Whether you have surfed for years or are an absolute beginner, most people will agree that buying the right wetsuit is a great place to start in order to succeed at surfing. A good wetsuit will ensure you have the flexibility, warmth and protection to defend you from nature's elements. Finding the right one to fit your body shape is important and you may wish to consider the following factors before you go ahead make your purchase.
Wetsuits are effectively tight fitting bodysuits made of flexible neoprene rubber. They are designed to trap a very thin layer of water between the neoprene and the skin. As the water heats up, the surfer heats up too.
There are many types of wetsuit available, to serve different purposes including diving and swimming. It's important to buy yours from a surf store, designed specifically for surfing. Surfing wetsuits are designed to endure the specific repetitive motions that surfers make when they're out in the ocean. Other wetsuits may have seams in different places, resulting in rashes.
Most people know the top surf brands, such as Quicksilver, Rip Curl, Roxy and O'Neill however there are many others manufacturers selling wetsuits and each will contain different features, styles and therefore affect performance in different ways. It's important to pick the right one for your body shape and your ability.
The fit of the wetsuit will be determined by how much stretch it has. Having a wetsuit that stretches is important for comfort however too much will lead to less stability. You need to feel supported without feeling restricted. Certain parts of the body, such as your elbows and knees will take most impact when surfing so you need to make sure your wetsuit has extra protection in these areas.
Wetsuits are not made from one large piece of material. It is created from a number of different parts, known as panels. The more panels used, the chances are the wetsuit will fit better, however more panels also means more seams which can reduce the flexibility of the fit. To get around this problem, seams shouldn't be found in areas of your wetsuit that may cause rubbing or reduce your flexibility.
It's also worth keeping an eye out for the stitching on a wetsuit. There are commonly two types, blind stitching and flat locking. Blind stitching tends to be reserved for the more expensive wetsuits, where a seam is glued and then stitched with the needle not making its entire way through the material, making the seam watertight. Due to the skill involved, this method is more expensive than flat locking, which is why these wetsuits cost more. Flat locking involves the needle passing right through the material, meaning the seam is not watertight. This makes these wetsuits less expensive and suitable only really in summer months.
Neoprene Coating on a wetsuit can also affect how warm it keeps you and how light it feels. Water repellent coating (WRC) is a chemical added to the top half of the wetsuit that repels water, making it lighter and warmer. PU printing on the other hand is used to make the fabric more resistant to damage by abrasion as it increases the durability of the neoprene material.
In wetsuits at the top end of the scale, you will find batwings. These are thin pieces of neoprene that are sewn inside the zipper to prevent cold water from entering. Paying this premium will result in wearing a warmer, more comfortable wetsuit.
You can buy different types of wetsuit, from short-sleeve spring suits (or shorties as they are more formally known) to full suits with hoods. In cold water conditions, booties and gloves will also be required. Make sure your wetsuit caters for the conditions you will be surfing in.
The important thing when buying a wetsuit is to visit a store and actually try before you buy. The fit is the most important part of your purchase and you cannot tell how it will fit to your body by looking at an image on the internet or in a magazine. A wetsuit can make the difference between a good and an average surfer so it's essential you buy the most appropriate to your own personal requirements.
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