How to choose the right winter wetsuit

Friday, November 6, 2015
Hi there! First of all a disclaimer: if you live in some part of the world where it is summer all year long and you surf in a bikini, this article is not for you (I would add that I am so jealous of you at the moment eheh)

For the other inhabitants of the Northern hemisphere, it is that time of the year when you should decide to buy a winter wetsuit if you don't want to freeze in the water during the next upcoming months. I know, it sucks. Thick neoprene is unpleasant to wear and to surf in, but you really need one if you want to keep on surfing before next spring. These coldest months are the worst for us poor surfers, but this won't stop us, right?

So, here I wrote a list of points you should keep in mind when you go buy your winter wetsuit. They will ease the process of choice-making and hopefully make you happy next time you jump in the (cold) water :)

Choose the right size
It seems obvious, right? But you can't believe how many girls I see trying to resell their wetsuit online because they chose the wrong size. Luckily for us, wetsuit brands have chart sizes that take into consideration height, weight and legs length. We don't need to cheat, but instead be honest while choosing the perfect size for us. 
Be aware that out of the water, especially if it is brand new, your wetsuit will fit super tight - it's all right! You'll see it will loosen up a bit and you'll feel perfectly comfortable once in the water.

Choose the right thickness
We are talking about full winter wetsuit here, so we won't have a large range of neoprene thicknesses to choose between. We need to take into consideration where are we going to surf, the average temperature of air and water during the coldest months and if we are very sensitive to the cold or not.
Normally, all brands offer 3/2 millimeters, 4/3 millimeters and 5/4 millimeters neoprene thickness, to choose between depending on our needs (some brands also produce 6/5 millimeters wetsuits for very cold conditions). In this case too, they usually have an average water temperature they're made for, so this will make your choice easier. Make sure to ask the sales assistant for it!

Choose the right flexibility
Many people forget about that, but I think it is a very good point to take into consideration. Each brand cuts their wetsuits differently, so standard sizes will differ from one to another. 
When you try a wetsuit, lift your arms over your head and stretch out your shoulders, keeping in mind the flexibility you need for paddling. Sometimes your wetsuit can fit great, but still not offer the ease in movements you look for. 
Be aware that many really flexible types of neoprene are also quite fragile and risk to get worn-out very quickly. Make your choice wisely!

Choose the right model
Talking about full-wetsuits, nowadays we can choose between different kinds of style.
The most classic is the full-zipper. This one has a zipper that runs on your back - from the lower back to the back of the neck. It doesn't offer a lot of flexibility and it can let water come in, but it is super easy and fast to put on and off and it will make your life easier when you change under the rain in a desert parking lot during winter.
My favorite one though is the chest-zipper. This type of wetsuit has a zip in the chest and to be completely honest it is quite hard to put on and off. Despite the risk of hipotermia while changing oneself, this wetsuit offer good flexibility and reduce the flow of water coming in - it is definitely the warmest type I've ever tried.
Last but not least we have a new entry: the zipperless wetsuit. This new type of wetsuit must fit perfectly to enjoy its features and entry and exit into the suit is not as easy. But, again, this kind of suit offers the warmest, most watertight construction and flexibility. 
I suggest you try them all before choosing the right one for you!

Choose the right price range
Before shopping, have a look on the internet for the average prices of a full wetsuit and choose the price range you're more comfortable with. Once at the surf shop, you will be ready to make the best decision. Keep in mind that quality costs, but most of the time it is worth it. 
That being said, you have to take into consideration the real use you will be making of your wetsuit before spending your weekly wage on it - e.g. how many times per week/month will you be surfing this winter? 
Another tip is to ask for the models from previous year. Sometimes they're almost the same of the current season, but cost half the price! ;)

I hope you'll feel more comfortable at choosing your perfect winter wetsuit now!

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