When it comes to buying a wetsuit, you’re probably wondering which wetsuit is the best to buy? It is one of the essential purchases you are going to have to make on your surfing journey.
At times it might seem like a minefield trying to choose which wetsuit is the best one. You’ve got all the different brands to consider, you’ve got decisions to make over the entry/zip style, you’ve then got the thickness to way up…and on top of all that you’ll probably want it to look really snazzy, be high performance and get the most value for money!
Add all these factors together and you’ve the indecisive person’s nightmare. So let’s first get clued up on the all jargon surrounding wetsuits, so that you can narrow down your search for the perfect suit.
This wetsuit offers high performance at an affordable price.
Back Zip Entry. Excellent flexibility and offers an enjoyable surfing experience
What thickness Wetsuit should I go for?
This should be one of the easier decisions to make when choosing your wetsuit. The numbers indicated on the wetsuit relate to the thickness of the suit and are always done in millimetres. The water temperature for the area you plan on surfing will dictate what you normally need.
I’m basing this article on surfing in the UK, therefore most wetsuits will be 3/2mm and above. If you only plan on spending a short amount of time in the water, then in the height of a UK summer, you may be able to get away with a 2 mm wetsuit. However, water temperature at the time of surfing will dictate how enjoyable your experience is. Being cold in the water is avoidable therefore plan ahead and ensure you get the correct thickness for what you need.
|Water Temp Range (℃)||Wetsuit Thickness|
|16-20℃||2mm – 3/2mm|
|14-17℃||3/2mm – 4/3mm|
|11-14℃||4/3mm – 5/4/3mm|
|6-11℃||5/4mm – 5/4/3mm|
The average temperature for the sea in Britain ranges from 6 to 10℃ in winter to 15 to 20℃ in the summer. This obviously depends on the region of the UK that you are surfing in, but lets use it as a generic guide.
Using the table as a guide you can see the type of wetsuit you may want. Those looking for summer use only will be fine in a 3 / 2 mm wetsuit. This will keep you warm during all of the summer months and will have the advantage of being slightly thinner than the spring / autumn wetsuit. This means more flexibility while surfing, which is of huge benefit when it comes to ease of paddling.
If you are somebody who is going to use the wetsuit during the spring and autumn then the 4 / 3 mm wetsuit will give you suitable warmth during colder months and also be fine in the water during the summer. If you are only looking to buy one wetsuit, then I suggest you look at buying a 4/3mm wetsuit, as you will be able to use it for the majority of the year, meaning your price per wear increases.
The hardcore surfer will not allow water temperature to dictate whether they hit the waves or not! Therefore winter surfers will benefit from a greater thickness within the wetsuit. Staying warm in the water during these cold months is essential. You are definitely going to need some gloves and boots in addition to your wetsuit, but investing in a thicker suit is going to be worthwhile. This may mean you end up buying two suits so that you have something lighter for the summer months.
Top Surfing Wetsuits
RIP CURL Mens Flashbomb 5/3mm Zip Free Wetsuit
- Brand: Rip Curl
- Thickness: 3/2
- Entry: Chest Zipless Entry
Rip Curl are offering up some of their new innovative technology within this heatseeker wetsuit. Effectively they are telling you that this version of their wetsuit is going to help keep you warm. They aim to do this with the “flex energy” neoprene, which helps generate heat when it is being stretched.
The flash bomb is incredibly flexible and offers great warmth throughout the suit. It features flash lining around the core, which helps to provide additional warmth. The seams on this suit are all glued and you may notice that there are no seams under the arm which allows for a more comfortable paddling experience.
The neoprene on this suit is one of the fastest drying neoprene’s on the market, allowing for a quicker return to action. Due to its high high-performance it also demands a slightly higher price, however, if you are looking for a wetsuit that you can use across three seasons and are planning on being in the water quite a lot, this wetsuit is going to be perfect and will prove to be a wise investment due to its durability and high performance.
