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How to choose your wetsuit

After a surfboard a wetsuit will be your biggest purchase so it is wise to know what you are looking for. Always ask expert advice at the shop where you are buying but here are some things to consider when buying a new wettie.

1 SIZE

A good wetsuit will be tight enough to maintain a warm layer of water between you and your suit, but not so tight that you can’t comfortably move your arms and legs. It should feel snug around your body and neck. Try to do a paddle motion with your arms, it should only be slightly restricting. Your wetsuit should feel like a second skin so take your time and try different sizes and brands. 

2 THICKNESS

Your local water temperature will shape your decision when choosing the right thickness for your wetsuit. The suit thickness is usually described in two or three numbers and separated by a /. These represent the thickness of the neoprene in millimeters. The first number gives the thickness of the torso, the second and sometimes third gives the thickness of the neoprene on the limbs.
A 6/5/4 wetsuit for example would be used in very cold water and has a thickness of 6mm on the torso, 5 mm on the arms and 4 mm on the legs.
A 3/2 wetsuit is a typically spring/summer wetsuit and has a thickness of 3 mm on the torso and 2 mm on the limbs.
2/1 mm suits and 1 mm neoprene shirts are very thin and offer mild protection from the wind and water.
Surfers who live in areas that get hot in the summer and cold in the winter usually have more than one wetsuit to cope with the changing water temperature.

If you are not sure what to buy ask other surfers or experts at your local surf shop.

3 SEAMS

Wetsuits are made of several pieces of neoprene stitched together. Good stitching can make a suit more comfortable, durable and warm. Cheap stitching can allow water to seep in through the seams.
There are three common types of stitching used in wetsuit construction. The type of stitching is important when considering how warm a wetsuit will be.

OVERLOCK
One of the simplest ways of stitching. Found on summer wetsuits and/or cheaper wetsuits.

FLATLOCK
Flexible and strong stitching. Prone to high water penetration so usually better for warmer areas.

BLIND STITCH
Watertight and flexible seams. The neoprene is first glued, sealed, together and then stitched on the inside. the warmest method of wetsuit construction. Ideal for cold water temperatures. Found on higher quality and more expensive wetsuits.

rhino hooded front zip wetsuit

Front zip wetsuit   Photo by Rhinosurf.com

4 ZIPS

You can either choose a front zip or back zip wetsuit. A zipper on the front is slightly better because it is warmer and does not restrict your paddle movements as much. Because the construction is a little bit more complex the prices for front zip wetsuits are higher. They are harder to take on and off. Try different types and choose the one that fits best.

5 NEOPRENE QUALITY

Wetsuits are being made with 30%, 60% and 100% Super Stretch neoprene. The more Super Stretch the wetsuit has the higher the price.

30% Super Stretch: covers the back, shoulders and arms. Cheapest on the market.

60% Super Stretch: covers the back, shoulders, arms, and the top of your legs 

100% Super Stretch: covers the entire suit. This is the best you can get. Snug fit and super flexible. These wetsuits are lighter and more comfortable. 

Featured image by Lunasurf.co.uk

Check out this TED talk on shark deterrent wetsuits.