Choosing the right wetsuit for you can be a tricky process if you don’t know what you are looking for. Without the correct guidance or experience it would be easy to pick a wetsuit based purely on style, much as you would a t-shirt. Although style is worthy of consideration, there are factors that play a far more important role. From enhanced warmth to great comfort and flexibility, each wetsuit has a variety of different features which all perform in different ways. Find the right wetsuit for your sport by exploring our wetsuit guide!
1. Choosing a Wetsuit
There are a number of factors that need to be considered when choosing the right wetsuit for you. This can include such aspects as the wetsuit thickness, zip entry as well as the seams and stitching. Picking the right combination will form the basis for choosing the right wetsuit.
Thicker neoprene wetsuits are best for water temperatures of 15°C and below. A nice toasty 5/4/3 is the safest option especially if you plan on surfing early morning swell or later in the evening when the sun offers a little less heat. Boots, gloves and a hood are advisable too if you're heading out in the winter water!
For water temperatures of15°C to 25°C, a full length summer suit or a shorty is the ideal option. A full length summer suit will give you a little extra warmth in cooler water and a shorty is perfect for giving you just enough warmth without cooking you when the sun climbs during the day.
Mens Summer Wetsuits
Womens Summer Wetsuits
Mens Winter Wetsuits
Womens Winter Wetsuits
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2. What Type Of Wetsuits Are There?
There are three main different types of wetsuits which are common-place for water-goers. These wetsuits all provide their own unique benefits which enable you to perform best in the sport you do. The different types of wetsuits include full-length summer wetsuits, full length winter wetsuits and shorty half-length wetsuits. Find out their purpose and different features below.
FULL LENGTH SUMMER WETSUITS
Standard full length summer wetsuits tend to generally have a thickness of around 3/2mm, with the 3 referring to the thickness around the torso, as this is where you need warmth most, due to your vital organs. The 2 will generally refer to the thickness in the legs and arms. The reason this number is lower is because you need flexibility to paddle and swim in the water so thicker neoprene will hinder your movement and tire you out faster.
Summer suits usually incorporate flat lock stitching which involves overlapping two pieces of neoprene and then stitching the seam together. This zigzag stitching method used because the holes left by the stitching makes them more breathable and cooler to wear.
FULL LENGTH WINTER WETSUITS
Full length winter wetsuits usually have a thickness of 5/3mm and above. The 5 refers to the thickness of the neoprene around the torso, where you need warmth the most and the 3 refers to the thickness around areas such as the arms and legs, allowing for greater flexibility for easier movement in the water. Occasionally there will be a middle number for example 5/4/3, which usually refers to the thickness of the neoprene around the thighs etc. for a bit of extra warmth.
The seams are an important factor for winter suits, most come with glued and blind seams, so called because the neoprene is glued together at the edge of the panels with a stitch that doesn't go all the way through the neoprene, resulting in a watertight and flexible seam.
SHORTY HALF-LENGTH WETSUITS
Shorty wetsuits are often reserved only for use in the summer (depending on the water temperature!). As the name suggests unlike 'full' wetsuits they cover only the torso, upper arms, and thighs, allowing for unrestricted movement of the limbs for paddling and swimming.
Like most summer suits the seams used are flat lock which is strong and great for flexibility in warmer water, however due to the stitch penetrating through the neoprene it means that in colder water you will feel it a lot quicker.
3. What Wetsuits Are There For Beginners and Kids?
As a beginner you or your child is unlikely to be entering the seas in the winter, especially in the UK. Therefore, we’ve come up with come up with a list of recommendations for beginners who will be entering the seas around the British Isles during the summer where seas, on average, range between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius.
For these conditions we would recommend a shorty or full length wetsuit as it will provide you or your child with the perfect amount of insulation.
A wetsuit of 1/2mm or 3/2mm will provide more than enough insulation for such conditions. Wetsuits with this neoprene thickness also provide great flexibility and breathability, meaning that young children can wear them without it affecting their ability to play on the beach.
WETSUIT ERGONOMICS AND FITTING
A wetsuit that has an ergonomic design with anti-rub design are best for beginners as they are much more comfortable and means you or your child will wear them for longer. Full length suits should also have knee pads to help protect them from irritation and abrasions when learning to surf.
