The Best Wetsuit for Spearfishing and Freediving Vancouver Island

Deciding which wetsuit to get for freediving or spearfishing Vancouver Island?

Read on to quickly learn what wetsuit thickness and wetsuit type is best for freediving and spearfishing in BC, Vancouver Island and the Pacific Northwest (PNW).

For recreational snorkelers, our full guide to snorkeling Vancouver Island should answer all your snorkeling questions.


TL;DR: Best Wetsuit for Spearfishing and Freediving Vancouver Island

Long story short, for spearfishing or free diving in BC, you’ll need a 7mm hooded two-piece open-cell wetsuit like the Wettie Reef or Cressi Seppia.

It is possible to get thicker wetsuits and some people might be comfortable in thinner. However, by far the most popular wetsuit thickness worn by spearfishers and free divers in and around the Island are 7mm two-piece open-cell wetsuits.

Avoid zippered wetsuits to prevent water flushing and chest constriction during breath-holding.

Gloves and booties (open-cell or closed cell) are essential. Some people might be comfortable with 5mm for gloves and booties but if you can find 7mm gloves and booties you will enjoy your time in the water much more and decrease the oxygen demand caused by shivering or cold extremities.

Which specific wetsuit or booties you choose depends largely on what type of diving you do most and your budget.

If you are on the island and looking for a wetsuit in Victoria, BC check out East 2 West Freediving for the largest selection of affordable open-cell wetsuits on Vancouver Island.

See below for details on what to look for in a wetsuit for spear fishing in BC or freediving Vancouver Island in general.


Wetsuits for Freediving and Spearfishing Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is one of North America’s premiere spearfishing, freediving and scuba diving locations. The abundance and diversity of aquatic life make the Island a true hidden gem for freedivers, spearfishers, snorkelers and divers of all levels.

The water, however, can be cold for divers not accustomed to spear fishing in BC. Average summer sea temperatures below the surface range from 10-18°C (50-65°F) depending on dive location. While winter sea temperatures usually sit between 6-9°C (43-48°F).

To fully enjoy the best spearfishing and freediving experience in Canada, it’s essential you have the right wetsuit.

Note: For people not trained in free diving or spearfishing, there is still lots of life to see from the surface. Snorkeling around Vancouver Island is a great low-commitment way to experience everything our waters have to offer.


Snorkeling Vancouver Island 

Remember, for snorkeling you still need a thick open-cell wetsuit if you plan on spending longer than a few minutes in the water.

We recommend a 5-7mm two-piece open-cell wetsuit for snorkeling in BC. You’ll also need gloves, booties and a hood but can get away with more budget options as you won’t be using them as vigorously as your freediving and spear fishing counterparts.

Check out our full guide to snorkeling Vancouver Island for more details.


What is the Best Wetsuit for Freediving and Spearfishing Vancouver Island?

Freedivers and spearfishers around Vancouver Island commonly opt for a 7mm two-piece hooded open-cell wetsuit in a farmer-john style. For those seeking a versatile suit for both winter and summer, this is the ideal thickness wetsuit.

Two of the most popular 7mm two-piece suits are the Wettie Reef and the Seac Black Shark.

While some divers may wear a 5mm in the hottest summer months, the majority, including myself, prefer using 7mm wetsuits year-round.

There are also freedivers who choose 9mm open-cell suits or a combination of a 9mm top with 7mm bottoms.

Keep in mind, gloves and booties are essential; most divers select either 5mm or 7mm options, available in open-cell or closed cell. Which you choose will depend on your baseline cold tolerance and what type of diving you plan to do most frequently (more on how to choose below).

Note: If you are scuba diving you might get away with a 7mm or 9mm open cell suit on shorter dives, but most scuba divers on Vancouver Island wear full dry suits.

People looking for a cold water wetsuit for surfing Vancouver Island will want at least a 4mm or 5mm hooded wetsuit for winter with gloves and booties. In summer some surfers go thinner, but I personally wear a 6.5 Isurus hooded all year (hood off in the summer).

Choosing a Cold Water Wetsuit That’s Best for You

Now that you have an idea of what thickness wetsuit is best for freediving Vancouver Island, let’s take a look at how to choose the specific wetsuit for your needs when diving Vancouver Island or similar cold water locations.

For full details on how to choose a wetsuit for any environment, check out our detailed guide How to Choose a Wetsuit: The Complete Guide for Freedivers and Spearfishers. 

The main choices you’ll make when choosing a wetsuit for spearfishing or freediving cold water like Vancouver Island are:

• Wetsuit thickness
• Farmer-johns or high waistband
• Hood or no hood
• Gloves and booties
• Durability
• Smooth skin


What Wetsuit Thickness for Vancouver Island?

As mentioned above, most freedivers and spearfishers use 7mm open-cell wetsuits for diving around the Island.

In another article, we discuss the differences between open-cell and closed cell wetsuits.

What you need to know, however, is that open-cell suits are warmer but more fragile on the inside. They need a little more care and you will need some kind of lube like Slippy to help get the suit on.

On average, below the surface water temperatures on Vancouver Island are as follows:

Winter 6-9°C (50-65°F)
Summer 10-18°C (43-48°F)


Water Temperatures Can Vary Around Vancouver Island 

Regardless of the season or recommendations, correct wetsuit thickness doesn’t depend solely on water temperature. Finding the best wetsuit thickness for you is also influenced by where and how deep you are planning to dive, as well as the weather conditions outside of the water.

