Long or short sleeves for swimming wetsuits

Jocelyn: I am purchasing my first wet suit. Will use to keep warm while kayaking at 4200′ in CA in winter, and also for swimming in the lake in winter and summer. Will having a suit with long sleeves interfere with paddling? Do triathlon swimmers use suits with long sleeves, short sleeves or sleeveless. 

Hi Jocelyn. If the water temperatures allow then get a sleeveless wetsuit. No sleeves will make swimming easier since the wetsuit will put less strain on your arms, your muscles won’t have to “pull” the neoprene with every move you make etc… But it the water is too cold then just get one with long sleeves. People use them all the time – it is not a problem since swimming wetsuits are really flexible. You also have to decide what kind of wetsuit do you want – for swimming or for kayaking? You can use one for both but – generally wetsuit made for swimming are the most flexible and soft wetsuits out there. This is great for swimming but not so great for the durability of the wetsuit. They get torn, damaged pretty easily. Wetsuits for other sports are a little less flexible and more durable, they can also serve as protection against rocks, your equipment etc… to some point – wetsuits for kayaking would fall into this category. Anyway, if you will only get one wetsuit then get one for swimming I think. It will be easier to paddle in swimming wetsuit that swimm in less flexible wetsuit made for sports like kayaking, rafting etc… Enjoy!


  1. This is very good advice. If you plan to swim with the long sleeves be patient and really try them on and do some swimming in them first.
    Some suits chafe and restrict your arm pull; others are perfect. I always get this wrong because I am impatient.

  2. THanks for your assistance. I have a Vest M. S will not fit upper.. But .I do not have a butt on one side & a relatively small waist. Thus water comes in & out on my lower back. I do put swim suit over it . Trouble with Wet Suit shorts over it is I have small leg circumfernce (Polio) Does any Vest have a draw string at the hips? Or is there a belt which would secure the bottom of the vest ?
    Again Thank you very much. Assume you may have better idea.

  3. Looking for a wet suit to use while sailing my catamaran. I live in northern calif.I need freedom of movement and duribility.

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