For any watersports enthusiast, a wetsuit is one of the most critical pieces of equipment.
However, knowing which features are right for you and choosing from many fantastic alternatives can be difficult, especially if this is your first suit.
So we've put together this easy-to-follow wetsuit guide that covers everything you'll need to know before making your decision.
What thickness do I need?
Thicker neoprene is less stretchable, but it is warmer. Wetsuits come in a variety of thicknesses, measured in millimetres and indicated by one, two, or three numbers in the product description.
The first figure, X, refers to the thickness of neoprene around your core, which is where you'll need the greatest insulation.
The following two numbers, Y and Z, refer to the thickness of the neoprene on your arms and legs, where you'll want more flexibility and won't require as much insulation, so a thinner neoprene will be more beneficial.
Make sure you are well equipped for your surf session and catch waves not colds. What you need will depend on where and when you plan to use your wetsuit.
Find out the water temperature of where you plan to surf. A good starting point is here.
Next, get a wetsuit that matches these conditions by using the table below.
How should my wetsuit fit?
A wetsuit should suit you like a second skin, meaning it should be bonded to your body as much as possible. Therefore, when you buy a suit, it should be a bit on the tight side in the beginning.
Neoprene is extremely flexible material, especially the eco-friendlier limestone neoprene. However, it will still stretch out a little after lots of surf sessions.
How to choose the right size?
Every brand differs in size due to different materials, panel cuts, sewing techniques and placement of zippers and pads. So you might need a different size than you are used to.
Wetsuit sizes are generally specified in US sizes (2, 4, 6, 8 etc). Specific sizes are available for taller and skinnier people. They're usually marked with the letter "T" next to the size. So size 6T is a medium-tall wetsuit.
Make use of a detailed size chart on the brand's website and look for their return policy. In shops, ask for size advice from the staff.
1. Check if your wrists and ankles are covered (when buying long sleeves) and if the suit fits well at the armpits and waist. Are you able to lift your arms without too much resistance?Are you able to bend down and forward without too much resistance?
2. Check for bubbles or excess material. When this is the case, the suit does not correctly connect to the body. A small wrinkle is okay, big folds are not. Is the neck sealed tightly?
3. Make sure, even though it's tight, you can move and breathe properly.
4. Check if things like knee pads or tummy pads are in the correct position.
5. Hesitate? Feel free to ask the customer support for help!
What type of neoprene should I choose?
There are 3 types of neoprene on the market today
Regular Neoprene (CR Neoprene).
This type of Neoprene is most common. It is made from relatively flexible materials and can be found in all price classes. Unfortunately, this type of Neoprene is not very eco-friendly because it is made of petroleum (oil).
This type of Neoprene is much more flexible than regular Neoprene and is also warmer because this material insulates better. It also lasts 2-3 times longer than Regular Neoprene. Furthermore, this material is an eco-friendlier choice. This material is commonly used in high-quality and high-performance wetsuits.
This material is newly developed and the most eco-friendly option. It is made from natural rubber that is harvested from rubber trees. However, the flexibility and insulation of this material are less than that of limestone neoprene. It's also the most costly material of all options.
Limestone is the best of both worlds
Go for a limestone neoprene wetsuit if you're looking for the best combination of functionality and eco-friendliness.
It's the most comfortable, flexible and durable because it lasts longer than Yulex Neoprene and is less vulnerable. And it's much more eco-friendly than Regular Neoprene.
Of course, professional surfers don't go for anything other than Limestone Neoprene.
Check out amazing limestone wetsuits here.
What type of entry system should I choose?
Mainly used on thin wetsuits (2 mm or less). Easy entry. A shorter zip makes for less water leakage but also makes it harder to get into.
The traditional style option. It's a zipper in the back until the neck with a leash for easy opening and closing. Although very commonly used, it does give up some flexibility in the back due to the rigidness of the zipper. Popular for entry level suits. For more comfort and performance go for a Chest Zip.
Probably the most common option for full wetsuits at the moment. This style offers more flexibility and better insolation, especially with wetsuits for colder conditions.
Zip free wetsuits increase flexibility because a zipper is rigid. However, it is more of a struggle to put your suit on and off. Also, the entry opening is larger, which can cause more water to enter your suit.
Find out what fits best for you
For example, a front or back zip could function perfectly in warm conditions and a thin suit.
However, you really need to make sure the zippers are waterproof in colder conditions.
Also, when you aim for the most flexibility, go for the smallest zippers like a chest zip.
Or even no zip at all, but good luck with taking your wetsuit off. You can always wear it to bed in the worst-case scenario 😅.
What type of seams should I choose?
Different seam techniques
This method entails overlapping the edges of two panels and stitching through both. It makes a strong seam with some flex, but it also leaves a number of holes in the neoprene that can leak. This means flatlock seams are generally reserved for summer wetsuits and the lower price point suits.
Glued and Blindstitched (GBS)
Blindstitch is used on high-end and winter suits because it assures the least amount of leaking, the most flexibility, and the best durability of all the possibilities. Because the edges of the panels are glued together end-to-end before stitching, it's sometimes referred to as Glued Blind-Stitched, or GBS. The stitch then just penetrates part of the neoprene, not fully piercing the panels, resulting in a firm, watertight seam.
On the inside of the seams, stretchable tape has been applied to make them more watertight and durable. It functions as an additional barrier to keep water out of your suit. High quality full wetsuit generally offer this type of seam.
Liquid rubber is poured over the seams to full waterproof them, on some suits this is done on both the inside and outside of the seams. You'll also see it referred to as 'liquid sealed', 'fluid sealed' or 'welded'. Although this is the most waterproof option, it also has the lowest flexibility of all options and therefore is usually not found on high performance wetsuits.
GBS is the way to go!
Glued and Blindstiched seams give you the most durability, warmth and flexbility. So it's best to look for suits with GBS seams. For full suits go for the taped option!
Check out some GBS WALLIEN wetsuits here.
How should I take care of my wetsuit?
Once you have bought a wetsuit, you want to take care of it properly. The goal, in the end, is to use your suit as long as possible. This is not only advantageous for yourself but also makes your purchase more sustainable. Here are some tips to properly take care of your wetsuit and increase its endurance.
- Don't ever put your suit in the washing machine! NEVER…..
- Do not dry your wetsuit in the sun. UV light damages the neoprene and will dry it out
- To clean your wetsuit, rinse it with cold and clean (not salty) water. Do not use any chemical materials
- Watch out for sharp objects when storing your wetsuit or when taking it off.
- Lastly, watch out for friends who want to "borrow" your wetsuit. They might like it too much 😜.