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Wetsuits

The ultimate wetsuit guide

Everything you need to know when buying a new (or second-hand) wetsuit.

Choosing a wetsuit is not always an easy task. If you are getting started with surfing or looking for a new wetsuit, find out next what to look for in a new suit.

Table of Contents

What do sizes such as 3/2, or 5/3 mean?

You’ve probably seen sizes such as 3/2, and 5/4, but what does it mean?

Let’s take the size 3/2 as an example. Both numbers reflect on the thickness (in millimeters) of the wetsuit’s fabric. The first number (3), is the thickness in millimeters of the wetsuit’s body. The second number (2) is the thickness of the fabric on the arms and legs.

How wetsuit sizes workSo now we know the size numbers represent the thickness of the material, but how do you know which size to buy?

Sizes & Water temperature (and staying warm)

Choosing the right size all comes down to the water and air temperature. The key here is to make sure that you feel warm enough during a surf session, and the right thickness will help with that. So what size should you wear? Have a look at the graph below.

Suggested wetsuit temperature chart advise

Let’s say the water temperature is between 17 and 20 Celcius (or 63 and 58 Fahrenheit), you want to wear a 3/2 wetsuit. If the water is colder (e.g. in fall/winter, northern Europe, South Africa) you want to wear a 5/3 or 5/4. You might choose a 5/4 over a 5/3 if you prefer to keep your arms and legs warmer. But keep in mind that this might restrict your movement.

Once it starts to get colder, you can choose for extra warmth and protection by wearing gloves, shoes, and a cap. These also come in different thicknesses. You also have special “skins” that you can wear under your wetsuit for extra warmth.

Tip: You can find the water temperature by searching for your location at SeaTemperature.org.

Sizes vs mobility and comfort

A slimmer wetsuit (3/2) increases mobility, which makes it much easier to paddle, compared to a thicker wetsuit (5/4). Keep this in mind. If you don’t mind a bit of cold, a slimmer wetsuit will make your surfing easier. A thicker wetsuit will keep you warmer, but you might lose mobility, which can make paddling more of a challenge.

Which wetsuit brand to buy (quality/price/sustainability)?

Size: check. Next, which brand? There are a lot of brands out there, each with its own technologies and materials. Prices can start as low as €19 and can go up to €800. Below you can find our top 10, based on quality, price, and sustainability.

The top 5 best wetsuit brands

SRFACE
https://srface.com

Price: €109 – €299
Quality: 8/10
Sustainability: 7/10

The perfect balance between quality and price.

Home to the land of water (the Netherlands), SRFACE proves they have the skills to deliver a wetsuit that keeps you warm even in the coldest waters. Their innovative designs allow for comfort while keeping an affordable price.

Recently SRFACE released the Eco suit. The Eco wetsuits are made with Lexcell™️. This is a neoprene-free material made from natural rubber, harvested from rubber trees in Sri Lanka.

Decathlon
https://www.decathlon.com/

Price: €19.95 – €239
Quality: 7/10
Sustainability: 2/10

A wide range of quality and price.

If price is your main goal, Decathlon can be a good option. The quality has been improved over the years, but the product quality isn’t great within the lower price.

The low-priced wetsuits are perfect for a short first-time surf holiday, to get a feeling of the sport. But once you get the hang of it and you are going to spend more time in the water, it’s our advice to for a more premium brand.

Decathlon is not using any sustainable materials within their wetsuits (as of November 2021).

O’NEILL
https://www.oneil.com/

Price: €75 – €429
Quality: 9/10
Sustainability:  7/10

From the first wetsuit ever to one of the most recognized brands worldwide.

Did you know that Jack O’Neill invented the wetsuit in 1952? So it’s no surprise O’NEILL has been creating one of the best wetsuits available, and they are worn by some of the best surfers out there.

Look out for their label “O’Neill Blue”, which indicates the product has been made with at least 40% of sustainable materials. Their goal is to have all products under this classification by 2025.

Rip Curl
https://www.ripcurl.com/

Price: €79 – €539
Quality: 9/10
Sustainability:  5/10

“Rip Curl Hot Dog.”

One of the “Big Three”, alongside Quiksilver and Billabong. Rip Curl is used by many professional athletes all around the world. Their latest innovative product called “Flashbomb” is innovative at its best. It focuses on flexibility and is lightweight while keeping the warmed in.

Rip Curl offers only a few products with sustainable materials, but no wetsuits yet. They do organize, and take place, in programs that preserve and protect our oceans, like the Rip Curl Planet Day.

Quiksilver
https://www.quiksilver.com/

Price: €99 – €719
Quality: 9/10
Sustainability: 7/10

Turning products into gold.

Quiksilver had a hard time in the last few years. Almost at the brink of bankruptcy, they recovered and now have many brands under their roofs, such as Roxy, and DC Shoes.

