What is there to know?
So a little background knowledge on surfing wetsuits first.
Jack Oneil Is the man that let us have the endless winter. He pretty much invented the surfing wetsuit.
Although the concept was developed by a guy named Hugh Bradner. Bradner had the idea that a thin layer of trapped water, or more accurately trapped bubbles between a piece of fabric and skin would heat up to skin temperature as long as their was some insulation in the fabric.For the full story go to wikipedia.
Oneil is the guy, mainly cause he is a surfer.
He also was the guy with the first Surfshop or so I’m told.
Lets start with thickness as in how thick is the material.
Surfing wetsuits are measured in millimeters. And the thicker the wetsuit the warmer it will be. For instance a suit that has a thickness of 3/2mm (the first number “3” represents-in millimeters the thickness of the body or torso while the second number “2” represents the limbs-legs and arms.) will be warmer then a 2mm. and a 4/5 will be warmer then a 4/3.
One thing to note though is that the thicker the wetty the less flexible it will be, however with wetsuit material advancements even the thicker suits are pretty flexible.
Now it will be hard to tell the difference, flex wise, between a 3/2 and 4/3 but step up to a a 6mm and you can tell the difference.
So what thickness should you wear? that depends on the water temp you will be surfing in. Most manufacturers will give you a guide on what each wetsuit is intended for: cold,cool warm etc. but here is a temp/wetsuit guide none the less.
- Tropical water–no wetsuit needed just a rash guard or t-shirt for some sun protection.
- Water temp in the low 70’s F / 20’s C you might think about a shorty/spring wetsuit.
- Mid to high 60’s F/ 18C and you will want a 3/2mm full suit maybe a shorty,spring suit.
- Low 60’s F/ 16C definitely want a 4/3 mm maybe some booties.
- Anything in the 50’s/ 12c get a 5/3 its better to stay warm especially if you surf all the time. And booties. No booties and you will get colder faster and your feet will wind up feeling like a couple of stumps. Trust me I know.
- Low 50’sF/10C and lower 6/5/or 5/3 but you want to be wearing booties and a hood with gloves. This is cold cold water.
Neoprene is King
Different types of Neoprene:
When talking surf wetsuits there is Standard neoprene and Super Stretch neoprene.
How much of each type of neoprene is used in the wetsuit will effect the price.
You can get wetsuits with varying percentages of super stretch and standard neoprene.
Ex. 30% super stretch covers Back, shoulders and arms( the standard for surfing) will be the lowest cost.
60% goes down to the knees.100% all super stretch will be the most flexible and generally fit the best but it will cost an arm an a leg. but if you got the k then go for it, its worth it.
There are bunch of other technical terms used to describe wetsuits, most are just marketing tricks.
From what I understand all the neoprene comes form the same place which means each brand will have the same material, except for the enviro wetsuit lines like the Patagonia wetsuit line which uses the highest quality Japanese neoprene – made from 80% non-petroleum based ingredients – which has a 98% higher closed cell ratio than other neoprene.
A lot of Techno speak-who knows about closed cells- but if its a good suit and reduces the negative impact on ocean and land then I say buy it.
There are three types of seams that are good for surfing.
- Flatlock stitching: some water will get through but wont give you much of a rash (theoretically)
- Sealed: this means the seams are glued and stitched. Less water will get through.
- Sealed and Taped: same as above but with tape. Very little if any water will seep through the seams.
All these terms will be on a wetsuit tag and explained fully so you cant go too wrong when you buy a suit.
How a Wetsuit Fits
One of the most important factors is fit..
A surfing wetsuit that is to big will allow water to flush through and basically not do anything.
A wetsuit that is to small will be inflexible and will eventually bust at the seams.
You want it to fit snug all over the place. Tight but not to tight.
One way brands do differ is the way they cut the neoprene and put it together- a large Oniel might fit you good while a Large Quik Silver suit wont. So its best to go to a shop and try on different surfing wetsuit brands and see what fits your body type best.
Types of Wetsuits
FULL SUIT→Body is covered except feet and head ( some full suits come with built in hood).
Spring Suit→ Short arms and short legs.
Full Suit/ShortArms→A full suit bit the sleeves are short.
Long Arm Spring Suit→ Spring suit with a full sleeve.
Farmer John→For surfers whom want unrestricted arms or are trying to look hipster cool.
Short John→A farmer john with short legs, good summertime suit.
Beaver Tail→For surfers who are trying to be retro cool and are into posing, some wetsuit brands are making these, but are pretty much just a fashion statement,cant see much functional value in these.
Wetsuit Vest→A wetsuit tank-top, great for arm mobility and keeping the wax of your chest.
Wetsuit Shirt Long-Sleeve→Like a rash guard but made with neoprene,
comes in handy for early morning sessions at warm water areas.
Rash Guard→These are for underneath your wetsuit and when surfing without a wetsuit to protect your skin from the sun.
Booties→ There are also reef booties, these are for walking over your favorite reef on low tide.
Hoods→These come either attached to wetsuit or can but it as a separate piece. Good for the cold water surfer to stave off ice cream headaches after duckdiving multiple waves or for those who are prone to ear infections, which is an all to common problem when surfing polluted water.
Non Wetsuit Extras
These things aren’t real essential but I think they are good to have because they basically extend the life of your suit.
Wetsuit Hangers→Its best not to leave your wettie soaking in the back of your car,
better to wash it out and hang it up to dry, you can use lots of different things for this but this wetsuit hanger just makes it a bit easier.
Neoprene Cement→ This is good to have if you get some minor tears and holes on your wetsuit.