Last Updated: March 22, 2022
Neoprene wetsuits start as a white color; when carbon black is added to increase the strength of the wetsuit, it turns the neoprene black.
The added benefit of black wetsuits is the increased UV protection, and it absorbs heat much better than any other color.
There’s actually a scientific reason behind it. For the most part, wetsuits are worn to protect divers’ and surfers’ bodies from the cold ocean water.
Black absorbs more heat than any other color, which is perfect for keeping warm in cold water. It may be from the carbon added for strength, but the added benefits of warm retention and UV protection aren’t lost on divers.
What Are Wetsuits Made From?
Most wetsuits are made from a tight thin layer of neoprene. Some wetsuits may be made from similar materials, but neoprene is the industry standard. Wetsuits are designed to keep you warm without having to layer anything in between the material and your skin.
Why Do Scuba Divers Wear Black Wetsuits?
Scuba divers reach depths in the ocean that aren’t conducive to the average human body. Temperatures can reach below freezing the further down the divers get. It’s imperative to keep their bodies warm while underwater for long periods of time.
The black color of wetsuits is actually an “absence of color.” This color allows it to retain the most heat over any other color of wetsuit. As the diver travels deeper in the water, the suit will keep as much heat as possible while also absorbing any sunlight that may be reaching down.
While black absorbs sunlight, it protects divers and surfers from UV damage. Our clothing will allow some UV light to pass through, while wetsuits absorb a large amount, keeping your skin underneath safe.
What Color Wetsuit is the Safest?
If you are worried about being seen by rescuers, the color red, similar to a floatation dingy, will be the best choice. However, this color is not very practical when it comes to other wetsuit features like heat retention, UV protection, and shark visibility.
Yellow or any bright color may seem like an obvious choice for safety purposes. Rescue wetsuits for sailors in cold climates tend to be red and white in order to be more visible by rescue helicopters.
Visibility, shark protection, heat, and UV protection may need different styles of wetsuit. Bright colors will serve no other practical purpose other than visibility in most situations. The safest color will depend on what your concerns are.
What Colors Should You Not Wear When Diving?
It’s well known that yellow is most likely of all colors to attract predators. Its nickname by divers is “yum yum yellow” Sharks and other predatory animals are attracted to yellow and other bright colors. You should avoid these colors as much as possible while diving.
Sharks are also attracted to anything shiny in the water, like diving lenses and jewelry. These reflective objects mimic the glisten that their prey gives off from their scales as they swim.
Do Black Wetsuits Attract Sharks?
Black itself does not attract sharks; most contrasting colors will, like white on black and specific bathing suit patterns. Bright colors and shiny objects will attract sharks and other predatory animals.
There are cases where surfers or divers in solid black wetsuits resemble seals in the ocean. Sharks aren’t intentionally targeting humans, but the solid black color against the blue of the water looks very close to a seal on the surface. This misinterpretation creates a dangerous scenario.
Sharks investigate objects with their bite. If a surfer looks similar to a seal, the shark may bite the surfer in order to distinguish what they actually are. These bites may be from curiosity and maybe catastrophic for humans. One bite from a shark could lead to a loss of blood and even death.
Does the Color of Wetsuit Matter for Sharks?
Sharks are attracted to contrasting colors. The black wetsuit next to a divers skin toned foot may be attractive to a shark. It’s not necessarily the color, but the style itself of the wetsuit. It’s always a good idea to avoid brightly colored wetsuits when sharks are a threat.
New age “shark repellent wetsuits” feature three shades of aqua coloring, essentially masking the diver from the shark’s vision. Sight is the last sense a shark will use before a bite. Sharks use their sense of smell before anything. These wetsuits may prohibit the shark from biting if the colors can confuse it on what the object actually is.
Why Swim in a Wetsuit?
Swimming in a wetsuit will add buoyancy and less drag in the water for swimmers. The buoyancy allows swimmers to roll, making swimming more fluid. Your body will be working less, making you faster in the water.
Wetsuits are used by triathlon swimmers in colder water in order to keep their bodies warm and to increase buoyancy over long swims. Wearing a wetsuit in colder water will increase the amount of time your body will tolerate the cold.
What Water Temperature Requires Wetsuits?
While this may mostly be based on personal preference, it’s best to wear a full wetsuit in anything colder than 62-68 degrees fahrenheit. Water temperatures in the 70’s may be conducive to a half suit or even a rash guard.
There are different thicknesses to wetsuits ranging from 7mm to 0.5mm. Water temperatures below 42 degrees fahrenheit will require a 7mm wetsuit. Depending on your activity level, you may want to even consider a drysuit when water temperatures drop below 50 degrees fahrenheit.
How is a Wetsuit Different From a Drysuit?
Wetsuits and drysuits each use blends of neoprene and carbon black material. Wetsuits will allow a small amount of water inside. The body will heat this water up naturally, creating a layer of warm water around the diver.
Drysuits act exactly as they sound, they keep the diver completely dry. Drysuits are normally used in colder climates. The layer of air in a drysuit will heat up much faster than water and keep the user warmer.
My unbounded love for the oceans and everything it has to offer motivated me to pursue my passion and become a professional scuba diving instructor.
I keep reading, exploring, and learning more about scuba diving and the underwater world all the time, so I’m excited to share my knowledge with fellow scuba enthusiasts and hopefully contribute a little to your development as a diver. I want people to fall in love with the oceans with as much passion as I have. Read more about me here.