Bad luck for the ladies out there – Quiksilver does not sell women’s wetsuits.

By upcycling almost 300 million plastic bottles into products, Quiksilver is making great steps towards a more sustainable future. A few wetsuits already use eco-friendly neoprene, which is made from scrap rubber tires. This reduces the CO2 emission of making the wetsuit. These are great steps, but we’re looking forward to seeing a 100% sustainable wetsuit soon.

How to put on your wetsuit and get out of it

It’s easier to show you than to try and type this out for you, so check out this video from the ‘Rider Shack Surf Shop’:

The steps are quite simple:

  1. Make sure the knee pads are at the front.
  2. Put the wetsuit on like you would put on a pair of pants.
  3. Don’t pull too hard on the fabric if the fabric is still around your foot – you might tear the fabric.
  4. Pull the fabric up on the legs, so that the knee pads are located on the knees.
  5. Pull the wetsuit up to your belly.
  6. Put your right or left arm into the sleeve, and pull that side up over your shoulder. Make sure your hand is all the way through.
  7. Put your opposite arm in the other sleeve, and lift your arm up so that the sleeve will pull up to your shoulder.
  8. Make sure there is no bunching of the fabric, no extra fabric at the armpits, and that the fabric is not turning.
  9. If you have a front zip: pull the hood over your head, and close the zipper on the chest.
  10. If you have a back zip: grab the tag of the zip with your arm, and pull it up so that the zip closes all the way to the top. While keeping the tag up, close the velcro on the neck, so that the zip is locked. Otherwise, the zip might open when the tag of the zip gets pulled by getting stuck on something.

To get your wetsuit off, peel it like a banana and follow the steps above in reverse.

How should a wetsuit fit?

Trying on a wetsuit is always a bit of a challenge, so don’t immediately think you have the wrong size. The wetsuit should fit snug, but should not restrict your movement or restrict your breathing. Try on your wetsuit, and move your arms like you are paddling. This should be possible without too much restriction. Make sure it fits like a glove and doesn’t feel too tight around the shoulders, chest, and armpits.

Wetsuits often also come in “Tall” sizes for people with an above-average height. Note: Your wetsuit will stretch a bit over time, so it will fit more comfortably. But that doesn’t mean you should buy a smaller size.

Remember: The thicker your wetsuit, the more resistance you’ll feel in your movement.

How to take care of your wetsuit

Instructions on how to take care of your wetsuit

  1. Rinse your wetsuit with cold water

    If you have a large bucket, fill it with water and rinse your wetsuit in it a couple of times. Otherwise, use a shower head to rinse it thoroughly (inside and outside). Never use warm or hot water, that will dissolve the glue that seals your wetsuit together.

  2. Hang dry your wetsuit

    Let the water drip off for a bit before moving outside. Hang it somewhere in the shadow, so your wetsuit can dry well. This prevents the nasty wetsuit smell you will often smell at surf shop rentals. Never dry your wetsuit in the sun because this will dry out the material and damage your wetsuit.

  3. Store it in a dry place

How to fix a smelly wetsuit

If your wetsuit starts to smell after a couple of sessions – this is normal. Everyone sweats during exercise and surfing is no exception. You can buy a “wetsuit shampoo”, which is specially made for neoprene, the material your wetsuit is made of. Your local surf shop for sure has it in stock. You can find a nearby surf shop here. Never use regular soap or washing machine soap. This is too aggressive and will damage the material.

We like the Jaws Slosh Wetsuit shampoo best. You can find it on Amazon.com here.

How to repair your wetsuit

You got caught in the wave, got whitewashed for a couple of seconds, and your fin got caught in your wetsuit. Now you have a big hole ripped in your suit. What now? Don’t worry, most of the time you can fix it yourself in a few simple steps.

Choosing the right repair method

Method #1: The Cut Repair Method
Use this method in case of a clean cut or tear caused by a fingernail, or a fin hitting the wetsuit. Or when you have cut but it is not all the way through.

Method #2: The Patch Repair Method
When you have a tear in the fabric which is bigger than 2cm long or if it’s not a clean cut.

Method #3: The Iron-On Reinforcement Patch Method
When you have a cut all the way through.

The Cut Repair Method

What you need

Steps to follow

  1. Clean the cut with a microfiber cloth.
  2. Apply the glue on both sides of the cut, and use the toothpick to apply it evenly.
  3. Leave it to dry for a few minutes so the glue will become tacky (check the glue’s instructions for the exact duration).
  4. Firmly press together to create a joint, hold for 2 minutes.
  5. Leave the glue to cure for at least 12 hours.
    1. If the cut is in a position that doesn’t stay in place easily, you can stack a few books on top of it. Make sure to put something between the glue and the books, so you don’t damage your books.