For example, water temperature off Ucluelet might be 13°C. While temperatures in Saanich Inlet on the same day could be as high as 19 or 20°C.

In addition, most places around Vancouver Island will have a thermocline around 10-20 meters where the temperature can drop as many as 1-5°C.

Another consideration, although the sea temperature increases dramatically in summer, the outside environmental temperature can still be cold. Summer months on Vancouver Island can be chilly with high winds.

Surface time in colder or windier conditions will make your dive colder overall.

So, if you are line diving or going to any depth, it is worth while to go with a slightly thicker suit that what is usually recommended for both the thermocline and your time on the surface.

Tip: Whenever possible, try wetsuits on before buying. There is a big difference between brands and styles as well as wetsuit thickness. Most reputable freediving shops like East 2 West Freediving will allow you to try suits on in the store.


Farmer-johns or High Waistband Wetsuits 

The two main styles of two-piece open-cell wetsuits are farmer-john or high-waist.

Functionally, farm-john wetsuits are warmer, giving you an extra layer of neoprene around your chest and abdomen. This means with a 7mm wetsuit you have up to 14mm or neoprene around your chest (some suit manufacturers put a slightly thinner neoprene around the upper farmer-john).

Farmer-john style suits also tend to flush less than high-waisted wetsuits.

On the other hand, high-waisted wetsuits are much easier to take on and off—especially if you are in a hurry to make a mid-dive pit stop—and are usually slightly more affordable.


Hood or No Hood 

For the most part, even for warm or tropical water wetsuits, freediving and spear fishing wetsuits come with a built in hood.

The other option is to get a non-hooded wetsuit and use a removable hood whenever the water is below you comfort level temperature.

Unless you are on an extremely tight budget, we do not recommend a non-hooded wetsuit for spearfishing Vancouver Island. Without a hood, the water here would be unbearable for longer than a few minutes.


Gloves and Booties

Similar to wetsuit hoods, gloves and booties are a must-have when freediving in BC.

Most people wear 5-7mm gloves and booties.

Divers who get cold easily may want to get open-cell gloves and booties rather than closed-cell. Keep in mind, open-cell is more fragile than closed-cell.

Personally, I wear open-cell gloves with closed-cell booties. Most of the freediving in BC is shore diving from rocky points full of barnacles and mussels. This means your booties get beat up quickly, so having closed-cell will help them last longer.

If you are looking for a super robust spearfishing bootie, check out the Wettie Workhorse.

Keep in mind, when buying thicker or more robust booties, this will add to your foot size. When possible try your foot pockets on with the booties you will be wearing in the water.

Freedivers can get away with low cost gloves like the Cressi High Stretch.  in the right thickness. Spearfishers or harvesters will be better off with sturdier glove like the Wettie Kevlar.


Wetsuit Durability

Now that you know what thickness and type of wetsuit to get for spearfishing Vancouver Island, you’ll need to find the brand and style that fits you best.

Some suits like the Wettie Ocean Armour are built to last with reinforced seams, knees, elbows and bum material.

While other wetsuits like the Seac Black Shark are more budget friendly but lack the focus on durability.

Remember, it is advantageous to try on a wetsuit before buying. If you are looking for a wetsuit in Victoria, BC the team at East 2 West Freediving will get you into as many wetsuits as needed to find the right one.

Things to look for when picking out a wetsuit:

• Reinforced seams
• Durability features at the knees, elbows, bum
• Face, ankle, wrist seals

Smooth Skin 

When you start researching freediving and spear fishing wetsuits, you’ll inevitably come across smooth skin wetsuits.

Read our full guide to choosing a wetsuit to learn more about smooth skin wetsuits.

In general, smooth skin suits are not used on Vancouver Island or when spearfishing BC. Smooth skin wetsuits are extremely fragile and prone to tears.

They are however, much warmer in and out of the water, offer reduced friction with the water and dry quicker.



What wetsuit for spearfishing Vancouver Island?

If you plan on spearfishing Vancouver Island or freediving BC in general, look for at least a 7mm open-cell wetsuit.

A two-piece farmer John style suit with a hood is the warmest option. Remember, you need gloves and booties as well. Some people wear 5mm gloves and booties or a combination of 5mm gloves and 7mm booties.

What wetsuit for snorkeling Vancouver Island?

When you’re snorkeling you are constantly moving and don’t go below the thermocline so you can sometimes get away with a slightly thinner wetsuit.

Still for BC waters, especially in winter, your best bet is a 7mm open cell wetsuit. If you are on a budget, a 5mm open cell will work or a 6mm surf wetsuit with a hood—but you won’t be able to stay in the water much longer than 20-30 minutes before getting cold.

Regardless, even for snorkeling, you still need gloves, booties and a hood.

Where to get Wetsuits Victoria BC?

There are a handful of well stocked shops in Victoria for both free divers and scuba divers.

East 2 West Freediving with a focus on freediving, spearfishing and snorkeling—offers a massive selection and the best range of prices. They can get you fully set up from suit to gloves, booties, mask, fins and everything in between.

East 2 West Freediving is also the only shop in Victoria where you can try on open-cell wetsuits before buying.

For purely scuba, try Frank Whites Dive Store, Rockfish Divers or Wilson Diving.

Vancouver Island is one of the best cold water spearfishing and freediving locations in the world.

To get the most out of your experience in BC’s lively waters—take the time to get the right wetsuit.

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