There is a phase in every surfer’s life when they realize the importance of the right gear. Especially, when it comes to wetsuits and feeling warm and comfortable when surfing.
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SURF WETSUIT 101 Buying Guide
Preparation is something that teaches us, the surfers, to be patient, punctual, and dedicated to making the most of what’s out there. Everyone has a story – where they got off work early, rush to the empty point break to see the glassy waves breaking, and as soon as they are about to grab the gear and paddle in…a sudden realization spikes where they’ve left something behind – a wax, sunscreen, boots – or the worst of them all, the whole wetsuit.
We all know how much can the feeling of cold demise our performance in the surf. This guide here is made so that you could make the most of your surfing habits by picking the right gear.
What is a wetsuit?
The wetsuit is a technical garment that keeps the body temperatures to moderation in colder waters. Generally used in waters temperatures anything below 75’F / 24’C.
How does it work? All surfing wetsuits let a small portion of water inside the suit which will be heated up by the body. A neoprene has hundreds of thousands of tiny microscopic bubbles inside the garment for insulation. Instead of air, some materials have been using nitrogen gas to fill up the pores for better insulation.
What is the wetsuit made of?
Today’s surfing wetsuits are made of three materials:
- Neoprene. Polychloroprene
- Limestone Neoprene. Geoprene
1.) Neoprene is a synthetic rubber.
- 65% of water-impermeable
- Elastic synthetic rubber with very good insulating properties
The good: Most wetsuits today are made of Neoprene. Neoprene is affordable and durable.
The bad: Neoprene is made based on oil, which is not ultimately what the surfing movement is all about: eco-friendliness. Some people might be allergic to neoprene or the substances used it as well.
2.) Limestone Neoprene, also known as “Neoprene” is made of limestone
A more eco-friendly choice, compared to oil-based neoprene.
- 98% water impermeable.
- Warmer, more durable.
- Less carbon footprint compared to standard neoprene, although the process of making one is time and energy-consuming.
Limestone is naturally found in the world and there’s an estimated reserve of up to 3000 years to last. Limestone is mined from the earth, heated up to 3600 degrees (twice as much compared to petroleum).
The good: Less carbon footprint, warmer. Lowers the amount of oil being used. More warmth out of a thinner suit means fewer resources made in the creation of the wetsuit. Due to durability, the limestone wetsuits last longer which means fewer suits need to be made. A great alternative choice for anyone who has allergies against standard neoprene wetsuits.
The bad: It’s still not that eco-friendly after all.
3.) Yulex is a plant-based neoprene made of rubber trees.
An eco-friendly choice that minimizes the impact on the environment. Also a great choice for anyone who has allergies to neoprene.
Well known by the premium surf brand Patagonia has designed neoprene-free rubber Yulex for a while by now. Yulex is natural rubber, and Patagonia wetsuits are made out of 85% neoprene-free material. If you’d ask any knowledgeable surfer which is the best and most eco-friendly wetsuits – they’ll most likely point you to Patagonia.
What are wetsuits used for?
Wetsuits are designed to insulate body warmth in cold water. Most used wetsuits are designed for diving and surfing. There are also wetsuits for swimming and snorkeling.
Well designed and the right brand wetsuit is warm, flexible, and stretchy to keep your body warm for hours.
Different Types of Wetsuits
Four main types of wetsuits:
- Scuba Diving Wetsuits – Extra warm, durable, but not very flexible.
- Swimming/Triathlon Wetsuits – Light, extremely flexible.
- Surfing Wetsuits – Flexible, comfortable, and warm.
- Snorkeling Wetsuits – Just a basic layer.
Difference between cheap and a surf-specific wetsuit brand
Beginner surfers might not be as experienced in picking the right technical gear and tend to choose the wetsuit by the price tag only. In reality, cheap wetsuits are cheap. A technical surfing gear, that’s the number one garment around your body that helps you stay in the water for a long time comfortably. Make sure to get an adequately branded wetsuit – if you want to maximize your time in the surf. Especially in climates, where you´ll need a thicker wetsuit than 2mm.
How should a wetsuit fit?
