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Boardcave’s Best Wetsuits for Surfing [2021]

Wetsuits are like extensions of our skin that protect us from the elements and allow us to enjoy the water all year long. Selecting the best wetsuits for surfing is just like choosing the right surfboard. It should not only be based on comfort but, more importantly, according to water conditions.

Surfing wetsuits can be categorized into summer (warm water condition) and winter (cold water condition) wetsuits. But there is more to water temperature when selecting the best wetsuits. In this article, we look at the more salient points when choosing the best surfing wetsuits.

Why a Quality Wetsuit is Important

Drysuits or wetsuits? When it comes to surfing, wetsuits rule. Drysuits are loose-fitting and better at keeping you dry, but they produce a lot of drag, which can negatively affect your performance.

  • Protection: Wetsuits are like another skin layer that acts like sunscreen and protects the skin against cuts and abrasions.

  • It helps you swim better: Wetsuits make it easier for you to float. Aside from their insulating properties, they also give you that extra lift. Wetsuits also make you swim faster by offering a smoother surface allowing you to glide better over the water.

  • Stay warm: If there’s one good reason you should wear a wetsuit, it’s to keep your body warm. Wetsuits are not designed to be watertight but help you stay warm by trapping your body’s internal heat.

  • Stay dry: A common misconception is that wetsuits keep you dry. It keeps your body warm by first letting water come in and then creating a thin layer of warm water which works as a barrier that prevents heat loss.

  • Better flexibility in cold water conditions: Nothing beats surfing in the bare. But when the going gets cold, it might not be the best idea. Prolonged exposure causes your nerves and muscles to cool. Stay long enough, and you eventually lose strength and coordination.

    When Should You Wear a Surfing Wetsuit?

    There are no clear or formal guidelines in terms of when or where to wear a surfing wetsuit. It has often been a matter of personal or practical choice. The USAT, the United States’ governing body for triathlon, released guidelines on the use of wetsuits and water temperatures. This could give you an idea on when a surfing wetsuit is required.

    Under 50 degrees: Not suitable for open water swimming, even with a wetsuit

    50 to 65 degrees: Suitable for open water swim, but wetsuit is highly advised

    65-78 degrees: Suitable for swimming with or without a wetsuit. Sleeveless suits are popular at this temp.

    78-84 degrees: Race directors use their judgment to allow or not allow wetsuits at this range

    Over 84 degrees: Wetsuits not allowed

    Things to Check When Buying a Surfing Wetsuit

    Before we get into our list of the best wetsuits for surfing, let us first look at some of the critical items to check when buying this all-important surfing equipment.

    Thickness

    If you’re planning to surf in cold water conditions, then getting a thicker wetsuit is critical. It keeps your body warm by preventing heat loss.

    A wetsuit’s thickness is represented by two numbers. A 3/2 mm (millimeters) wetsuit, for example, is three mm thick along the core and two mm thick along the arm and legs. The thickest portion of a wetsuit is located in your torso/core because it helps you better maintain your internal temperature by trapping heat. Another reason is unlike your legs and arms, which require better freedom of movement, a thicker and stiffer material could be used without compromising performance.

    Zipper

    Many of us would give little thought about the zipper’s importance in deciding which wetsuit to purchase. After all, it’s just something that gets us in and out of the wetsuit. But for those of us with some experience with wetsuits, the zipper’s location and length make a big difference in how easy or hard it is to get in or get out.

  • Back zip wetsuits. Zippers are usually placed at the back since this provides the easiest entry point. A major drawback is that this is the least watertight and can limit movements in the back.
  • Chest zippers. These are quickly gaining popularity because they offer better flexibility at the back while providing a better seal. However, having a chest zipper makes getting in and out of the wetsuit challenging.
  • Zipperless wetsuits. Before you start thinking of a tube where you imagine yourself wriggling to get inside the wetsuit, zipperless wetsuits still come with zippers or Velcro, usually located at the neck or chest area. Frequently found in thinner wetsuits, these offer the best in terms of flexibility.

    Material

    Surfing wetsuits are commonly made of neoprene which is 2 to 6 mm thick. Standard wetsuit thickness comes in 2 mm, 3/2 mm, 4/3 mm, and 5/3 mm. Neoprene is a lightweight, watertight, flexible, and synthetic rubber material. Neoprene wetsuits are good insulators and are able to trap heat better while keeping water out. Much like a jigsaw puzzle, Neoprene wetsuits are made of several layers stitched together. Wetsuit quality is generally determined by how well it is glued or stitched together and its overall finish.

