Wetsuit vs. Drysuit | Cold Water Essentials


Let's be real... nothing is worse than being cold or uncomfortable while out on the water. That is why everyone begins to use wetsuits or drysuits in early spring or once the water temperature begins to plummet.

Buying either one is a sizeable investment so you want to make sure you are making a smart decision. Choosing which one is right for you ultimately is dependent on the water temperature, your desired comfort level, and a variety of other factors.

How to Choose a Wetsuit by Temperature

wakemakers cold water chartFor colder air temperatures or higher wind speeds, consider a thicker wetsuit in order to stay warm as these factors will impact your comfort level. Additionally, level of activity matters (you warm up when you're working hard), as well as your own general sensitivity to feeling cold when choosing wetsuit thickness.


full wetsuit


  • Typically less $$$
  • Considered more comfortable as they contour to your body
  • No air gets trapped inside the suit
  • You can pee inside them to warm up (not recommended though)


  • Won't keep you as warm in colder water (under 57 degrees fahrenheit)
  • Take longer to get in/out of a wetsuit
  • Can be cold and uncomfortable getting into during later runs that day or as the second person riding



  • Can ride all year long
  • Ability to wear base layers underneath
  • Increased range of motion, unrestricted feeling
  • Great for people getting in water more than once a day or multiple people using it


  • More $$$
  • Keep you dry, not necessarily warm
  • Heavier
  • Need a buddy to help you get in/out of the drysuit


Choosing The Right Size Wetsuit

Before we move onto accessories that extend your season further, let's do quick dive into wetsuit sizing and fit

A wetsuit performs best when it is snug to your skin. Too loose? It will not keep you as warm as it could because excess cold water gets into the suit. Too tight? In this case the wetsuit becomes very uncomfortable, limits your range of motion, and can even cut off circulation to your hands and feet.

When you are buying a wetsuit online it's important to closely look at the sizing charts, measure yourself, and find out which size will be the best fit for you. In our experience, O'Neill wetsuits fit true to size, so make sure you get an accurate measurement. Your wetsuit should fit like a second skin. 

Neoprene Accessories: Hoods, Boots, Gloves

neoprene accessories

Often forgotten but equally important, wearing a hood, gloves, and/or booties should be a must depending on the water temperature. In colder water you will lose a significant amount of body heat if your head, hands, and feet are not protected from the elements. The chart above shows the recommended neo products based on water temp.



We recommend neo boots (commonly called booties) for wake surfing in cold water. They keep your feet warmer and still give you the needed grip with your board thanks to the rubber sole. Neo boots vary in thickness from 1mm to 7mm+. For wakesurfing we recommend a thinner boat ranging from 1-3mm, keep you warm while providing ample feel and control between your feet and the board. For wakeboarding, you won't need a pair of booties since your feet will be inside the bindings. However, some wear a neo sock (no sole) that they put on before their bindings.


Gloves are another recommended accessory for cold water wakesurfing or wakeboarding. If you are sensitive to the cold, neoprene gloves are a must. After all, it is very difficult to hold onto the handle if you can't feel your hands.


Wearing a hood in cold water is just as important as wearing a beanie while at the mountain. In fact, you can lose up to 40% of your heat through your head if left exposed to the cold. Save yourself from a brain freeze, throw on a hood.

At the end of the day the choice is entirely up to you! What makes you comfortable? How cold is the water? Each use case is different and will require different cold weather gear for the best on-water experience.

Still got questions? Our team of product experts are here to help you get geared up for some cold water riding.


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