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Summer is arguably the best time of all to be a PWC enthusiast. You can ditch the wetsuit, not worry about the cold, and just enjoy the freedom of a pair of shorts or swimsuit as you bask in the sunshine.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Problem is, once you leave a wetsuit — and its associated accessories — behind, you also leave behind a lot of valuable protection, support and comfort. The good news is that you can still get a lot of those features through the latest summer-oriented gear.
Let’s start with that comfort and support. Lose the wetsuit and you may be dooming yourself to seat chafe, hot vinyl, even an ill-timed blast of the jet pump to those extremities so many warning labels tell us about. The solution? Numerous manufacturers, including Slippery and Jetpilot, offer “neo” boardshorts that keep a wetsuits neoprene protection on the interior, but disguise it below the loose, baggy styling of your favorite boardshorts. Don’t worry, that neoprene isn’t the sweltering thickness of your normal wetsuit. It’s thin, just enough to keep things secure down there and provide a little compression.
If you’re missing a wetsuit’s protection to the knees and shins, Slippery also makes a product called Leg Armor, essentially padded neoprene knee wraps. They’ll let you wear your boardshorts up top to stay cool, while keeping the protection you need down low.
Up top you’ll likely not miss a wetsuit’s warmth on those balmy summer days, but you still need protection sometimes, especially from the sun. Lycra shirts offer a great way to provide UV protection, and are far more comfortable than a cotton t-shirt. Lycra won’t get wet and droop to your knees like a typical T. It will also dry far faster and stay feeling lightweight throughout a day on the water. Get really hot and you can dunk yourself, shirt and all, and use evaporative cooling to beat the heat.
All the OEMs, as well as aftermarket companies, offer Lycra shirts. You can find them snug, or loose fitting, whichever style you find most comfortable.
You can even find summer-specific gloves on the market. They’re often made of thinner neoprene to keep your hands cooler, as well as feature a cut-off finger design (like cycling gloves) to prevent heat from building up. Same goes for the opposite end of the body, your feet. Lightweight water shoes are a good alternative to those neoprene booties to keep your feet cool. Try a slip-on style, like Jetpilot’s Hydro Shoe, for casual riding. If you require more support, a wakeskate-style sneaker, like Slippery’s Switch shoe will foot the bill.
Don’t forget the uppermost part of your body, your head. In summer’s harsh sun eye protection is an absolute must, but all too many of us know that sunglasses often end up on the bottom. Oakley’s H2O Frame is a popular goggle alternative, combining various lens tints with a lens that stops UV rays and glare. The goggle’s open bottom design also guarantees water drains away, rather than build up and restrict your vision. Jettribe and Sea Specs also offer sunglass/goggle hybrids that secure with a handy strap.
Top things off with a hat. Several manufacturers, including Hydro-Turf, make the classic floppy beach hat with drawstring to provide good protection from the sun. Cotton construction can make them heavy and soggy, however, if you plan to get really wet. If that’s the case, check out Dakine, which offers a number of surf and water hats made from quick-drying fabrics that also offer SPF sun protection and include straps to make sure they stay on at speed.
And finally, never leave home in the summer without the most important summer gear of all — sunscreen. One of my favorites continues to be Coppertone Sport, which stays on through both water and sweat. The newest formulations of the brand also promise to actually fortify your skin’s natural antioxidant defenses, which can be depleted during sun exposure.
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