Wetsuits were invented in 1951 when Hugh Bradner, then working for the U.S. Navy, had an idea of creating a suit that would use the water around a body to insulate it. Bradner had a colleague who suggested that neoprene – a kind of fabric made of synthetic rubber – could be a suitable material. Bradner was not interested in making a profit and did not patent his design, which is why he could not be credited as the sole creator of the modern wetsuit.
History of the Wet Suit
Others believe that Jack O’Neill created the wetsuit since he was the first to incorporate neoprene as a fundamental material. There are some people who insist that Jack O’Neill’s brother, Robert, was the real designer of the wetsuit. The O’Neills went on to create a successful manufacturing company called O’Neill that makes wetsuits.
In 1953, brothers Bob and Bill Meistrell from Manhattan Beach, California started to create wetsuits made of neoprene. They went on to create a successful wetsuit manufacturing company called Body Glove.
Wetsuits were not always made of neoprene. In Europe, particularly, the Pêche-Sport Suit from France and Siebe Gorman Swimsuit from the United Kingdom were commonly used and they were made of sponge rubber. Also made in the United Kingdom during the same period, the Heinke Dolphin Suit was created from natural rubber with stockinet linings.
Types of Wet Suits
Wetsuits come in different varieties, catering to different situations and water conditions. A thick wetsuit will keep the wearer relatively warm, but will hinder movement. Thick wetsuits, or drysuits, are usually worn in particularly cold conditions. Most people prefer to use thinner wetsuits that do not provide similar insulation to thicker ones but allow users to move more freely.
There are a number of different wetsuits available on the market, including sleeveless vests, jackets, shorties, long johns or farmer johns, and full suits or steamers.
Sleeveless vests are wetsuits that cover the torso, which provides minimal insulation. Jackets cover the torso and arms, but similar to sleeveless vests, only provide minimal coverage. Shorties cover the torso with short sleeves for the arms and legs. Long johns cover the torso and legs only and look like bib-and-brace overalls, hence the origin of the name. Full suits cover the entire body, from torso, arms, and legs
Wetsuits protect people from corals and other hazards. They are worth every penny for diving aficionados.
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