How to pick the perfect wetsuit in 2023
As a water sports enthusiast, a suitable wetsuit is something that you should certainly wear when you dive into the water, mainly because wearing a wetsuit provides insulation (against hypothermia and energy loss), but secondly, because it helps you float and is easier to swim with.
Below We have listed all the attention points which you have to keep in mind when purchasing a wetsuit.
How does a wetsuit work?
A wetsuit’s main function is to keep us warm, which it achieves by containing a little layer of water between our skin and the neoprene (an elastic type of rubber) from our wetsuit. This little layer of water will be heated by the human body, which keeps us warm. A wetsuit is therefore literally a wetsuit!
This is also the reason why you have to make sure a wetsuit fits tightly: because a flow of cold water will keep getting into the suit when it’s too small, making it difficult for your body to keep the heat.
However: it’s not only the layer of water that keeps us warm, it’s the neoprene which isolates our suits, so the thicker our neoprene layer, the better it’s isolated! Newer wetsuit systems are a bit warmer and lighter because they use some sort of “air insulated”-neoprene. This means the neoprene is surrounded by laminate, making it keep some air in the suit as well.
A suit that is too tight, isn’t only uncomfortable but will be damaged pretty quickly.
What do these numbers on the wetsuit mean?
The numbers on these wetsuits are referring to the thickness of the suit, indicated in millimeters. For example: With a 3x2mm wetsuit, the 3mm refers to the thickest part of the suit (usually measured on the back and abdomen), while the 2mm refers to the stretchability of the suit (around your arms and legs).
Consider the likely conditions your wetsuit will endure
The most important things to think about when picking a wetsuit are the temperature that you’ll endure, the length of your surf session, and the type of wetsuit. We’ve listed all the options below!
As we just explained: the thickness of your wetsuit depends on the water temperature you’ll have to endure. Most surf-spots have a ‘live tracker’, which mentions the water temperature and the suit you’ll need at that moment.
Length of your surf-session
The longer you’re planning to stay in the water, the more attention you’ll need to pay at the heat-isolation and the freedom of movement you’ll have in your suits. Nowadays, most recent suits are made out of neoprene which brings extra comfort and flexibility.
Types of wetsuit
There are a few types of wetsuit you need, will depend on the sport you practice and the weather circumstances.
A full neoprene wetsuit covers the entire body; from arms and legs to wrists and ankles.
A shorty wetsuit is mostly made in neoprene and covers the upper body and the top parts of the arms and legs (short sleeves).
Neoprene top wetsuit
A neoprene top is a neoprene (0,5 mm-1,5 mm) wetsuit which only covers the top of your body: it covers your waist and arms. This is made in short and long sleeves.
Rash Guard wetsuit
This is the lightest form for a wetsuit and is mostly made of lycra. It’s mostly used for protection from the sun and sanding.
The frontzip wetsuits have a zipper at the front of the wetsuit and are known to better ‘enclose’ the body. This suit is more expensive as a back-zipper and needs some time to get used to it because you’ll have to squeeze yourself through the neck opening to put it on.
The backzip wetsuits have their zipper on the back and are a bit cheaper. This is also the reason why they are popular at surf-rentals.
What are the most common wetsuit sizes?
We can’t stretch it enough: the fit of a wetsuit is pretty important, so we listed the sizes you’ll probably need the most.
A 3x2mm wetsuit
This 3x2mm wetsuit is mostly used during the summer when the sea already has a decent temperature. The biggest advantage is the comfort and the stretchiness of the suit.
A 4x3mm wetsuit
In the colder areas, a 4×3mm wetsuit is a go-to suit. The suit is mostly applicable during spring to autumn, and can even be used in the summer since it’s better to be too warm instead of too cold.
The 5x4mm and 5x3mm wetsuits
These wetsuits are made for the winter-season and freezing temperatures when you’ll enter the sea at its coldest point. Depending on how severe the winter is, you’ll be able to use this suit from November until April. These wetsuits are also called ‘steamers’. Today there are even hooded models, also called “hooded steamers”.
Keep in mind tho; the thicker the wetsuit, the harder it is to move forward easily.
Pro tip: when you’re surfing in the Netherlands and it’s this cold, you’ll 100% need surf-shoes, surf-gloves, and a surf-cap. Be prepared!