The Patch Repair Method

What you need

  • Neoprene Glue. We like this one on Amazon.com:
  • A patch of neoprene fabric with the same thickness as the wetsuit that needs repairing.
    • You often get a few patches with a new wetsuit, or you can cut a piece from an old wetsuit. Your local shop also sells them. 
  • A toothpick (or something similar).
  • A couple of books (as weights).

Steps to follow
By using this method, you will cut out the tear in an equal shape, like an oval shape. Second, you replace it with a new piece of fabric of the same size and shape.

  1. Make sure the tear is at least 2 cm away from a seam
    1. If the tear is close to a seam, it is best to bring it to your local shop for repair.
  2. With a pen, draw a line in an oval shape around the tear, 2 cm away from the edge of the cut.
  3. With a pair of scissors, cut this oval shape out, so you will have an oval-shaped hole in your wetsuit.
  4. Now you want to make your patch exactly the same shape as the hole you have cut. You can do that by putting the patch underneath the hole. Now draw a line around the outside of the hole, on the patch underneath it.
  5. Cut around the line of the patch, to match the patch size with the hole cut.
  6. Put the neoprene glue around the edge of the patch panel, and let it sit for about 10 minutes to make it tacky. Check the glue’s instructions for the exact duration.
  7. Put the patch panel within the oval shape, and push the edges together. Make sure there are no gaps left.
  8. Leave the glue to cure for at least 12 hours.
  9. If the cut is in a position that doesn’t stay in place easily, you can stack a few books on top of it. Make sure to put something between the glue and the books, so you don’t damage your books.

The Iron-On Reinforcement Patch Method

If the cut or tear is all the way through, it might be wise to put some extra reinforcement on it. You can do that by using Iron-On Reinforcement Patches, which is a patch or tape (also called Melco tape) that has glue on one side of the tape. Your local surf shop probably has it in stock., and you can find a nearby surf shop here.

You have to put the sticky side of the tape on the section you repaired. Secondly, you use an iron to melt the glue to reinforce the section. Always make sure you put a sheet of baking paper between the iron and the wetsuit.

We like this one you can buy on Amazon.com.

5 things to look for when buying a second-hand wetsuit

Looking for a cheaper or more sustainable wetsuit? Buying a second-hand wetsuit can save you a lot of money, and is also the most sustainable option. But there are a few things to keep in consideration when buying a second-hand wetsuit:

  • Everyone pees in their wetsuit (yes, it’s no secret). This doesn’t mean the wetsuit is filthy, but it could be if the previous owner didn’t properly maintain the wetsuit. Just ask the person how the wetsuit has been maintained. You can keep the steps in “Taking care of your wetsuit” (above) as a reference.
  • Check the wetsuit for cuts, tears, and check all the stitches to make sure everything is still in place.
  • Make sure the fabric is still stretchy and not dried out.
  • If the colors of the wetsuit are faded a lot, this can be a sign that the wetsuit has been dried in the sun. This could have degraded the quality of the fabric.
  • Make sure the wetsuit still has a proper shape. The wetsuit can lose its shape in case of bad cleaning, or stretching the suit too much when putting it on or off.

Q&A

What do wetsuit sizes such as 3/2 or 5/3 mean?

Sizes like 3/2 or 5/3 refer to the thickness (in millimeters) of the wetsuit’s fabric. The first number (3 or 5) is the thickness of the body of the wetsuit, and the second number (2 or 3) is the thickness of the fabric on the arms and legs.

How do I know which size wetsuit to buy?

The right size to buy depends on the water and air temperature. To determine the size, refer to a wetsuit temperature chart. For example, if the water temperature is between 17 and 20 Celsius, you should wear a 3/2 wetsuit. If the water is colder, such as in fall/winter or northern Europe, South Africa, it’s recommended to wear a 5/3 or 5/4.

What factors should I consider when choosing a wetsuit brand?

When choosing a brand, consider factors like quality, price, and sustainability. Top brands in the market include SRFACE, Decathlon, O’Neill, Rip Curl, and Quiksilver, each with its own technologies and materials.

How should a wetsuit fit?

A wetsuit should fit snugly but not restrict movement or breathing. Try on the wetsuit and move your arms like you’re paddling. This should be possible without too much restriction. Make sure it fits well around the shoulders, chest, and armpits.

By Koen

Hi there, welcome to Surfara!

The idea of Surfara started after organizing a surf trip to France, which was quite a challenge. Simple questions as "where can I take lessons" and "how much does it cost to rent a board" was hard to answer, and it appeared that most surf-related companies didn't provide their information in a way that was easy to find.

Surfara.com is a new surf and travel platform designed to help surfers & travelers find and connect with surf businesses all around the world. Use the search bar to discover surf schools, camps, accommodations and shops nearby, or at a future destination.

See you in the water!🤙

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