Better fit = warmer suit = more flexibility
As each body is unique, It is recommended to try the brand and model that fits you the most. Many surfers are keen on a specific model for years to tens of years. A wetsuit should fit snug, not too tight, or not too loose. Wetsuits are often somewhat stretchy to have a fair amount of giving in them. Different types of zipper-system will allow you to find the best possible model.
Why are most wetsuits black?
As there’s a wide array of colors that what material wetsuits are made of, black seems to be the color you can not go wrong with. Mass-producing different types of wetsuits colors do not have a high rate of sales success in recent trends. Note, that sharks see in black and white, so a color preference is not helping you get unseen by the men in grey suits. Black colors also have a slimming effect, and it matches everything!
Chapter 1. Wetsuit THICKNESS Temperature Guide Chart
Choosing the right thickness is crucial. As the season’s change – so should your wetsuit. You want to feel warm in the winter and cool in the summer. So make sure you find the most suitable wetsuit in the adequate range, as both overheating and freezing are stopping you from having the best time on the surf. Not to mention the dangers.
Do wetsuits keep you warm?
A properly chosen wetsuit (size + type + optional accessories) will indeed keep your body warm for extended periods of time.
Wetsuit stitching and seams explained:
Wetsuits also have a wide variety of stitching which also determines the final price of the wetsuit. Different types are:
The type of sealing will determine the warmth and durability of a wetsuit. The main types of sealings are: glued, taped, blindstitches, and liquid seam.
- Sealed (COLDWATER surf) – The seams are not only stitched but also glued or sealed with liquid tape. This makes the material stronger and nearly 100% waterproof between the sheets.
- Taped (COLDWATER surf) – The Stitches have been taped inside our outside.
- Flatlock (WARMWATER surf) – Two pieces of neoprene are stitched together.
Surf Wetsuit Temperature Guide chart
Check out the chart to know which wetsuit for which temperature to choose for your needs:
Chapter 2. WETSUIT TYPE Guide
STEAMER – Full-length wetsuit for cold waters. Generally 4/3 to 5/4 thick, with, our without the hood.
SPRINGSUIT – Warm water surf wetsuit. Typically 2mm – 3/2mm thick. Shorties and full suits.
LONG JOHN – Sleeveless, long leg wetsuit for men
LONG JANE – Sleeveless, long leg wetsuit for women
SHORTY – Short leg & short arm wetsuit
SHORT JOHN – Sleeveless, short leg wetsuit for men
SHORT JANE – Sleeveless, short leg wetsuit for women
RASHGUARD – Also known as the rashie or a top, is a basic layer to protect against the UV rays and prevents the chest from getting a rash from the surfboard wax. Long- and short-sleeve models available, without a zip.
Wetsuit JACKET – Up to 0.5mm / 1mm / 2mm layer for that extra core warmth.
Back-Zip | Chest-Zip | Zipless
It is all up to the personal user preference when choosing a wetsuit
- A back-zip wetsuit has the zipper right in the middle of your back. Generally, people prefer back-zip wetsuits due to the ease of use, but dislike them since they were not used to be as waterproof in cold weather, and the water slipped in on constant duck-dives. This is not always the case since most back-zip wetsuits have an extra attachment on the neck nowadays.
+ Larger entrance
+ Adjustable velcro strap
– Chance of the water flush from the neck or zipper area
– Possible neck rash
A wetsuit where the access is through a small hole in the chest area. A chest-zip wetsuit sometimes called the Front-Zip wetsuit is commonly used on cold water surf due to the design that allows minimal water to slip inside the wetsuit. The only drawback might be an unusual way of entering. I think if you are already like a monkey-man and love to surf – you are stretchy enough so that you would not find that as a problem.
+ Flexible, and oneness of the wetsuit due to fewer panels
+ Less flushing
– Small entrance area
– Can be a loose fit around the neck if not tight enough
Chapter 3. Wetsuit CARE
A more profound article found HERE
A wetsuit is a piece of performance clothing that needs proper care to maint its quality. Body oils, saltwater, surfboard wax, and many more factors all soaked together in a waterproof material – do not sound very self-cleansing. Take a look at the recommendations below:
After the surf
- Be gentle when getting in and out of the wetsuit. It is reasonable to take extra time on the process if you don’t want to mess up your zippers or stretch out the seams.
