Can You Use a Triathlon Wetsuit for Surfing?

If you are a triathlete who loves to swim and surf, you might wonder if you can use your triathlon wetsuit for both activities. After all, wetsuits are not cheap, and it would be convenient to have one suit that fits all your needs.

The short answer: While triathlon wetsuits can be used for surfing, they aren’t the optimal choice. These two activities, although similar in their aquatic nature, have different requirements and nuances. 

A triathlon wetsuit is designed for speed and efficiency in open water, whereas a surfing wetsuit prioritizes flexibility and protection against rough surf. 

However, there are some important differences between triathlon wetsuits and surfing wetsuits that you should be aware of before you hit the waves.

Main Differences Between Triathlon Wetsuits and Surfing Wetsuits

Triathlon wetsuits and surfing wetsuits are designed for different purposes and have different features that affect their performance in the water. Here are some of the main differences:

Feature Triathlon Wetsuit Surfing Wetsuit
Material Soft and stretchy neoprene that allows for flexibility and range of motion in swimming Stronger and less stretchy neoprene that resists tearing and abrasion from surfboards
Thickness Thinner (usually 3-5 mm) to reduce drag and weight in swimming Thicker (usually 4-6 mm) to provide more warmth and protection in colder water
Layers Single layer with a smooth coating that reduces friction and water resistance in swimming Double layer with a thermal lining that traps air and heat for insulation in surfing
Coating Slippery coating that makes the suit easy to put on and take off quickly in transitions Sticky coating that provides more grip on the board when paddling
Zipper Long zipper at the back or front that can be opened with a cord for fast removal Short zipper at the back or chest that stays closed and prevents water entry

The different characteristics of triathlon wetsuits and surfing wetsuits make them appropriate for their respective sports. But what happens if you use a triathlon wetsuit for surfing or vice versa?

What are the risks of using a triathlon wetsuit for surfing?

Using a triathlon wetsuit for surfing is not recommended for several reasons. First, you might damage your triathlon wetsuit by exposing it to the rough surface of the surfboard, the leash, or the sand. The soft neoprene can easily get cut or worn out by friction, which will reduce its effectiveness and lifespan. 

Second, you might not be warm enough in your triathlon wetsuit, especially if you surf in cold water or for a long time. Compared to surfing wetsuits, triathlon wetsuits are thinner and have less insulation, so they won’t keep you as warm.

Third, you might not have enough grip on your board when paddling with your triathlon wetsuit. The slippery coating of the triathlon wetsuit can make it harder to stay on your board, especially when catching waves or turning.

Therefore, if you want to surf regularly, you should use a surfing wetsuit instead of a triathlon wetsuit. A surfing wetsuit will provide you with more durability, warmth, and grip than a triathlon wetsuit.

Can you use a surfing wetsuit for a triathlon?

Conversely, using a surfing wetsuit for a triathlon isn’t ideal. Surfing wetsuits tend to be bulkier and less flexible than those designed for triathlons. This can restrict movement, potentially impacting your swim technique and speed.

Second, you might feel overheated in your surfing wetsuit, especially if you swim in warm water or for a long time. Surfing wetsuits are thicker and have more insulation than triathlon wetsuits, which means they will not let your body cool down as much as triathlon wetsuits.

Third, you might have trouble putting on and taking off your surfing wetsuit in transitions. Surfing wetsuits have shorter zippers and stickier coatings than triathlon wetsuits, which can make them harder to get in and out of quickly.

Therefore, if you want to participate in triathlons, you should use a triathlon-specific wetsuit for the best performance and comfort.

The bottom line is that triathlon wetsuits and surfing wetsuits are designed differently for their intended sports. While you may be able to use a triathlon wetsuit for surfing or vice versa in a pinch, you will get optimal results if you use the right wetsuit for the sport you are doing. 

Investing in separate triathlon and surfing wetsuits is recommended for avid participants of both sports.


To conclude my blog, using a triathlon wetsuit for surfing isn’t recommended. Triathlon wetsuits are designed for flexibility and speed in swimming, whereas surfing wetsuits focus on warmth and durability for the waves.

Wearing a triathlon wetsuit to surf can damage it, provide insufficient warmth, and reduce grip. Surfing wetsuits limit movement, overheat, and are hard to take on and off quickly for triathlons. 

While you may be able to use one type of wetsuit for other sports occasionally, you’ll get the best results using the proper wetsuit designed for triathlons or surfing.

Investing in separate wetsuits tailored for each sport is recommended for optimal comfort, performance, and safety when doing triathlons and surfing. In short, triathlon and surfing wetsuits are not interchangeable – use the specialized wetsuit to get the greatest benefits for each sport.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you only own a triathlon wetsuit, how can you modify it for temporary use in surfing?

Apply a sticky wax coating for grip, wear thermal layers underneath for warmth, and limit surfing time to avoid damage.

Why is flexibility more important in a triathlon wetsuit versus a surfing wetsuit?

Flexibility allows for a full range of arm and leg motion when swimming in a triathlon.

What body parts need more insulation when surfing versus swimming in a triathlon?

The torso, thighs, and shoulders need more insulation when surfing to retain heat.

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