Since it’s about that time of year, I thought about reposting a helpful guide to buying your surf wetsuit.
I originally posted this in January, 2014, but I’ve added updated links and more info.
Honestly, as much as I want to support my local surf shop, I have a lot of trouble finding a wetsuit that suits my needs and fits well. Even though I’m a woman, I know men have this same problem just as much.
Options are limited a lot of times to one or two brands, and here in Florida, you are given the choice of a spring suit, and possibly a 3/2 mm full suit. This year, I wanted a 4/3 mm full suit since I get cold easier, and the neoprene’s much stretchier anyway than in the past. When I called around to several shops up and down the East coast, I was not helped, but actually insulted by the staff, asking why I would even consider such a suit here in Florida, and did I know ANYTHING about wetsuits?!? Why, yes, I do. And I know I surf for more than 15 minutes at a stretch, so I get chilled easy. So kiss my frosty ass.
I’m so touchy.
Anywho, that’s when I turned to the internets for my future suit. I had an O’Neill suit last year, but I need to consider some things this year:
1. If I upgrade to a substantial design overhaul especially from a completely different brand, the fit may be different. Rip Curl obviously has done this with the E-Bomb, so the fit of the new design may feel different.
2. If the neoprene quality listed has been upgraded to “super-duper ultra stretch”, this may also affect the fit, and even the warmth and durability considerations. Neoprene tech has gone wild, but this can REALLY alter a fit, necessitating a size change from previous seasons.
3. Even if you plan to order online, take a gander at the selection offered at your local surf shops just to get your hand on the neoprene. Kick the tires, so to speak. Give it a stretch, see where the seams are, how they are finished and taped (or not), and look at features up close- even if the suits offered aren’t in your size, or even in your model. Companies tend to keep wetsuit construction pretty consistent over the line- it’s the neoprene quality that improves as well as the taping and lining.
Some helpful hints to ordering a suit online:
Only order from an online shop that has a clear return policy, preferably with free returns, of course.
CHECK THE DAMN SIZE GUIDE. Nobody freakin’ does that, especially men. For your convenience, I’ve procured a list of direct links to Size Guides of the most popular brands of wetsuits. Here’s your happy links to all the Size Guides:
RIPCURL Men’s and Women’s: http://www.ripcurl.com/product-size-guide.html
O’NEILL Men’s and Women’s: http://au.oneill.com/shop/index.php/size-guide
QUIKSILVER Men’s and Boys’: http://www.quiksilver.com/wetsuit-size
ROXY Women’s and Girls’: http://www.roxy.com/wetsuit-size/
HYPERFLEX Men’s and Women’s: http://hyperflexusa.com/size-chart/
PATGONIA Men’s: http://www.patagonia.com/size-mens-suits.html
BODY GLOVE Men’s, Women’s, Juniors’, and Youth: http://bodyglove.com/wetsuit-size-chart/
Once you’ve found the size guide for your brand, measure yourself with a tape measure at the points indicated on the guide to find your approximate size. If you’re an average dude, your measuring tape is probably in your nightstand. The weight part of the guide is tricky. In my opinion, if you find yourself in a lower weight class, but your measurements are LONGER than indicated (lean/willowy build), it may be best to go with a tighter fit and shorter limb length for better core warmth. Conversely, if you are on the heavier side, and find that your weight class ends up with longer limb measurements (strong/curvy build), keep in mind that you can trim neoprene without worrying about fraying. In fact, most ends of sleeves and legs, you will notice, are just raw edged neoprene. This is my opinion- your fit will be unique, of course.
When you get your order, check the zippers first BEFORE trying it on. That means zip them up AND down at least twice. If the zipper is blocked by tags, remove them- they’re attached by a plastic tab, not a gold lock. The company can reattach it, trust me. If they’ve got an issue with it, that’s ridiculous. You need to at least need to be able to see if the zipper works more than once.
Be courteous to the next guy and have a piece of Velcro handy to cover up the neck tab Velcro (if it’s a back zip) while you put the suit on so you don’t pill and rip up the inside of the suit. Bonus points if you’ve taken a shower, but didn’t put on deodorant yet. Nobody wants your Axe leavins’ in the suit lest you decide to return it. Underpants are a given, I hope.
The suit should feel slightly restrictive, but not uncomfortable at the neck, groin, or shoulder points. Have a seat, stand up, bend over and touch your toes (well, work on that one). If it’s a full suit, the neoprene should reach your wrist bone, and right above your anklebone ideally.
Hopefully it works out, but if not, pack it up- right side out- with all the tags, and fill out the return slip. Send it back and try again, but make sure you’ve carefully measured, and considered what didn’t work about the fit on this one before you order again.
All in all, we live in a lucky time. The early surfers had he pleasure of surfing in wool bathing suits, and when it got cold, switched into army issued stiff SCUBA suits that chafed your tattoos clean off. But don’t let that old complaint keep replaying. I keep hearing kids parroting the elders on this, and this is not sage wisdom being passed down, only unchecked bravado of times past. There is little difference in movement these days for the average surfer in a neoprene suit versus not wearing one. Temperature difference, however, I will concede, will make a performance difference.
Men always complain that women don’t understand shrinkage, so this gentleman has diverted all attention from that area….
HEY! My face is up here you pervert!!!