There is some confusion on the subject of exactly what a wetsuit top is. There are actually two very different items of clothing that are frequently referred to as a wetsuit top, rash guards and neoprene wetsuit tops.
These are often called rash vests or wetsuit tops and are usually worn under a wetsuit. They are intended to protect from rashes caused by wearing neoprene next to the skin or from chafing caused by the stitching on the inside seams of a wetsuit. They also provide protection from the wax used on surfboards.
The stitching and seam finishing is on the outside so that a completely smooth garment interior is worn next to the skin.
Although they will not give much protection from the cold, they can be worn alone in warm water where they will provide some protection from scratches and scrapes and stings from the Jelly Fish that abound in warmer water temperatures. They can also provide up to 100% UV protection so are useful in helping to prevent sunburn when worn in this way.
Rash guards can be made of neoprene. They are usually made from stretchy, tightly knitted nylon or lycra. Some have additional thermal insulation built-in for more warmth.
For women, we recommend the O’Neill Wetsuits Women’s Skins Long Sleeve Crew Sun Shirt. This stylish garment made of Nylon and Spandex has four-way stretch, provides factor 50+ UV protection and is long-sleeved and flatlock stitching for comfort. It will dry very quickly and will not ride up in wear thanks to the attached boardshorts connector.
For men, we recommend the O’Neill Men’s Long Sleeve Rash Guard. It is very popular, comfortable and durable with a quick-drying 80% nylon, 20% spandex fabric construction. We advise going for the next size up to your normal size with this garment though as it does come up small.
Neoprene Wetsuit Tops
These are made of the same neoprene material as full wetsuits. They can be sleeveless vests, short-sleeved, or have long, full sleeves. The long sleeved versions are sometimes called “wetsuit jackets”.
Typically, a neoprene wetsuit top is made from much thinner material than a full wetsuit. Usually, this is only 1 – 1.5mm. It will provide some warmth in summer water temperatures of around 72-77°F (22-25°C) and can be worn under a thicker wetsuit as an extra layer of protection in cooler waters.
This type of top often has an elasticized loop or other means of fastening at the bottom so that it does not ride up while you are wearing it.
Long and short-sleeved versions are popular for water sports and swimming, the sleeveless versions are popular with kayakers although, of course, the long sleeved type is best for sun protection.
For women, we recommend the comfortable Lemorecn Women’s Wetsuit Jacket Long Sleeve that’s sure to be a customer favorite, is reasonably priced, is well constructed with flatlock seams and fits snugly but is easy to get on and off.
For men, we recommend the Lemorecn Adults 3mm Wetsuit Jacket Long Sleeve
A wetsuit top provides extra protection and some warmth. Teamed with board shorts these tops are ideal for those situations where you do not want to wear a full wetsuit. Alternatively, both types can be worn under a full wetsuit and in this case, the rash guard type will provide better protection from chafing and rashes.