What to look for in a Wetsuit


So you’ve never bought, or maybe never even worn, a wetsuit before and you’re wondering what to look for in a wetsuit. When looking at how to buy a wetsuit, there are many important features to consider. We suggest narrowing the choice down in the following order of priority:

  1. Type of wetsuit
  2. Thickness of neoprene
  3. Zipper system
  4. Other important features

 

1. Type of Wetsuit

Springsuit (i.e. springy or shorty)

Design: Short arms and legs


This wetsuit is designed for spring/summer conditions as it does not cover the forearms or lower legs.


Pros:

  • Better mobility in the arms and legs than a steamer.
  • Does not cause you to overheat in spring/summer.

Cons:

  • Not warm enough for winter conditions.
  • Does not offer protection from the sun/wind on the forearms and lower legs.

Steamer (i.e. full length wetsuit)

Design: Long arms and legs


This wetsuit is designed for winter conditions and provides the most warmth of all the types of wetsuits.


Pros:

  • Keeps you warm in winter.
  • Entire body is protected from the sun/wind.

Cons:

  • Less mobility in the arms and legs than a springsuit.
  • May cause you to overheat in spring/summer.

Wetsuit Top (i.e. wetsuit jacket)

Design: Long sleeve top


This wetsuit is essentially a top made of neoprene and is designed for spring/summer.


Pros:

  • Keeps the wind and sun off in spring/summer.
  • Can be worn with your favourite pair of boardshorts.

Cons:

  • Not warm enough for winter conditions.
  • Does not offer protection from the sun/wind on lower legs.

 

2. Thickness of Wetsuit

The thickness of a wetsuit determines how warm it will be. The thicker the neoprene, the warmer the wetsuit.


What do the numbers mean in a wetsuit thickness (e.g. 3:2)?


The 1st number is the thickness of the neoprene around your chest and torso.

The 2nd number is the thickness of the neoprene around your arms and legs.

Example: 3:2 is 3mm around the chest and 2mm around the arms & legs.


When you buy a wetsuit, the right thickness for you will depend on the ocean temperature at the location you’ll be surfing. We have provided a wetsuit thickness guide for California, Florida & New York below.

 

3:2


Summer

Fall

Winter

Spring

California

X

Florida

X

X

X

New York

X


4:3

 

Summer

Fall

Winter

Spring

California

X

Florida

X

X

X

X

New York

X


5:3

 

Summer

Fall

Winter

Spring

California

X

X

X

Florida

X

X

X

X

New York

X

X

X

 

3. Zipper System in Wetsuit

Back Zip

The back zip is the original zipper system in a wetsuit. The zipper is located on your back and a long strip of material is attached to the zipper which you grab and pull to zip up the suit.


Pro:

  • Easy to get in and out of the wetsuit.

Con:

  • Allows more water into the wetsuit compared to chest and no zip wetsuits.

Chest Zip (recommended)

As the name suggests, a chest zipper system has a zip located across the chest of the wetsuit. 


Pro:

  • Allows less water into the wetsuit compared to back zip wetsuits.

Con:

  • Can be a little tricky to get the wetsuit on and off.

No Zip

This wetsuit has no zipper at all.


Pro:

  • Allows less water into the wetsuit compared to back zip wetsuits.

Con:

  • Very difficult to get on and off.

 

4. Other Important Features of a Wetsuit


Glued and Blindstitching (GBS)

This stitching technique is such common practice in wetsuit manufacturing these days that some wetsuit companies may not even feel the need to mention it in their product descriptions. However, for your information, the technique involves glueing the edges of two neoprene panels together and then stitching them in such a way that the stitch never breaks through the surface of the neoprene so that the stitch can not be seen (hence the term “blindstitch”).


Taped Seams

Many wetsuits have iron or neoprene tape on the inside of the wetsuit covering the stitching. The purpose of the tape is to reinforce the stitching and also prevent any further water leaking into the suit.


Quality of Neoprene

The quality of the neoprene is possibly the most important attribute of a high-quality, comfortable wetsuit but also the most difficult feature to assess without touching and feeling the wetsuit. Limestone neoprene is one term you may read about which means, that instead of using dirty petroleum based ingredients, the neoprene is produced from calcium carbonate from limestone. Another indicator of high quality neoprene is if it is sourced from Japan. The Japanese have a long history of producing some of the warmest and flexible neoprene in the world.

 

Keypocket 

Some wetsuits may have a built-in keypocket with rope to tie your key to. Whether or not you need this in your wetsuit is up to you and your key-carrying preferences.


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