If you’re trying out spearfishing for the first time and previously, you’ve done water sports, you’ve probably already got a wetsuit. Perhaps this is a 3mm or 5mm wetsuit, and you might be wondering whether it’ll do for spearfishing.
There are quite a number of differences between regular wetsuits and spearfishing wetsuits, which I’ll explain.
Firstly, the majority of watersports take place above the water or on the surface. So wetsuits for those sports are made from the type of fabric that is well suited to this. In comparison, spearfishing takes place under the water – typically around ten to twelve metres, and sometimes deeper. As you go further under the water, the fabric compresses. Suits designed for surfing will quickly feel paper thin. This means you’ll quickly get cold!
Spearfishing wetsuits are made of various types of neoprene which doesn’t compress and keeps you much warmer. So the difference between a 5mm surf suit and a 5mm spearfishing wetsuit at 10 to 12 metres is that you’ll feel a lot colder in the surf suit.
Your neoprene suit will be covered in nylon because neoprene is delicate. Nylon unfortunately retains some water leaving you wet for longer as you leave the water. But you can get something called smoothskin neoprene which is not covered in nylon. This is more delicate but you dry quicker. I guess whether this is relevant really depends on how you dive – if you’re just going to one spot and then getting out and going home, maybe you won’t care. If you’re going between lots of spots and spending time on the shore or a boat in between, this could make quite a difference.
Open / closed cell
Neoprene suits that are “closed cell” have extra nylon inside the suit. The wetsuits are a little easier to put on.
Neoprene suits that are “open cell” are a bit harder to get on – you have to get them wet and you might need lube. They’re more popular and they’re supposed to be warmer, but I can’t really tell.
Neoprene is a buoyant material, so you’ll need to wear weights when spearfishing. If you’re a lighter frame or a you’re a woman (because of bone density / less muscle mass) you might need more weights than others.
There are a few options for weights – weight belts are common, as are weight vests.
Spearos and spearas spend quite a bit of time around rocks. Consequently your wetsuit gets rubbed and battered a fair bit. Suits designed for spearfishing have extra features such as padded knees and elbows to help with this.
They also have a special padding area across the chest which you will be grateful for when loading your gun – it helps prevent bruises.
Lots of watersport suits are one piece – but suits for spearfishing are usually two pieces. The advantage of a two piece suit is that the fabric overlaps around the middle. This means you might have 2 x 5mm or even 1 x 5mm and 1 x 7mm around your waist, keeping you a lot warmer than with a single suit.
They usually have a hood too, for added warmth.
The trousers on these suits will either be long johns or high waisted.
Long johns have a sort of integrated vest piece, rather like a baby vest or dungarees.
High waisted trousers are as they sound.
Long johns do give you more fabric around you, but if you have to go to the toilet, you’ll need to remove your jacket first. For guys, the answer may be a pissette. You can cut a hole in your wetsuit and attach this to make bathroom breaks easier.
With high waisted trousers, you can simply take down your trousers. Women usually prefer these.
Having a two piece suit gives you some options as to thickness. Lots of spearos and spearas go for 5mm but you can go up to 7mm if you are susceptible to the cold. However, keep in mind that the thicker your suit, the more buoyancy you will have and the more weights you will need. More weights makes it a little more tiring and uncomfortable to move about and walk to where you’re diving.
Thicker suits also mean less dexterity, as you might expect.
Some spearfishing suits have camo, presumably to try and hide from the fish. Really this doesn’t make a lot of difference, but they do look pretty cool. Suits that are all black on the other hand, might actually scare the fish because you look like a predator.
Some spearfishing suits are designed to disguise the electrical signals that your body gives off, which can be detected by the fish. This is pretty smart tech. On the other hand, since fish are pretty curious, it’s not always a bad thing to be detected.
There are a tonne of options for spearfishing wetsuits on the market, but you can also get a custom wetsuit made for you. Great if you’re a bit of a funny shape like myself. Polosub is a popular choice for custom wetsuits. These take around 20 – 22 different measurements to create the perfect suit for you. You can choose your fabrics (really customising the thickness here from 3.5mm to 9.5mm) and fastening, add reinforcement and add a pissette if you want to.
With a normal wetsuit, the water will get in any baggy area and you’ll quickly start to feel cold. A huge benefit of the custom wetsuit is that you won’t have loose bits around your suit.
Gloves and socks
You have to buy separate gloves and socks which are 3mm – 5mm thick. Again, unless you’re diving in freezing cold waters, think about dexterity. The thicker you go, the more movement you’ll lose. On the flip side of this, if you go too thin in cold waters, you’ll lose a bit of sensation in your hands and start to feel miserable.
If you buy fins to match 3mm socks and then you go up to 5mm in the winter, you’ll find your fins are a bit too tight. The risk here is that you get cramp. Better to buy fins for 5mm socks and use something called a fin saver.