Are Shorty Wetsuits Good for Swimming?

are shorty wetsuits good for swimming

If you plan on going open water swimming, you need to know the water temperature for the period of time you will be swimming so that you can dress appropriately.

Unlike swimming pools where the water temperature is regulated so that it’s not too chilly, the water temperature outdoors can easily be too cold, and sometimes it may even be a little warm.

As such, it’s not always the right choice to wear a full wetsuit because if the water happens to be 28-30°C, you’re likely to overheat wearing a 3/2 full length wetsuit. That would be the perfect time, then, to wear a shorty wetsuit or even just a rashguard.

Shorty wetsuits serve a similar purpose to full wetsuits by providing you insulation in the water to counteract how quickly you can lose body heat when submerged. With that said, they are made of thinner materials and can partially expose your arms and legs so that you don’t overheat.

They are the perfect option for open water swimming in the summer or on a warm spring day when you need just a little bit of warmth, but not too much. For instance, if you prefer to swim at dawn where it’s still a little chilly, a shorty wetsuit can tide you over until the sun is fully shining.

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of wearing a shorty wetsuit for swimming and why it is a good option for open water swimming.

Benefits of wearing a shorty wetsuit

Shorty wetsuits, and wetsuits in general, provide a variety of advantages that are beneficial for a variety of water sports enthusiasts such as scuba divers, kitesurfers, paddleboarders, and many more outside of swimming.

Wetsuits are worn to take advantage of the following benefits:

  • Additional warmth in colder waters, which also increases how much time you can spend in the water.
  • Reduced drag in the water compared to other swimwear.
  • Additional buoyancy – great for swimmers and snorkelers.
  • Superficial protection against sand, rocks, coral, and the sun’s UV rays.

Let’s go over each point in more detail.


On blazing hot summer days, there are always people who end up coming out of the water after 20-30 minutes violently shivering and with blue lips. They clearly underestimated how quickly their core body temperature would drop when exposed to water.

Did you know that water is 25 times more efficient than air at conducting heat away from the body? Also, a normal human core body temperature is around 36.5–37 °C (97.7–98.6 °F), and hypothermia occurs when the core temperature drops to <35.0 °C (95.0 °F).

Knowing these facts, it’s not surprising that spending time in water that is around 28 – 30°C (80 – 85 F), which most would consider warm water, is enough to decrease your core temperature and cause you to shiver and get blue lips.

Even swimming pools, which have their water temperature regulated to between 25 to 28°C (77-82°F), can eventually cause you to feel chilly if you spend enough time in it.

When you’re swimming outdoors, you can expect water temperatures that are even colder than the swimming pool. Thus, you need to wear an exposure suit of some sort, either a thin 1mm wetsuit, a 3/2 wetsuit if you’re sensitive to the cold, or at least a shorty wetsuit.

Wetsuits are made of neoprene, which are a water resistant material that also happens to be very good at insulating your body heat. Assuming you have a wetsuit that fits you snug, it limits the amount of cold water flushing into your wetsuit and conducting heat away from your body.

A tight-fitting full length wetsuit might restrict your movements slightly, but this is not an issue for shorty wetsuits which are made with thinner materials and are also short sleeved. They are a great middleground for keeping you warm while not restricting your movements.

If you need extra warmth, you can get a thicker wetsuit. A very standard wetsuit thickness is 3/2, but you can get 5/4 wetsuits or even 7/5 wetsuits. As the wetsuit thickness increases, you can get extra insulation at the expense of flexibility.


In addition to keeping you warm, a wetsuit can also help keep you afloat thanks to their buoyancy. The reason why a wetsuit can keep you warm is also why it provides extra buoyancy.

Wetsuits are made with layers of neoprene, and trapped inside the neoprene material are tiny air bubbles. These bubbles are what make neoprene such a good insulator, and they also provide additional buoyancy.

A wetsuit is not buoyant enough to keep you afloat on its own, especially not a shorty wetsuit with even less neoprene than a full length wetsuit. If you need help staying afloat, wear a life vest; don’t rely on a wetsuit.

That said, what buoyancy it does provide is nice because it helps you conserve energy while treading water.

Similar to what was said regarding thicker wetsuits and warmth, a thicker wetsuit also increases buoyancy due to having more air bubbles which will increase your buoyancy.

Reduced drag

Compared to other swimwear, wetsuits have much less drag than the other options. If you normally go swimming in baggy swim trunks or a loose-fitting rash guard, you are increasing drag tremendously.

Assuming you are wearing a snug-fitting wetsuit, it should fit you skin tight and therefore will not increase drag as much as baggy swimwear can.

Extra protection

Aside from protecting you from the cold, a wetsuit acts like a second layer of skin that can protect you against sand, rocks, sharp coral, jellyfish stingers, and even the sun’s UV rays.

For surfers, it’s also a way to protect their skin against chafing on the surfboard. You would be amazed at how sensitive our skin can be. One session spent in the water, and your skin could potentially be rubbed raw.

Wetsuits are not designed to protect you from impacts or sharp objects, but every little bit of protection counts. Also, the thicker the wetsuit, the more superficial protection it can provide.

That said, a thin 1mm wetsuit or even a rashguard is enough to protect your skin against the sun’s UV rays. Having a layer of sun protection means you can save on using sunscreen and decrease your chances of developing skin cancer. With a shorty wetsuit, don’t neglect putting sunscreen on your exposed arms and legs!

However, at that level of thickness, you should not expect any protection against sharp rocks, corals, or aggressive wildlife. The fact that wetsuits can offer any protection at all is a fantastic benefit considering its primary purpose is to keep you warm.

Parting words

Are shorty wetsuits good for swimming? The answer is absolutely, yes! A shorty wetsuit can provide you with just enough warmth to keep you going, while still allowing you to have great flexibility.

The extra buoyancy provided by a wetsuit makes treading water much easier and will help you conserve energy. Plus, wetsuits provide a level of superficial protection that can guard your skin against cuts, scratches, and even the sun’s UV rays.

If you plan on doing any open water swimming, or if you just find your swimming pool too cold, then you should definitely consider getting yourself a shorty wetsuit.