They’ve not only allowed us to grow and enjoy surfing in cold parts of the world but the technology is so good now you’re actually quite warm and comfortable in the coldest of waters.
A general rule for everything is if you buy cheap you buy twice, it’s extremely relevant in buying a wetsuit.
Look for good well known manufacturers who offer warranty and good service on their gear.
Good wetsuit manufacturers include:
Some of these manufactures build for colour and style and others rugged use in cold temperatures, go for what suits your local surf breaks best. See what the local surfers in your area are wearing.
How the wetsuit works
A wetsuit is a neoprene insulation suit made for warmth and protection in the water. It functions by trapping a thin layer of water between your body and the suit. This layer of water is warmed by your body helps keep your temperature up even if the water temperature is cold!
Types of wetsuits
Wetsuits generally range from 2mm to 6mm thick. We often refer to suits as Winter or spring/summer. In Ireland and Scotland however we generally surf ‘Winter’ suits year round!
The wetsuit is rarely all one thickness, most commonly the neoprene on the arms and legs are thinner than that of the body. This is to keep the core warm and to allow flexibility on the bits that move the most. So we talk about wetsuits in their thickness such as 5/3mm or 3/2mm for example. The body thickness comes first then the legs and arms, in a 5/4/3mm suit you’ll get 5mm on the body, 4 on the legs and 3 on the arms.
Wetsuits can be short legged, short arms, no arms or full length arms and legs. You can even get wetsuit tops and wetsuit shorts.
Once we get to 4, 5 or 6 mm in a suit this goes into the winter wetsuit category. These are always full length wetsuits to keep the whole body warm. The cooler the water, the thicker the wetsuit.
Spring / Summer suits
Mostly these are full length wetsuits which are 3/2mm thick. You’ll see a lot of these in France, Spain, Portugal, SW England and Morocco to keep the chill off the cool waters.
Long legs and short arms. An old favourite with windsurfers and more so stand up paddle boarders today. If you are surfing cool to warm waters and feel you’d be missing some vital rays by wearing a full length 3/2mm suit then this is for you. A good forearm tan is hard to beat.
Short arms short legs, if you’re lucky enough to be surfing water temperatures of around 18-22 degrees and want to take the chill off the cooler mornings then this might well be for you. We’re jealous if this is your wetsuit category. Generally these are 2mm thick and cheap to buy.
Temperature To Wetsuit Match
Water Temperature Range (°C)
Boardshorts and Rashie
0.5 mm – 2/1 mm
Top / Shorty
2 mm – 3/2 mm
Springsuit / Full Suit
3/2 mm – 4/3 mm
Full Suit + Boots optional
4/3 mm – 5/4/3 mm
Full Suit + Boots + Gloves optional
5/4 mm – 5/4/3 mm
Full Suit + Boots + Gloves + Hood
6° and below
6/5 mm – 6/5/4 mm
Full Suit + Boots + Gloves + Hood
Certain brands favour certain body types. For example O’Neill wetsuits are first and foremost made for the American Market, this suits us northern europeans quite well if you’re a couple of pounds off racing weight. All of the major wetsuit brands will have a sizing chart on their websites. Once you’ve got your height and weight, shoulder size and waist you’re away! It’s best to try on a couple of wetsuits and buy from a reputable store, such as ourselves!
It’s very important the suit is well fitted i.e no baggy areas but comfortable. If you’re 6ft tall and 85 kgs don’t pack yourself into a Medium, it may make you look like a superhero but you’ll be complaining in a few weeks when you’ve bust a seam!
We hope the above helps you in your quest for warmth and comfort.