Which wetsuit should I choose?

all geared and ready surfer group

If you experience surf lessons Middleton any time outside the peak of summer, you will know that you need a wetsuit. The water fluctuates between 12-20 degrees throughout the year and if you are in the water, you definitely need a "wettie" to keep you warm so you can keep surfing for longer.

The surfing wetsuit was invented in the 1950's in California by a guy called Jack O'Neill (you may have heard of O'Neill wetsuits). In Australia, some surfers out of Torquay in Victoria got right on board in the 1960's and their desire to surf all year round later turned into the iconic surf brand of Rip Curl.

Aside from choosing a surf board for your surf lesons, choosing the tight wetsuit is a must. There are many types of wetsuit varying in thickness, quality of neoprene, length, zip styles and more. When picking a wetsuit, you will need to take into account your budget, how often you are going surfing, your ability level, where you are surfing, what time of year you are surfing and more.

How does a wetsuit work? 

How a wetsuit works is by allowing water in between your body and the wetsuit. You need a tight wetsuit that seals well around the ankles and the wrists and neck etc so there is minimal flow of water through your wetsuit. Then your body heat warms up the water and this water keeps you warm. Hence, if your wetsuit is loose and not sealing well, the water flows through and doesn't keep you warm. Where to shop for wetsuit? There are many wetsuits in the market of Australia or you can purchase online. All you need to do is decide what wetsuit is comfortable for you.

Types of wetsuits

Spring suit: A spring wetsuit has either short length arms and short length legs or full length legs with a short sleeve top or long sleeve top with short length legs. It will be one or the other, but not both of the latter combinations.

Long john wetsuit: It is essentially a spring wetsuit with the wetsuit covering your whole legs but without sleeves.

Short john wetsuits: A short john wetsuit has no sleeves and is short in the legs.

Wetsuit top: A wetsuit top is exactly what it sounds like, it covers you from the waist upwards, and it can have either short sleeves or long sleeves and is made from a very thin layer of neoprene, usually around 0.5mm-1.5mm.

Wetsuit vest: Is more or less the same as a wetsuit top however in comes in varying thickness, usually thicker than a wetsuit top. It differs from the wetsuit top in that it has no sleeves.

Rashguard/Rashie/Rashtop: People often mistake rashguards for a type of thin wetsuit. This is not the case; it is there to be worn either under your wetsuit to make entering and exiting your wetsuit easier, sun protection and rashes. Rashguards are made from Lycra.

Steamer: A full wetsuit is made from neoprene and covers your entire body from ankles and wrists up. Full wetsuits range in thicknesses from 2mm to 9mm depending on the conditions of the water.

Short Arm Steamer: This design looks like it's built for warmth, and that's the point. The Short Arm Steamer is normally made with a mix of 3mm and 2mm neoprene, and covers the trunk and legs. It also covers the upper arms, while leaving the forearms exposed. Your paddling should not be affected, unless you choose a suit that's a couple of sized too small, or you've overindulged over the weekend.

There are also some accessories like booties, hood and gloves that you can wear.

What to look out for when choosing a surfing wetsuit

In South Australia, at our surf schools at Middleton and Moana, we use 3/2 full length steamer wetsuits. These cover you from ankles to wrists. We use Rip Curl in our surf lessons and Adrenalin in our hire fleet.

The different types of steamers available are flatlock stitched which are the most basic type, sealed which are glued instead/as well as of stitched and these are warmer and more expensive.

Traditionally surf wetsuits do up on the back, this is because it is uncomfortable to lie on a zip on your surf board. Every day in classes there is always one that puts their wetsuit on the wrong way - it always gets a laugh!

The other types of zips are a chest zip, be aware these are harder to get into and the most recent reiteration is the zipless wetsuit which are a bit harder still to get into but the advantage is less stitched area where water can seep in and make you cold.

In regards to thickness, the vests are normally 1mm, the spring suits are normally 2mm, the steamers are normally 3/2 and then winter steamers are normally 4/3 or 5/4/3 dependoing on your preference. There are even wetsuits now with heat pads that are around your core to keep you warmer.

Surfing wetsuits range in price from $100 to $600. The more expensive the better the seals and the more flexible the neoprene is. This makes it more flexible and comfortable and it keeps you warmer.

We use 3/2 suits in our classes all year round. Personally in winter I wear booties and sometimes a 4/3 depending on the conditions, many of our team wear hoods and a vest with a 3/2 and some wear gloves. It is all personal preference.

As a beginner I would suggest a basic 3/2 to start with. We have new ones from $100 and second hand ones from $75 offering a great introduction level. If you are being a winter warrior, you could get some booties and a hood to really keep you toastie! These wetsuits will surely help to be safe as you learn to surf in South Australia.

If you are looking for advice or a wetsuit, we sell 2nd hand wetsuits from our surf school all the time as well as a range of brand new boards and wetsuits so give our team a call on 1800 786 386 or check out our shop in Middleton.

See you in the water!
Luke