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How to Break in a Wetsuit

   July 30th, 2019   Posted In: How-To  

How to Break in a Wetsuit

People wear wetsuits in the water for a variety of activities because wetsuits have several advantages including improving warmth, buoyancy, and compression. Most swimmers will find that they are a bit faster when wearing a wetsuit, surfers will find that the cold waves and wind are a bit more tolerable while they hang ten in a wetsuit. Despite the pros of wearing a wetsuit, it is common for people to find that they are initially uncomfortable. Some of this may be due to trying something new, but wetsuits can sometimes be snug, depending on the material.


When you first put on a wetsuit, it may feel extremely tight. While wetsuits are designed to be quite snug, you should not feel excessively uncomfortable or claustrophobic while wearing it. Experts disagree on how to break in a wetsuit, or if this is even necessary. But, realistically, your wetsuit will become somewhat “broken in” the more you wear it and will slowly but surely conform and become a bit more comfortable.

Wetsuit Technology

how to break in a wetsuit

Doing some light movements or stretches will give you an idea as to whether the wetsuit is too tight, too large, or just right.

Thanks to the latest wetsuit technology, there is very little “break-in” required for wetsuits because of the already-super-stretchy materials that are used to manufacture them, like 100% stretch neoprene in some brands. Despite the many technological advances in wetsuit manufacturing, many people still feel that it takes some time to truly make the wetsuit conform to your body. This may be true, or you just may become accustomed to how your wetsuit fits over time. Whether you consider this a break-in period for the wetsuit or just an improvement in your comfort level while wearing it, be sure to try it a few times before giving up (and either not wearing one or buying a new one).


Each time you get in or out of your wetsuit, you will stretch it out just a little bit. When you consider how to break in a wetsuit, remember that the stretching from getting into and out of your wetsuit will occur in the shoulder region of the wetsuit, and to a lesser degree, the legs, since you will probably be pulling them up repeatedly, stretching the fabric. Trying to pull harder to intentionally stretch out the wetsuit is a bad idea, as you can tear the neoprene if you pull too hard or snag it with fingernails.

How Tight Should Your Wetsuit Be?

Wetsuits need to be snug to do their job, but you have to be able to move freely and breathe while wearing it. Think of them as needing to be more form-fitting than tight. Try on your wetsuit before your first swim or surf session, just to make sure you are fairly comfortable. It will always feel tighter when you are out of the water. Remember that it will feel a little bit looser once it fills with water. However, if it is too loose, it will not retain the water, and it is this thin layer of water between your body and the neoprene that makes you warmer and more buoyant while wearing the wetsuit.


Additionally, a wetsuit that is too loose will not provide appropriate compression, which helps with the circulation of blood through your muscles during exercise. You don’t need to know how to break in a wetsuit to recognize the differences after a few tries.

Keep in Mind

Keep in mind that it’s important to purchase the right size of the wetsuit for your body, and don’t buy one expecting it to stretch out during a break-in period. If you want more stretch, opt for the higher-grade materials, like the super stretch neoprene that can stretch up to 300%. While this material does not necessarily become “broken in,” it does tend to be more comfortable for those who are less fond of a very snug wetsuit. If your wetsuit is too small, it will probably never stretch enough to fit you properly, regardless of what you do to try and break it in.


Wearing a wetsuit that is too small can lead to problems including chafing (particularly in the neck and armpit areas), fatigue because you will be working your muscles against the resistance of the wetsuit, poor circulation, and difficulty maintaining comfortable body temperature in the water. Wearing a wetsuit that is too large will not keep you warm enough, and you will experience limited improvements in buoyancy. You may also find that a too-large wetsuit will cause you to fatigue more quickly since you will experience additional drag while wearing it.


Make sure that you try on your wetsuit before using it. Being comfortable in it is important, and you should not count on the fit changing too much, even if you try different ways for how to break in a wetsuit. In the end, little will change with regard to the fit while wearing it, though it may become a little easier to get on and off once you go through the motions a few times.

Lauren McIndoo

Lauren McIndoo

Lauren McIndoo has been participating in marathons and triathlons for the past 15 years. With more than 40 marathons, and countless triathlons of all distances (including 8 full Ironman finishes), she has a ton of practical experience and finds passion and excitement in all things related to swimming, biking and running.
Lauren McIndoo

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  • Avatar Elaine Cunningham says:

    I recently purchased a “shorty, zip front”wet suit for water aerobics…I CANNOT REMOVE IT WITHOUT HELP. If I could get one arm out I could remove it alone. Do you have any tips? Thanks.

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