- Once you are done surfing, come out of the wetsuit and leave it inside out.
- Always wash the wetsuit thoughtfully after each session. It is best to leave the wetsuit soaked inside a bucket full of fresh water.
- After the wetsuit has soaked in the water for 10-20mins, take it out of the bucket and rinse it with a hose.
- Try not to use hot water when rinsing, and by hot I mean the one that burns your skin.
- Leave the wetsuit hanging somewhere with enough air ventilation (Out of the sun).
- Also check how do you store your wetsuit, the best one I’ve found is made by thehangpro.
- Once the wetsuit has dried for a reasonable amount of time, turn the wetsuit the right way around so that the outer layers face outwards. That way the wetsuit dries completely and is ready for the next session!
Shampooing the wetsuit
It’s not a bad idea to wash the wetsuit, boots, gloves, and hoods with the proper shampoo and conditioner. Add 2 cups of cleaning liquid and mix it with 1 gallon of water. Leave it there for half an hour, then rinse off the shampoo with clean water. That’s the best you could do to your wetsuit now and then. Probably after every 5-10 times is enough.
Neoprene, a synthetic rubber – that is what wetsuits are made of – needs to be taken care of to maximize the lifespan of your wetsuit.
WOMEN’S – Billabong, Hurley, O’Neill, Patagonia, Rip Curl, Quiksilver, Xcel
MEN’s – Billabong, Hurley, O’Neill, Patagonia, Rip Curl, Quiksilver, Xcel
YOUTH’s – O’Neill, Quiksilver, Roxy, Rip Curl, Billabong
COMPLETE WETSUIT SERIES REVIEWS
Thickness & Size Charts Deals Links Included!
O’Neill REACTOR 2 – O’Neill’s entry-level wetsuit. All the models for Men & Women, Youth, and Toddlers reviewed.
O’Neill EPIC – Best deals on Amazon reviewed.
O’Neill O’RIGINAL – Limited edition overview for Men & Women.
O’Neill HYPERFREAK – Specs & features, all models for Men/Women/Youth.
O’Neill PSYCHO – Check out O’Neill’s #1 wetsuits. Psycho Tech, Psycho One, and Psycho Freak reviewed.
Rip Curl OMEGA – Insight to Rip Curl’s entry-level wetsuit. Best deal links provided!
Rip Curl DAWN PATROL – A wide variety of top-quality suits reviewed under the $200 mark reviewed.
Rip Curl FLASH BOMB / E-BOMB / G-BOMB – Best surf wetsuits Rip Curl has to offer – and there’s plenty of them!
Billabong FURNACE – Absolute, Revolution, Revolution Pro, Comp, Ultra, Synergy, and Carbon surf wetsuit specs, features reviewed!
- BEST SHORTY SURF SPRING SUITS – All the different types and models in 2021 reviewed by the best surf brands!
- BEST WOMEN’S SURFING WETSUITS – Best models reviewed by the best surf brands of today. Features and technology explained
- O’NEILL WOMEN’S WETSUITS – All the O’Neill women’s surf wetsuits reviewed
- HIGH-END 3/2 SPRING SUITS – 5 best models reviewed
- O’NEILL MENS WETSUITS – A complete range reviewed
- BILLABONG MEN’S SURF WETSUITS – All the best models reviewed
- ZIPLESS WETSUITS FOR MEN – 2/2, 3/2, 4/3 premium models reviewed
BEST YOUTH’S SURF WETSUITS – Take a look at what there’s to grab from the boys and girls surfing wetsuits.
BOOTS, HOODS, GLOVES
Best Wetsuit Boots – Check out the main types with size and thickness recommendations!
WETSUIT MAINTENANCE – How to wash, repair, and store your wetsuit.
I created Nulltuul to share my experience, research and analysis with other surf enthusiasts out there. If I'm not surfing on my travels - I like to photograph waves, surfers, and the surf lifestyle in general.