RECOMMENDED WETSUIT ACCESSORIES
Boots and gloves are recommended accessories for those who feel the cold. They will also provide protection and further grip which is really useful for those just learning to surf for the first time. A hood can also be worn by beginners to help stay warm, but they should be worn with caution as they may make you less aware of your surroundings.
4. What Wetsuits Are Best For Intermediate/Advanced Riders?
Intermediate and advanced surfers, bodyboarders and triathletes will require the similar wetsuit requirements to that of beginners who will be surfing in the summer and autumn months. Hardened sea-goers will also brave the sea in the winter months, which will sea temperatures drop dramatically to a 6 to 8 degrees Celsius average across the British Isles. As a result, you need the right gear to keep you warm and able to stay in the sea comfortably for as long as you want.
During colder conditions a full length wetsuit will be required in order to lock in body heat.
A wetsuit of 5/4mm is thick enough to contend with the harshest of winter temperatures. In addition to the ability to keep you warm, these wetsuits provide a good amount of flexibility, perfect for body boarders, triathletes and surfers.
WETSUIT ERGONOMICS AND FITTING
Just like a beginner, a wetsuit needs to have an ergonomic fit and anti-rub areas to prevent irritation that could be heightened in colder weathers. Knee pads will also help to prevent bruising to vulnerable areas.
Boots, gloves, and a hood are an absolute must in cold weather conditions. They will prevent swollen hands and feet, which if become numb can prematurely end a session out on the waves. A hood will prevent irritation to the ears in cold weather and water, also known as surfers’ ear.
5. What Size Wetsuit Should I Get?
To get the best fit, you should ensure that it’s as tight to the skin as possible and prevents water flushing through the arm, leg, and neck openings. Stopping a wetsuit from completely filling with water ensures the finest possible warmth and comfort. For most people sizing will be based on your height and chest size, women can also base can base their wetsuit size on dress size, but again it must be close fitting otherwise you will lose the suits insulating properties. If in doubt, measure yourself to get your precise dimensions.
The close fitting of the suit may make you feel restricted around the neck but don't worry, many wetsuits come with anti- rub necklines and cuffs to help combat chaffing and some of our suits come with super stretch neoprene in these areas for added comfort. If you’re still worried about rubbing you can always wear a rash vest underneath your suit to help reduce irritation caused by the combination of wind, wetsuit, and water.
Finding the Perfect Fit
To find the right fit of wetsuit, you’ll need to measure both your height and your chest. To measure the chest, place a tape measure loosely under the arms (over the shoulder blades) around the fullest part of the chest.
To measure height, measure from the top of the head to the ground. Remember to keep feet flat and remove any footwear.
You can find a handy size guide on each of our wetsuits that will help you find the correct size.
6. What Accessories Are Available For A Wetsuit?
There as several items that water enthusiasts should consider to compliment the performance of their wetsuit. Some of these are seasonal like gloves and hoods, and others are for use all year round such as rash vests. Either way it’s always best to be prepared, so here you can find useful information on how to choose the correct accessories to get the most out of your wetsuit and ultimately your session in the water.
Wearing a wetsuit for prolonged periods of time can leave a lasting effect on your skin, no matter how comfortable your suit is they can be prone to rubbing and causing skin irritation. Some people are more prone to this than others but wearing a rash vest can help reduce red and sore skin caused by chaffing wetsuits.
In cold waters a rash vest can be worn underneath a wetsuit to provide an additional layer of insulation whilst in warmer conditions it can be worn as a cooler alternative to a wetsuit. Long sleeve rash vests are particularly good for water men & women who are prone to raw arms caused by wetsuit rub when paddling.
Wetsuit hoods are mostly worn in the winter so if you're planning to charge a massive December swell at your local surf break or take a chilly paddle down the river then a hood is a good way to make sure your cranium is kept warm and avoid that horrible "brain freeze" feeling in the cold water.
When choosing a hood make sure it is a good, close fit, as a baggy hood will fill with water and your sinuses and ears will hate you for it!
