A surfing wet suit with a good fit and the right mix of features will allow you to enjoy the waves year round (or at least comfortably extend your season.) Wetsuits will not keep you completely dry. The idea is to allow a small amount of water inside, your body heat will take care of the rest. We will attempt to take a step back from the technical stuff and present you with the 3 most important aspects of surf suit construction.
When it’s time to shop for a wetsuit, our listings give you a great snapshot of the suit’s construction. The example below will make sense when you are finished this FAQ:
#1 Wetsuit Thickness:
Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters and impacts warmth. For example: 2mm , 3/2mm, 4/3mm. The first number represents thickness in the torso area, the second number in the extremities. Less neoprene is used in the extremities to increase flexibility. As a rule of thumb, thickness increases warmth and decreases flexibility. However, you will not notice much of a difference in flexibility going from a 3/2mm to a 4/3mm, but you will notice the added warmth! Click on the Water Temperature Guide below for recommendations based on your water temp.
*Click on Image for Full Version*
Wetsuit Wearhouse Video Series: Wetsuit Thickness Explained
#2 Neoprene Type:
The type of neoprene used impacts flexibility, and there are 3 types of neoprene available for surfing wetsuits. Standard Neoprene, Super Stretch Neoprene, and Super Stretch Water Repellant Neoprene. In order to offer wetsuits at different price levels, manufacturers use varying degrees of these neoprene types. For surfing, you need at least 30% Super Stretch Neoprene in your suit. Seasoned surfers prefer wetsuits with 60% or 100% Super Stretch Neoprene for the ultimate level of flexibility and that glove like fit.
30% equals the back, shoulders, and arms which is exactly where you need flexibility for paddling. The other 70% of the suit is made of Standard Neoprene.
60% extends down to the knees and covers all major flex points. These wetsuits are lighter and tend to fit better.
100% stretch wetsuits are ideal if they are within your price range. These wetsuits provide the ultimate combination of fit and flexibility while decreasing bulk.
Wetsuit Wearhouse Video Series: Neoprene Types Explained
#3 Seam Construction:
Seam construction impacts warmth and comfort. Surfers in colder areas with water temps below 65 degrees need Sealed Seams to keep the warm water in and the cold water out. Below is a listing of the 3 types of seams available on surfing wetsuits:
- Flatlock Stitching: Recommended for warm water above 62F. You can recognize this seam from the outside. It looks like railroad tracks. The interior and exterior seams look about the same. The interior seam construction is flat and comfortable against the body. Some water may seep in through these seams.
- Sealed (Glued and Blindstitched): Recommended for cold water 55F and up. This construction is best for cold water because the seams are glued, then stitched. It looks similar to Flatlock stitching, but is narrower in width. Very little water will seep through these seams.
- Sealed & Taped (Glued Blindstitched & 100% Taped): Recommended for very cold water 55F and below. Same construction as above plus interior seam taping. The tape reinforces seams for added durability, and prevents any water from seeping through.
Wetsuit Wearhouse Video Series: Seam Types Explained
#4 Extras: Extra internal and external features will enhance the performace of your wetsuit.
Inner Linings: Most wetsuits are lined on both sides with nylon for comfort and stretch. Some higher end wetsuits will have an inner lining of moisture wicking fiber for added warmth, heat retention, and a drier experience.
- Poly Fleece Lining: Interior fleece material wicks away moisture and retains heat. Not a gimmick, this stuff feels great and really works! You can also wear a Poly Fleece Rash Guard under a non-lined suit for the same benefits. You can find all of our fleecy wetsuits here.
- Quick Dry Poly Fleece: No more getting into a cold, wet wetsuit! All of the features and benefits of traditional poly fleece, but in a quick dry package. Wetsuits with quick dry technology will hang dry in less than 1 hour. A great feature for customers who use their suit multiple times in the same day.
- Merino Wool Lining: Patagonia has taken wetsuit lining to the next level with their eco friendly merino wool linings. Not only is merino wool insanely warm, it also has better moisture wicking properties, and dries quicker. The main advantage of a merino wool wetsuit is in neoprene thickness. A 2mm suit with wool can perform up to 3mm and sometimes 4mm standards from other brands. Less bulk is a good thing.
Wetsuit Wearhouse Video Series: Poly Fleece Lining Explained
Water Repellant Neoprene: a.k.a. Hydrophobic Neoprene is 100% Super Stretch Neoprene that is constructed using a tighter weave that wicks water away from the suits. Similar to Rain-X for a car, water beads away from your wetsuit. Thus keeping you drier and warmer. This type of neoprene is only available on the highest-end wetsuits and is worth the money!
- Full-Zipper: Standard entry
- Short-Zipper: 25% shorter zipper increases flexibility and limits water entry thru zipper
- Chest-Zip: Chest zip wetsuits load from the top. A neck gasket is opened, you enter the suit, and pull the gasket over your head.The suit then seals with a horizontal chest zipper. PROS= Increased flexibility and no chance of zipper breakage CONS= You cannot wear the suit at your waist after use.
Wetsuit Wearhouse Video Series: Zipper Types Explained
Neoprene Zipper Barrier: A neoprene panel located between the zipper and your skin. Keeps flushing water out of the zipper area
Wetsuit Wearhouse Video Series: Flush Guards Explained
Flush Resistant Neck ,Arms and Legs: Tapered cuffs that bond to your skin, preventing flushing
Smoothskin / Wind Resistant Neoprene: Smoothskin neoprene a.k.a smoothy is a rubberized coating applied to the outside of neoprene that helps block wind, and resists water absorbtion into the wetsuit. Smoothy is typicall found on the chest of a wetsuit. Specialized windsports wetsuits feature more smoothy for better windblock. Pros: wind resistance, better “cling” to a surfboard, blocks some water from entering the suit. Cons: adds a little extra weight to the suit, smoothy is delicate and shows nicks/cuts easily.
Wetsuit Wearhouse Video Series: Smoothskin Neoprene
Key Pockets: Key pockets or key loops are added as a convenience to most suits.
Wetsuit Wearhouse Video Series: Key Pockets Explained