When choosing a wetsuit, I make sure that the thickness matches the water temperature. The warmer I stay, the more energy I have for catching waves. And that's what it's all about.
Wetsuits are made of neoprene. This material offers great advantages: it is very elastic, insulating and protects your skin from injuries and UV radiation. Just perfect for surfing!
Choosing the right wetsuit depends on the conditions. For example, you will need a very different setup for surfing in tropical Bali than you would in the frigid North Sea or cooler Atlantic Ocean. Think about where you are going to surf then pick a wetsuit to suit the conditions.
In tropical climates, you can do without neoprene. Grab slim fit lycras or loose cut surf tees instead. These lightweight tops are easy to put on and they protect you from sunburn and rashes from your surfboard's wax. Another plus: you can throw them in the washing machine after surfing.
In warmer climates, you can still cool down if you stay in the water for a long time. Wear Springsuits and shorties or layer up with neoprene tops, vests, shorts or surf leggings to keep warm.
We recommend these for water temperatures under 23°C.
These classic wetsuits have a wide field of use, depending on their thickness, seam construction, wind repellency and lining. The arms and legs are long and special cold-water models even have hoods. Full suits offer the best protection and are a must in colder waters.
The colder the water, the thicker suit you'll need. Neoprene thickness is measured in millimetres and listed in most product names as numbers separated by slash: /. The first number relates to the torso and the second to the limbs. For example, a 4/3 wetsuit is 4 mm thick on the torso and 3 mm on arms and legs. Usually, the material around the torso is thicker, while it is thinner around areas of the body, which require more mobility. This combination guarantees the ideal mix of warmth and flexibility.
Check out this rough guideline to help you choose what to wear in different water temperatures.
|Water temperature||Wetsuit style|
|Over 23°C||Rashguard and boardshorts|
|19 - 23°C||Springsuit or shorty|
|15 - 20°C||3/2 wetsuit|
|12 - 17°C||4/3 wetsuit + booties|
|9 - 13°C||5/3 or 5/4 wetsuit + booties + hood|
|under 9°C||6/4 wetsuit + booties + hood|
Springsuits and shorties designed for warmer waters so they use the thinnest neoprene. Models differ in thickness, sleeve and leg lengths, so it’s easy to find an option that works best for you. One thing they all have in common: they keep your core warm and they stay in place – no matter how big the wave. We recommend these for long surf sessions in water between 19 and 23 °C.
Suits with a thickness of 3/2 mm are the most commonly sold wetsuits. These summer suits are ideal for water temperatures between 15°C and 20°C. A 3 mm suit with a good thermal lining and wind-repellent neoprene will also serve you well in colder regions.
With a 4/3 mm you can enjoy surfing on colder days. These suits keep you warm but still provide great flexibility. Optional gloves, booties and hoods with a similar thickness will keep your hands, feet and head warm.
If you are a cold-water enthusiast, suits with thicknesses around 5/3 mm, 5/4 mm or even 6/4 mm will work for best you. Combine these winter suits with accessories to keep heat loss as low as possible. Remember: You can cool yourself down easily by opening your suit when you got too hot – but it is hard to warm up once you got too cold.
It is important that your wetsuit fits snuggly. If it fits too tightly, it will restrict your movement. If it is too loose more water will get inside your suit, cool you down, increase drag and make it more difficult to paddle. To prevent water flushing, you should ensure that the neck and cuff openings are tight.
Each brand differs in their fits and sizes. Luckily, they give very detailed size charts making it easier to choose a suit perfect for your body shape.
Checking the brand specific size chart will save you a lot of time as you don't have to try on too many wetsuits.
Some brands also have intermediate sizes to help your selection. These are given by the manufacturers as “short” or “tall” which reflect the height while the regular sizes refer to a standard body shape. An MT is a medium wetsuit in the tall version. If you are tall and slim, you should opt for a MT size.
Zips help you to get in and out of your suit. They sound like a small detail but they make a big difference.
The four zip options really work well under different conditions.
Back zips open from the neck to the lower back. The large opening allows you to dress and undress quickly making it the perfect option for beginners. The zipper material is less flexible and less water-resistant than neoprene - so we recommend this system for milder climates.
A front zip opens from the top of your neck to the bottom of your torso. The opening allows you to climb into the top of the suit with ease. Front zip systems are designed for warmer waters and typically found on springsuits and are more common for women.
Chest zip wetsuits are more flexible and warm due to the continuous neoprene across the shoulders and back. They are a little fiddlier to put on, but they will give you with better insulation from the cold.
The small opening makes no zip wetsuits harder to get in, but the unrestricted flexibility makes them the most comfortable system for surfing. Leading brands pair this system with their best neoprene to create top performance wetsuits. If you are looking to spend a long time in the water, this is the premium option.
Seams are becoming more watertight, durable and flexible for more comfortable wetsuits. With high-quality suits, seams are strategically absent from areas that require the most flexibility and clever panelling promotes an anatomic fit.
Some wetsuits are can also feature insulating and quick-drying linings to ensure the great warmth without compromising on flexibility.
This is a very flexible and strong seam found on summer suits. The panels of the wetsuits are stitched through the neoprene. This seam is designed to let water in to prevent overheating in warmer regions.
For this seam technology, the neoprene panels are first glued together and then blind stitched through the glued area. With this technique, the material is only sewn from one side which doesn’t cause any needle hole through the neoprene resulting in a more water-resistant seam. Some brands glue and blind-stitch multiple times to make the seam stronger, more durable and even more water-resistant.
Additional taping and liquid sealing are other technologies to further reinforce GBS seams.
Stretchy, lightweight tapes are glued to the inside of the seam to advance comfort, durability and water-resistance. Seams can be spot taped in high-stress areas or fully taped.
Liquid sealing is the ultimate method to create leak-free seams. This seam reinforcement lets the least water through so is essential for cold water surfing.
For heat retention wetsuits are equipped with a partial or full thermal lining. These are stretchy, lightweight, water-repellent and fast drying. Advanced lining technologies increase the insulating properties so much that wetsuits with thinner neoprenes can now be used in colder waters.
Reinforced knees make your suit last longer and add a second protective layer. This is beneficial for take-offs, especially for beginners.
Sometimes when you're surfing you need a little extra protection. Booties, hoods and gloves compliment your wetsuits to keep your extremities warm.
For surfing reef spots special reef booties are ideal. The sturdy rubber sole protects your feet from reef cuts, sea urchins and other dangers from the sea. Thin neoprene and mesh ensure that you don’t overheat.
Thicker neoprene booties (3 - 5 mm) are great for cold water surfing. Since your feet have the most contact with the water they cool down quickly. Booties also add grip with their non-slip soles.
Gloves are another helpful addition to your winter setup. They are available as mittens, 3-finger models or 5-finger version. Mittens are comparably the warmest, however, they do limit fine motor skills.
Hoods provide protection against cold wind and water. Depending on the outside and water temperature you can choose between different models.