In addition to a hood, you might want to consider rubber earplugs that are suitable for water sports as regular exposure to cold water can bring about a rather unpleasant condition known as surfers' ear in which the bone in the inner ear overgrows narrowing the ear canal.
Numb fingers in the winter are a common occurrence for water sports enthusiasts. Wetsuit gloves are a good way to help keep your hands warm in chilly winter breaks and lakes.
Like hoods, gloves should be close fitting to avoid too much cold water entering causing comical ballooned looking glove fingers and, more importantly, freezing cold hands.
WETSUIT BOOTS / SHOES
Boots are a winter surfing essential and can also be worn in warmer water to protect the soles of your feet from rocks and other potentially pain causing objects. Like all wetsuit items, boots should be as tight fitting as comfortably possible to prevent them filling with water, resulting in heavy and cold feet!
For maximum warmth it is a good idea to tuck wetsuit boots in under the leg of your wetsuit (as opposed to wearing them over the top) as this minimises water flushing in and out of the boot.
For warmer weather a reef shoe is a good alternative to a full boot as it is made from thinner neoprene making them cooler to wear whilst still protecting the soles of your feet from unseen rocks.
7. What Makes Up A Complete Wetsuit?
Firstly, we need to understand very briefly how wetsuits work to understand which one is most suitable!
Wetsuits are made mostly from neoprene which provides an insulation to keep your body warm and offer protection from the occasional bumps and bruises when taking part in water sports. Your neoprene wetsuit works by trapping a thin layer of water between the inside of the wetsuit and your body. Your body then warms this layer of water up which keeps you warm whilst in the water.
TYPES OF NEOPRENE
There are two main types of neoprene which are used for wetsuits. Both have their own unique properties.
1. Single lined neoprene/mesh neoprene - Single lined neoprene repels water brilliantly, keeps you warm by reducing wind chill and is easy to put on.
2. Double lined neoprene - Double lined neoprene provides fantastic durability, protection, and warmth.
Just like a hoody or a jacket, the more insulation a wetsuit has, the greater warmth it provides. There are several different thicknesses which a wetsuit can come in, all of which are measured in millimetres.
1. 1mm, 1/2mm, 3mm - Such a thickness is designed for high-energy activities where the wearer is likely to get hot easily. The reduced thickness makes it easier for heat to pass out of the wetsuit and therefore offers great breathability. Naturally these wetsuits have great flexibility and are perfect for warm environments.
2. 5/3mm, 5/4/3mm, 5mm - Wetsuits with this thickness provide a great mid-way point between warmth and flexibility, making them a great all-rounder. If it is some warmth complemented by some flexibility that you require for your sport, these wetsuits are the perfect choice.
3. 7/5mm, 7mm - Great for those bitterly cold days in the middle of winter, these wetsuits help keep all-important body-heat locked in. Although flexibility is greatly reduced, if its warmth you are after this wetsuit thickness is for you.
There are two main types of zip entry for wetsuits, the traditional 'Back zip' and the 'Chest zip'. Both offer benefits and drawbacks which will help make your mind up when it comes to choosing the right wetsuit for your sport.
1. Back zip wetsuits - having a zip leading from the back of the collar to the base of the spine creates a large opening they’re far easier to slip into and zip up. Downsides of back zip wetsuits include reduced flexibility and a looser collar that allows more water to flush through (which on cold days can really wake you up!) Osprey wetsuits with a back zip partially eliminate the problem by using a special Velcro collar section
2. Chest zip wetsuits - have a flap across the chest that creates a smaller opening and improves flexibility. Getting into chest entry suits might prove a little trickier than a back zip but the pay dividends in the colder water as they seal your suit better than a back zip, and feature an unbroken collar reinforced by a secure button, allowing less water to seep through. The neoprene soon acclimatises to body shape so that they’re progressively easier to put on.
SEAMS & STITCHING
There are three main types of stitching which are used in wetsuit construction. Depending on the type of stitching used, it will affect the number of holes placed in the neoprene. Holes will inevitably let water through the neoprene and will offer breathability. Less holes will provide warmth but less breathability.
1. Flat lock stitching - involves overlapping two pieces of neoprene and then stitching the seam together. This zigzag stitching method is traditionally used on summer wetsuits because the holes left by the stitching makes them more breathable and cooler to wear.
