A wetsuit is a suit that fits tightly around your body. You get wet, but your body heats up the thin layer of water and insulates you. Momentarily there are roughly 4 types of suits. Kiteboarding, windsurf, wavesurfing and drysuits.
Kiteboard wetsuits are specially designed for kiteboarding by using special materials around the arms and legs to improve maneuverability. It also uses tougher materials on the outside to prevent damage to the suit.
Wavesurf wetsuits are very similar to kiteboarding suits regarding maneuvrability and the use of the materials, but often they don’t provide extra straps or velcro to close off your wrists and ankles. With kiteboarding you often have high speeds and water will enter your suit in those areas. Often people will use these suits anyway since they are usually slightly cheaper and do not restrict your movement.
Windsurf wetsuits do not have the extra protection patches on the suit and causes the suit to get damaged quickly. You can often close them off well and they are usually warmer. As material development and choice improves the other suits are catching up. The warmer windsurf suits are often less flexible.
For the real cold a drysuit is preferred. They prevent any water to get to your body and you can wear regular, comfortable clothes underneath. So besides kiteboarding in relative warmth you will also be warming while taking the suit on and off. The prices of drysuits are drastically falling, so it is definitely worth looking into after your first year. Remember that if you are in trouble in very cold conditions this can become very dangerous even with a drysuit!
The warmth of the suit depends mostly on the thickness of the material, which is usually between 5 and 6 millimeters. If you see the expressions “5.3” that means that the areas around your chest and back are 5 mm (where you need less movement) and the rest is 3mm. So you have to find a trade-off between movement and warmth. When it’s warmer you can wear a shorty which has short arms and legs. When it’s colder you can wear a titanium or neoprene shirt underneath your regular wetsuit.
Our advice is, if your budget allows it, is to buy a winter and summer suit. A 5.3 wetsuit will cover the regular season and for the late fall, winter and early spring a very thick wetsuit or drysuit is preferred. Otherwise a titanium shirt underneath a 5.3 will get you through most of the year in NW Europe.
Like we mentioned earlier, the windsurf suits are most damage prone because you’ll get your board and bar against it more often. You’ll also be more in the shallows near the beach in the beginning. You’ll often see kiteboarders with a boarshort over their wetsuit. This is not only a fashion statement, but also a good way to protect your expensive suit.
When it gets really cold you’ll need to pack yourself in as much as possible to stay warm. In cold water you’ll get colder very quickly and drowning is a very real threat quickly. Around 40% of the heat loss goes via your head. The best caps are the ones you can stick under your wetsuit. Some wetsuits have a cap attached to them.
Gloves are also essential at colder temperatures. The gloves will wear out your arm muscles quicker so you might need more breaks. Gloves just have to fit right en seal off with your wetsuit so water doesn’t get in. Some gloves are more like mitts to provide better grip. With gloves you generally have to try it out to see what you prefer. The material should not be too thick, provide a good grip and be supple.
You can wear booties all year through if you don’t find them too uncomfortable. They are great for walking in at rocky or slippery places. More sure they have a thick and coarse sole if you are wearing the boots all year round for durability. If you dislike wearing them and only need them for the cold, get the type with a thinner sole so your “board-feeling” is better. Also make sure they fit tight without clasping your toes too much. Also check the material. If it is too supple the boots will rip when you pull them on and they won’t last a season.
We advise high booties that seal well with your suit. When it gets cold you want as little water flowing in and out of your boots and suit. Ensure that you can close the boots off with velcro straps. You might have to buy a separate set of these if your suit and the boots do not have those attached.
When you go out kiting its windy and especially in the winter this means you will cool down quicker than without wind. The cold wind will disperse the warmth around your body quicker. Your body is continuously creating more heat to compensate. So when you are taking a break in between sessions its highly advisable to wear a wind blocking jacket or neoprene jacket over your wetsuit. Even a simple rain jacket or poncho will provide your with an additional layer that will keep you much warmer.