Nowadays people surf all year round even at the coldest places on earth. All this is possible because of the wetsuit, an intelligent invention by Jack O’Neill , a pioneer from Santa Cruz. Wetsuits come in all shapes and sizes but the idea is always the same, to keep your body warm in the water. This will allow you to surf much longer than you would be able to without one.
In this wetsuit guide we will explain to you how wetsuits work, which materials are used and show you the most common types of wetsuits:
Wetsuits are made from neoprene, a stretchy synthetic rubber material. The neoprene is almost always thinner on the legs and arms than on the torso, to ensure that the movements are not overly restricted. Almost all wetsuits have a zip, making it easier for you to get in and out of the wetsuit. Zips are usually located in the back but they can also be found on the shoulders or chest.
HOW IT WORKS
Wetsuits keep you warm by trapping a layer of water between your body and the wetsuit. This water gets heaten by your own body temperature. That is why it is very important that the wetsuit has a nice tight fit. Not too tight so that you can’t move freely but definitely no baggy areas.
WHAT DO THE NUMBERS MEAN
The thicker the wetsuit the warmer it will be but it will be also less flexible.
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 6 mm 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.
The thickness you will have to wear depends thus on the water temperature you will be surfing in. Most manufacturers will give you a wetsuit guide but always ask the surf shop for advice.
TYPES OF WETSUITS
Usually wetsuits are black because it absorbs the sunlight and provides extra warmth.
There are a number of different wetsuit shapes, from simple vests to full suits. 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.
The most common types of wetsuit are:
Complete body is covered except body and feet. This is the most common type of wetsuit and are sometimes called steamers. They come in a variety of thicknesses.
Short arms and short legs and sometimes called shorties. Some spring suits have long sleeves offering more warmth. Ideal for summer surfing and when it is too cold to surf only in boardies.
Long legs and no sleeves. If the water is cool and the air is hot this will be your best choice. It is great for easy paddling.
Thin stretchy lycra shirts that you can use to prevent rashes, protect your skin from the sun.
The wetsuit vest is usually a tank-top and is 2 mm or 3 mm thick. It is great for easy paddling and gives you more protection than a rash guard.
Hoods come attached to a wetsuit or can be bought separately. You will need these if you surf in really cold water. They come in various thicknesses.
Boots come in round toe or split toe varieties. They are used for walking over the reef and/or to protect you from the cold water.
There are many different types of surfing gloves. They come in various thicknesses and are normally used in very cold water.