The Wetsuit Buyers Guide7 comments
When buying a wetsuit, you need to consider a few things before you go shopping. Some of the questions you should be asking yourself are:
- What are the types of wetsuits? Which one would I need?
- What size do I need to buy? What's this MT / XXL stuff?
- I know the water temperature, but which wetsuit is suitable for that temperature?
- What thickness neoprene will I need? how do I tell the thickness by looking?
- Will I need a blindstitched seam? (what the heck is a blindstitched seam?)
If you are surfing in cold water, then you need a good wetsuit, and you should be prepared to pay for it. Good wetsuits are not cheap, but they are well worth the investment. The longer you stay in the water, the more waves you will get. The colder the water, the better the suit. Work your way through our guide and you'll be set for cold water surfing.
A quick check of our the wetsuit terminology guide will help with the lingo.
The Types of Wetsuits
There are a number of different types to choose, from a simple vest through to a fullsuit. They all have pro's and cons, whether it's improved warmth or decreased flexibility. Your choice will depend on the conditions that you will be surfing in. Read more about the different types of wetsuit.
Size and Fit
Fit is incredibly important. (see below) The manufacturers all use the same letter description for their size charts (MT / XL etc.) You'll have to find out your hip, height, chest / bust and waist measurements before you buy. Here are the details:
If you are unsure about the type and thickness of wetsuit you'll need for your local spot, check out the temperature guide. It shows varying degrees of water temperature, and the suggested type and thickness of suit that you'll require to maintain a comfortable temperature while surfing.
Thickness of neoprene
When shopping online, you may be baffled by the lettering of the products, and how the lettering relates to the thickness of neoprene. Well, be baffled no further! Learn the difference between a "6/5/4" and a "3/2", very handy for e-buyers everywhere.
Seams can be stitched and sealed in a number of different ways. Familiarise yourself with methods such as overlocked, blindstitch, flatlock, liquid taped, spot taped and more. The way seams have been stitching and sealed will affect warmth and flexibility.
We cannot stress how important a good fit is. Every wetsuit has a different fit and cut, and one brand's size may not be the same as another. The fit that you find on the size chart might not be suitable for your body shape.
If you can, try before you buy. Bend, stretch, sweep your arms around - it doesn't matter that you'll look like an idiot in the surf shop, but it does matter that you get a great fit. Underarms, the backs of the knees and the groin are all potential trouble spots, so pay particular attention to these areas. (Your own, not other peoples areas —we'd hate to take the blame for giving you licence to study someone else's groin area)
If you have any concerns about fit, or have a "non-average" body shape that may not be suited to an off-the-rack purchase, there is the option of a custom made wetsuit. It's the best way to ensure the correct fit. There are a number of companies that offer a custom service. Check out Snugg and Secondskin in the UK, Aleeda in the US & Australia. The process involves supplying a complete set of your specific measurements, and a one off custom suit to be made, just for you! It's also worth considering a custom because they provide such a good fit.
Do brands really matter? Well, not really. The mainstream manufacturers all use top quality materials and construction techniques. If you are buying from a surf shop, the ranges from the likes of Quiksilver, Rip Curl and O'Neill will all be available. The choice of suit should be down to fit, stretch and suitability, not who made it. In general, you'll have to pay more for the surf brands than you will for a no-name brand from a discount store, but this is a reflection on the quality of the suit. In this case, you get what you pay for.
When It Gets Too Cold
Sometimes you'll need something a little extra to help take the chill off. Buying a warm or titanium rash vest can help with the cold, as will buying booties, gloves, wetsuit socks, and a wetsuit hood. It should be said that some people feel the cold more than others. So use a bit of common sense when consulting temperature guides, and if you feel the cold in general, or would just like a little bit of extra comfort, go for a thicker suit. However, keep in mind that a thicker suit is a less flexible suit.
If you are surfing in extremely cold conditions, then you're going to have to consider something a little different. There are several possible options:
A semi-dry suit; a completely different type of protection. It's not a wetsuit, and works by stopping the cold water from coming into contact with your skin. They are not for the average surfer, and are only for extreme conditions.
A heated suit; there are a couple on the market now. Basically, it's a wetsuit with a heating element that warms the core of the surfer throughout the surf session. Check out the Bomb Series video on the Rip Curl wetsuits page here, which has a section on the H-Bomb, Rip Curl's heated wetsuit.
Heat packs; these are like mini water bottles for a surfer. These are chemical heat packs that fit into a belt worn underneath the wetsuit. Once activated, they remain hot for about an hour. They are re-useable and add a nice bit of comfort.
That's the buyers guide all done and dusted. If you have any questions about anything, get over to the surf hardware forum and make a post. The members of our community are very helpful, and there is already a wealth of information there.
One final thing, we've put together a nice little guide on how to take care of your wetsuit, if you've already got one and would like to look after it.
You Might Also Like
- Wetsuits - How they are made and how they work.
- The Different Types of Surfing Wetsuits
- Wetsuit stitching and seams explained in detail
- Wetsuit Sizing Guide from Surfing Waves
- The thickness of a wetsuit explained
- A List of Wetsuit Terms and Terminology
- Taking care of your wetsuit
- Wetsuit Temperature Guide - make sure you get the right suit
on Jun 25, 2011
|good guide could be a bit more descriptive though|
on Sep 7, 2011
on Sep 21, 2012
on Oct 14, 2012
on Oct 24, 2012
|No PRICE? WHY? o.O ! it's BAD.... |
on Oct 24, 2012
|The price of a wetsuit depends on lots of factors. Brand, thickness, technology, location. Check out some surf shops to get a good idea of the price range.|
on Nov 14, 2012
|How do you test protective flotation device materials (fabric/clothing) to withstand high water pressure (so that it is suitable to use for personal watercrafting)?|