2. Glued and blind stitched (GBS) - use Neoprene segments which are glued together and then stitched halfway through the material to make the seam as watertight as possible. Because the stitching doesn't go all the way through the wetsuit or leave any holes the amount of water absorbed is kept to a minimum. Any water trapped inside the wetsuit only serves to warm the body further.
3. Overlock stitching – this is the simplest method of stitching which is often found on summer and beginner wetsuits. Here the two panel edges of the suit are rolled together and then stitched to hold them together. This can cause excess material to be left inside the wetsuit as reduce flexibility.
8. How To Look After Your Wetsuit
Having invested your hard-earned money into your new wetsuit, you want to be aware of the best possible ways to look after it to get the best possible wear out of it, so you're not left stranded on the shore or riverbank when the water sports bug takes over. Here you will find some helpful hints and tips from simple things like the best way get your suit on, to other care aspects, like how to dry it out after use.
HOW TO PUT ON YOUR WETSUIT
The first rule of putting on your suit is, be gentle! Yanking your suit about is a sure-fire way to put undue stress on the neoprene and even tear seams. Start at the bottom with your feet and slowly work your way up to the waist.
1. For helping with the thankless task of getting your feet through the leg openings is to put a plastic bag on your foot and simply slide it through.
2. Once the suit is up to the waist adjust it so that the bottom half fits correctly over your legs, before rolling the rest of the suit up the body and putting your arms through. This again will avoid you over stressing seams.
3. You're in! Now before you do the zipper up make sure the suit is fitted correctly before you seal yourself in. This will result in less stress being placed on the seams. You should avoid forcing the zip on your suit as it will be costly to repair; slowly and smoothly is always the best way!
HOW TO TAKE OFF YOUR WETSUIT
1. Work in the reverse of putting on your wetsuit and take your time. Try not to pull too much on the suit if it is being stubborn, as this can result in torn neoprene and blown seams.
2. Peel your suit off and leave it inside out, as it this will again cause less stress on seams and is better for drying out after use.
HOW TO DRY YOUR WETSUIT
1. Before you dry your wetsuit out fully, rinse it with cold, clean, fresh water (the sooner after use the better). This is especially important after use in salt water as the salt retained in the suit can dry the neoprene out reducing its elasticity and causing corrosion to the seams which will impair the lifespan of the suit.
2. Leave your suit to air dry inside out but keep it out of direct sunlight. It might sound a bit tricky, but heat is not good for the health of your suit and too much direct sunlight will dry the neoprene out withering the material. Hanging your suit up by the shoulders is not advisable as this can cause problems with shoulder seams. The best way to hang it out to dry is to put it through a large plastic coat hanger or over the washing line by the waist. Avoid using metal hangers as these can rust and result in staining. Flip the suit the right way round once the inside is dry to dry the outside properly as well.
3. NEVER EVER dry your suit in a tumble dryer! This is a guaranteed way to kill your wetsuit!
4. When storing your wetsuit away it is best to place it in an area away from direct sunlight that is cool and dry. Make sure the suit is fully dry before placing it on a large wide non-metal hanger to support the shoulders properly. Hanging a suit that is still wet this way will result in stretching. Make sure any Velcro fastenings are done up as this will help avoid abrasions on the neoprene.
THINGS TO AVOID DOING WITH YOUR WETSUIT!
1. Folding it up and storing it when wet. This will result in a pretty ripe stench emanating from the neoprene and possibly mould growing on your suit. In severe cases of mould this will sentence your wetsuit to the skip!
2. Using harsh chemical cleaners will ruin the neoprene drying it out and severely reducing lifespan. Using hot water to rinse out your suit can also dissolve the glue in the seals.
3. Peeing in your suit! Yes, the waves might be barrelling sweetly, and the white water might be pumping but it’s best to get out of the water to empty your bladder somewhere other than your suit! For one, peeing in your suit will make it stink like something has crawled inside it and died! And two, the acidic properties in urine can corrode the seals and the neoprene, so it’s best not to risk it.
4. Washing your wetsuit in a washing machine will kill your suit!