One additional feature to talk about, is that this is a zip free wetsuit. This means you climb into the suit as normal and pull it over your shoulders – then grab the upper panel which sits at the top of the suit and pull it over your head. You then adjust the lock slide design to close the suit. The benefit of this feature is that you will never have to worry about your zip breaking!
O’Neill Ninja 3/2mm Chest Zip Wetsuit
- Brand: O’Neill
- Thickness: 3/2
- Entry: Chest Zip Entry
One of the classic brands has produced an excellent value for money wetsuit, which includes some nice, high-tech and high performing features within the wetsuit.
The ninja wetsuit has O’Neill’s ultraflex neoprene which allows for good flexibility and movement within the wetsuit. It has taped seams, which will help keep water locked in and also avoid the flush. It also features a water tight double superseal neck closure.
The benefit of this is that it’s got a smooth internal wall that sticks to the neck, while the outside can move independently, helping to avoid that annoying wetsuit rash that some wetsuits can cause.
The suit has the duraflex knee pad which can be found on the majority of suits these days. This material is hard-wearing and robust enough to keep the suit from ripping on those areas which are most commonly worn.
This is a chest entry suit and is easy to get in and out of, provided you are comfortable with this style. The Ninja has thermal neoprene insulation along the chest and also the leg region to help increase that level of warmth, this is a nice feature that not all wetsuits have. Possibly something to consider if you are looking to be swayed on which wetsuit to purchase.
Olaian Mens Surfing Neoprene Short-Sleeve No Zip Wetsuit
This little shorty wetsuit is definitely worth considering if you are looking for a summer wetsuit that is easy to get on and off, but also allow you to stay in the water for a good amount of time without getting too cold.
To be clear from the off, this is a wetsuit that should be used in warmer waters. It will be fine in the UK summer, however, if you are looking to spend hours in the surf beyond our summer holidays then maybe go for a full-length steamer.
It has great flexibility in the shoulders so it will help with your paddling sessions. You may be looking at this because you are into bodyboarding and therefore will spend more time in the shallows. Well this wetsuit has underarm inserts that should help reduce chafing and improve your comfort levels.
It’s a zip free wetsuit, so there should be a great amount of freedom and flexibility once you have it on. It’s the type of suit you might wear when out with your family and then end up spending the day in and out of the surf. As it’s a shorty you can get away with keeping it on for longer when out of the water as it will feel slightly freer than your traditional full length wetsuit.
O’Neill Reactor 3/2mm Back Zip Full Wetsuit
The O’Neill reactor series is part of the budget range, which means you will get savings in terms of cost, but therefore miss out on some of the higher technical specifications that you can get in other more expensive wetsuits.
If you are a casual Surfer that maybe only ventures down to the coast in the summer holidays then this wetsuit will be fine in terms of delivering a good level performance for not much of a dent in your wallet. As it is part of the O’Neill brand, you can guarantee a sound level of performance, and while it is their entry level range, you get a good quality suit with high quality neoprene.
This range is done in male and female suits so you will be able to kit the whole family out in matching suits if needed. O’Neill has really mastered the suit styles, so you will be able to find a suit that fits your body type well.
The neoprene in this wetsuit is very pliable across the top of the suit as it is their super stretch material, so you will have a nice paddle while in the suit. It has the smooth skin neoprene across the chest for good wind resistance, which will help to keep you warm on those colder/windy days. There are large neoprene panels within the suit, which work well as there is less stitching so therefore less seepage of water into the suit.
This is a back entry suit, so you are going to have no trouble getting in and out of the suit. The collar has the smooth skin material so there will be less chaffing on your skin and also have a good bond with your skin. There are knee pads to help protect your knees and also keep the suit durable as it is a common area where your suit may get worn down.
Olaian 900 Men’s 3/2mm No Zip Wetsuit
- Brand: Olaian
- Thickness: 3/2
- Entry: No zip
As we have outlined in the introduction, there may be certain features that you are looking for when trying to choose the perfect wetsuit. This wetsuit is a great option if you are looking for a wetsuit without a zip. This zip free wetsuit offers a great amount of movement, with its ultra stretch neoprene. While it might not be as easy to climb into as a back zip wetsuit, it doesn’t feel hard to put on and you will enjoy the skin like feel once you are inside the suit.