    Style or type of wetsuits

    Aside from wetsuit thickness, another thing to consider is the wetsuit’s style. It also offers different levels of protection depending on the amount of wetsuit coverage.

  • Hooded full wetsuit. These offer the best protection against extreme cold-water conditions (below 44 degrees Fahrenheit). Hooded full wetsuits are 6/5 mm or 7 mm, which are the thickest and designed for frigid environments. Forty percent of the body’s heat is lost through the head, and a hood-equipped surfing wetsuit is the best solution for this.
  • Full wetsuit. These wetsuits provide cover for the whole body: core, legs, and arms. It offers a high level of protection against the elements and could be used for cold and cool water environments. Thicknesses range from 5/4 mm to 3/2 mm.
  • Spring wetsuit. These are designed for warm water conditions. It allows more flexibility by freeing the lower arms and legs for better movement. Spring wetsuits also have the most variations, with some having shorter arm coverage and full leg coverage or vice versa.

    Our Recommendations

    Many of us tend to believe that there’s not much difference in terms of surfing wetsuits aside from their style or what company they came from. But surfing wetsuits are not only about style but more importantly functionality. Below, we give you a list of some of the best surfing wetsuits and when to use them:

    Overall Performer

    O’Neill Psycho Series

    With so many firsts under its belt, like the first modern wetsuit, which was introduced in the 1950s, the first surf shop in San Francisco, and the first surf leash, O’Neil has established itself as a reputable name when it comes to surfing gear.

    It comes as no surprise that our top choice for surfing wetsuits is the company’s Psycho series. O’Neill’s Psycho surfing wetsuits represent the best of what the company offers. It comes in two styles, full wetsuit (3/2, 4/3, 5.4) and hooded full wetsuit (5.5/4), which is designed for extreme cold-water conditions and offered in varying models, based off budget and features:

  • Psycho Tech Hooded Full Wetsuit - chest zip (5.5/4 mm)
  • Psycho Tech Full Wetsuit - chest zip (5.5/4, 3/2 mm)
  • Psycho One Z.E.N. Full Wetsuit - back zip (4/3, 3/2 mm)
  • Psycho HyperFreak Hooded Full Wetsuit – chest zip (5/4,4/3 mm)
  • Psycho HyperFreak Full Wetsuit – chest zip (5/4,3/2 mm)
  • Psycho HyperFreak Full Wetsuit – zipless (5/4,3/2 mm)

    Best for Beginners

    Rip Curl Dawn Patrol

    The Dawn Patrol series is a popular mid-range series of surfing wetsuits from Rip Curl: designer, manufacturer, and retailer of surfing sportswear. These come in various types and thicknesses with prices ranging from under $100 to $200. It's Freeflex, and E5 neoprene materials are lightweight and highly stretchable, helping you maintain flexibility. These offer superior quality at a friendly price point. Perfect for those who are new to surfing and would like to invest in a decent wetsuit without breaking the bank.

    Best Priced Wetsuit

    Olaian Surfing Neoprene Wetsuit 100

    It may not hit all the bells and whistles of their more expensive counterparts, but it offers decent protection and comes at a very competitive price point. It is easy to put on with a back zipper and a long zipper pull. This 4/3 mm surfing wetsuit comes with glued and blind stitched seams, seamless crotch, and underarm inserts.

    Most Comfortable Wetsuit

    O’Neill Men’s Reactor Surfing Wetsuit

    Comfort and functionality top bills this full surfing wetsuit from O’Neill. Made from high-quality neoprene with a high spandex rating (150% stretch factor), it gives you excellent freedom of movement. Seamless paddle zones provide unhampered motion and minimal seal placement for comfort.

    Best Surfing Wetsuit Brands

    If you’re still undecided on what surfing wetsuit to buy, then selecting from the best surfing wetsuit brands is an excellent place to start. Below, we list the top surfing wetsuit brands.

  • Adelio
  • O’Neill
  • Billabong
  • Rip Curl
  • Patagonia
  • Hurley
  • Quicksilver
  • Excel

    Best Surfing Wetsuits Roundup

    If you regularly hit the beach to catch the waves, then a good surfing wetsuit is the second-best investment you can make after a surfboard. This is why it is important that you take some time to think or even talk to an expert before making that purchase. If there is one good reason you should consider buying a wetsuit, then it should be Hypothermia, a real danger for anyone into water sports. It could strike not only during cold water conditions but can also happen on a clear sunny day. Making surfing wetsuits ‘not a want but a need’ for any serious surfer.

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