surfer wearing a wetsuit and holding a shortboard in front of breaking waves

When it comes to embracing the water and enjoying your activities, there’s one crucial piece of equipment you need: a wetsuit. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer, a dedicated diver, an enthusiastic paddleboarder, a bodyboarder, or a complete novice to ocean sports, a well-fitting wetsuit is your best friend - keeping you comfortable and warm in the sea! But are you unsure about what you should wear under your wetsuit?


In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of under-wetsuit layering and discuss the options available to you, along with their benefits, all while considering the various water temperatures. From thermal rash guards and swimwear to wetsuit boots and gloves, we’ve got you covered. 


check out our guide on buying your first wetsuit: our top tips


What to Wear Under a Wetsuit During the Winter?


If you’re a keen surfer and like to make the most of the winter swell or are planning a diving expedition in the arctic waters, you’ll want to wear the right gear under your wetsuit to keep you toasty. Colder waters demand additional insulation to keep you snug during your aquatic adventures, and failing to do so will only cut it short. 


Swimwear, bikinis or swimsuits for women and swim trunks for men, are a great place to start as your first layer and can minimise the risk of chafing and skin irritation - which can be highly uncomfortable. But for some extra warmth, here are some options for winter:


Thermal Rash Vest


During the winter season, thermal rash vests provide an additional layer of insulation by trapping a thin water of water between your skin and the vest. Your body heats up this thin layer, creating a thermal barrier, helping you stay warmer in the water for longer - especially in December, January and February - when the water is at its coldest!


Thermal rash vests also provide an extra layer of wind protection and reduce the chafing and irritation that can occur when a wetsuit rubs against your skin.


a surfer exiting the sea with a surfboard wearing a winter wetsuit


Thermal Wetsuit Shorts


Similar to thermal rash vests, thermal shorts also keep you warmer for longer by providing an additional layer of insulation - but this time, they do so around your lower body. If you suffer from chafing around the groin, a pair of thermal wetsuit shorts will do wonders for you. 


Overall, they provide the same benefits as thermal rash vests but may feel more restrictive on the legs - which may work against you with activities like surfing where leg movement is crucial. So, if you feel the cold during winter, consider a thermal vest first. Then, if that’s not enough, invest in a pair of thermal shorts, too.


Wetsuit Hoods


If you’re new to the wetsuit world, you may wonder if wetsuit hoods, gloves, and wetsuit boots go under or over a wetsuit. Well, all of the above accessories tuck under your wetsuit, and you should avoid wearing them on top, as this will only lead to cold water flushing in and giving you a great big shock! You can learn more about how to put these accessories on by following our guide below. 


check out our winter wetsuit accessories guide


The head is a crucial part of your body when it comes to retaining heat, and if not kept warm, it can be a significant source of heat loss in cold water. Wetsuit hoods provide additional insulation to your neck and head, crucial for maintaining overall body heat. The tight seal of wetsuit hoods also prevents cold water from flushing through the neck opening of your wetsuit down your front and back - a very unpleasant feeling! A wetsuit hood is your saviour if you want to feel more comfortable in the sea in winter. 


At Wetsuit Centre, we stock a wide range of hooded wetsuit vests that will keep you toasty. So, if you’re considering getting a thermal vest and a hood, why not get one that does both, such as our Xcel Infiniti 1mm Hooded Wetsuit Vest?


Wetsuit Boots


Wetsuit boots also provide warmth through additional insulation. If you’re participating in water sports activities near sharp rocks or rough surfaces, such as surfing a shallow reef break, wetsuit boots shield your feet from being cut up, reducing the risk of injury and providing some protection. Some wetsuit boots have been designed with improved grip for optimal traction on wet and slippery surfaces, helping you maintain balance and stability. 


Wetsuit Gloves


Our hands can be sensitive to colder temperatures, and if they get too cold, they can become numb, making it difficult to move them! Throwing on a pair of wetsuit gloves will keep them warm and snug, allowing you to continue using your hands in chilly waters and protecting them from cuts and abrasions.


What to Wear Under a Wetsuit During the Summer?


someone smiling looking out to sea wearing a wetsuit


During the summer, it’s all about striking the right balance between keeping cool and comfortable in the water during the summer. Here are our top recommendations on what to wear under a wetsuit during the summer:




Swimwear is a practical choice to wear under a wetsuit - a bikini or swimming costume for women and swim trunks or swim shorts for men. Swimwear is designed to fit seamlessly against your body, and can also prevent chafing on those more ‘delicate’ areas, shall we say. 


It’s quick-drying, hygienic and comfortable. But, it’s not just an option for the summer. If you don’t feel the cold much in winter, swimwear is often the only thing you’ll need to wear under a wetsuit.


Rash Vest


Rash vests are usually worn in tropical climates, where the warmer sea temperatures don’t require you to wear anything other than swimwear. Rash vests provide excellent sun protection and prevent irritation from the direct rubbing between your skin and your board. Rash vests also offer the same skin irritation protection that can occur during body movements when worn under your wetsuit, adding to comfort.


They’re quick-drying, comfortable, and practical during the summer and winter months - making them versatile pieces of clothing to add to your gear.


Go Commando 


Going commando is more common than you might think when discussing what to wear under a wetsuit. Wearing nothing under your wetsuit ensures there are no extra layers that may get bunched up, providing a better, more seamless fit. 


This option also allows you to be more flexible, making it easier to perform manoeuvres; the fewer layers you have, the less restrictive you feel. Some people find it warmer to go commando and opt for this choice during the winter, too, as your body can directly warm up the trapped layer of water between your skin and the suit. 


However, going with nothing underneath your wetsuit could potentially lead to chafing in areas you don’t want and can become a little awkward when trying to change in and out of your wetsuit in public places. If you do go commando - it’s vital to keep decency in mind and make sure you change in a private/hidden area. 


If you’re renting a wetsuit, it’s best to avoid going commando and throw some swimwear on underneath - for obvious hygiene reasons!


Surfer paddling out


Remember, there’s no ‘right’ answer when it comes to what you should wear under a wetsuit. It all comes down to personal preference and what you feel comfortable in. If unsure, consider these three things:


  • - What’s the current sea temperature?
  • - Am I comfortable enough?
  • - Do I need added protection in current conditions?

Hopefully, we’ve given you some valuable insights to help you decide what to wear under your wetsuit. To learn more about the type of wetsuit you need for each season, read our previous blog, Which Wetsuit is Best for Which Season?