal floating in the water.
    So would that attract sharks and shark bites.

    • Elizabeth Werdnik Elizabeth Werdnik says:

      Hi Steve from the Midwest! It’s a common misconception that sharks will mistake you for a seal in a black wetsuit. Some research shows that sharks are actually more attracted to bright, high contrast colors! Statistically, you are far more likely to die by lightning (1 in 161,856) than a shark attack (1 in 3,748,067) and will probably enjoy a long surf career without so much as a close encounter. So I say, wear whatever wetsuit colors you like best, and enjoy your time in the water!

      • Avatar Greg says:

        Not to mention if the surfer is on top of the water and the shark is below that means the sun is shining from above so from the shark’s perspective even a neon pink wetsuit would appear black because the sun would turn you into more of a silhouette.

        Think about when you take a picture of someone with the sun behind them. They appear very dark vs when the sun is coming behind the photographer and shining onto the person’s face.

    • Avatar Brian says:

      Sharks can also sense fear. So if you go out there with the fear of sharks you are more likely to get attacked. Also bandage all your wounds because they can smell blood.

    • Avatar Sidney says:

      Sharks don’t look to bite you, commonly when they do they are trying to work out what you are, it is just the natural way sharks work.

  • Avatar Shred Jesse says:

    Started doing photography of surfing recently, mostly so my wife and i can capture each other’s shred. I can’t tell one surfer in a black wetsuit from the other 25 though. A bright board helps but a good wetsuit makes you easy to track in the water! Plus now my wife and i can find each other in the lineup easier and we can reasonably keep tabs on each other.

    • Elizabeth Werdnik Elizabeth Werdnik says:

      Hey Jesse! That’s a really good point. Standing out in the water is a win for many reasons. Happy shredding!

  • Avatar Marti says:

    I currently own a light grey wetsuit. On the hunt for a replacement and since black is pretty much the only choice, I am getting a custom suit in my company colours and logo. That makes it tax deductible work wear. Thanks Mr tax man.

  • Avatar Chris says:

    That’s all bullsh*t. The only reason is it’s usually the only available colour, otherwise there would be way more colours in the water. If you check women wetsuits, they come in lots of different colours and patterns – anything to say about that?
    Also, just check any WSL competition, you can see the pros wearing all kind of wetsuits.

    • Elizabeth Werdnik Elizabeth Werdnik says:

      Hi Chris! A lot of people prefer black wetsuits for many different reasons, but it is definitely not the only available color on the market for men. Check out some of our Vissla, Buell, and Rip Curl options for a splash of color and pattern if that’s what you’re after. Another sick wetsuit brand to check out that makes really fun and bright wetsuits to stand out in the water with is JANGA. Cheers!

  • Avatar Rogue says:

    Or the fact that you can only get black, unless you spend three times as much? Hell, can’t even get a contrast panel nowadays.
    Bullet and Tim Jones rocked the fluoro wetties.

    • Elizabeth Werdnik Elizabeth Werdnik says:

      Hey Rogue! With the current global shortage of neoprene, we’re seeing a serious drop in color/print designs across the board! We’ll likely be seeing a lot of black wetsuits, some with a splash of color, for quite a while. At least black is timeless? We’ll keep a lookout for some fluoro though! Cheers!

  • Avatar David Martin says:

    Black utterly dominates, with Hurley’s racing stripes, Volte’s white patches, and Buell’s skeletons as distinctive as it gets. I wonder how many boys have worn their Buell skeleton suits as Halloween costumes.

    • Elizabeth Werdnik Elizabeth Werdnik says:

      Hey David! Gotta love the classics. And those Buell skellies are so rad, right!?

    • Avatar trish says:

      But black may attract unwanted attention from Sharks, thinking you are a seal!! Has Anyone thought of that?

      • Elizabeth Werdnik Elizabeth Werdnik says:

        Hi Trish! This is actually a common misconception. It’s actually been researched that sharks are likely more attracted to high contrast, bright colors. Either way, a shark attacking a human is very rare, and more than likely the color of your wetsuit will have a lot less to do with it than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cheers!

        • Avatar John Joseph Ferrentino says:

          Not true sharks are attracted to seals that are black. Watch the shark doc on how when they used black wetsuits. .Great Whites attacked them every time

          • Elizabeth Werdnik Elizabeth Werdnik says:

            Thanks for sharing! Too bad we can’t ask the sharks, ha! Considering you’re more likely to be killed by a flying champagne cork, or be hit by lightning, than be attacked by a shark- we suggest wearing whatever color/print/style wetsuit that makes you feel good in the water. Cheers!

  • Avatar Pete Blumer says:

    Who wouldn’t want to look like a seal or sea lion said the shark attack victim.

    • Elizabeth Werdnik Elizabeth Werdnik says:

      Hey Pete! Thanks for the laugh, this is actually a very common misconception! Sharks have excellent vision and are very unlikely to mistake a human for a seal or sea lion. Fun fact? It’s also been researched that sharks are actually more attracted to high contrast, bright colors in the water, like yellows and reds!

      • Avatar April says:

        Well said. A lot of people have asked the same questions to me, and this is pretty close to my responses. Lol.

  • Avatar Timmo says:

    I have been surfing more than 45 years , born and raised in NorCal. Black wetsuits always, better warmth absorption from the sun , and warmth retention .

  • Avatar Peter Jongen says:

    I’ve been surfing 40 years and never knew any of that. Never thought to ask either. Thanks , really interesting.
    Pete Western Australia.

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