There are underarm inserts located in the armpit area, help to reduce the chafing that you might experience in other suits when paddling to catch waves. The stitching in this suit are blind stitched, with glued taped neoprene. This means there is very little leakage in the suit, so you can stay in the water for a long time without getting cold.
Other features within this wetsuit are the quick drying material that can be found on the inner lining. This is made from recycled polyester and helps to ensure that you can use your suit again more quickly, which if you’re on a week’s holiday, is helpful in ensuring you don’t have to climb back into a soggy suit each morning. It also has the reinforced padding throughout the knees to help ensure less wear and tear on the suit.
Overall, a nice wetsuit option that will keep you warm in the water and help with paddling due to the stretchy neoprene.
O’Neill Epic 3/2 Back Zip Wetsuit
- Brand: O’Neill
- Thickness: 3/2, 4/3, 5/3
- Entry: Chest Zip Entry and Back Zip
Now I will try to remain unbiased when I review this wetsuit, as I must confess that I own one of the 3/2mm wetsuits myself that I use for the summer months. This wetsuit is available in many different styles and thicknesses, meaning that you’ll be able to find something suitable as they have a range that will last all year round. The style is available in men’s, women’s and kids ranges and also has all linked accessories such as boots, gloves and hoods etc.
The epic was one of O’Neill’s original product designs and stood the test of time as it continues to be one of O’Neill’s best selling wetsuits. It offers good value for money, as you get some perks and performance, with good durability and quality design, despite it being one of their lower price range models.
Some of the features you can expect to benefit from are the glued and blind stitched seams to help keep water out. A nice section of smooth neoprene on the stomach and back to help deflect the wind and keep water away from these areas. As mentioned in previous suits, it comes with the durafit knee pads that will last you the lifetime of the suit.
Despite this being an entry level suit, it features ultra flex neoprene so there is a great deal of manoeuvrability on offer. One of the first things I noticed was how easy it was to get on and then paddle in due to the stretch of the material. It also has the thermal firewall in the inside to help keep those key areas warm while in the water.
Salt Rock Core 3/2 Shortie Wetsuit
- Brand: Saltrock
- Thickness: 3/2
- Style: Shorty
- Entry: Back Zip
Within this list of fantastic wetsuits, I thought it would be important to include a Shorty, as not every person heading to the beach is going to want to go surfing all day. As with any purchase your personal requirements come first – so if you are looking for a value wetsuit that is going to be suitable for the times that you had to the beach throughout the year, this Saltrock Core Shorty Wetsuit will help you enjoy your time while in the waves.
One advantage of this wetsuit is the fashion style it gives you. It comes in three different designs and will help you to look stylish while spending your time on the beach and in the water. It’s features are a back zip entry which allows for easy access when putting it on. It is a 3/2 mm double lined neoprene suit, which essentially means it’s going to be perfect for the summer months. If you are somebody who is looking to go on holiday with their family and have fun body boarding, yet not want to spend a fortune on high end products, this suit will be perfect for your needs.
What Zip Style is best on a Wetsuit?
So there are really two options when it comes to choosing your wetsuit style:
Front Zip – the zip runs along the front of the wetsuit
Back zip – the zip runs down along the back
Don’t be too put off by choosing one specific style, it comes down to personal preference. The back zip is probably the more commonly spotted wetsuit, the advantages of this are that it’s easier to climb in and out of. If you plan on getting changed out of your wetsuit on the beach, I advise getting a surf poncho or robe to cover your modesty as this is never an easy task.
The front zip style supposedly offers more flexibility across the shoulders, which in theory makes for an easier paddle. I have both versions and personally prefer the front zip as I do find it more comfortable and not too difficult to get on. Other suggestions as to why the front zip is superior, is that you avoid the annoying flush of water down the back as you first get in, however if you purchase a high-performing wetsuit, this should not be a problem.
How much should I spend on a Wetsuit?
This question is always going to prove difficult to answer, but with wetsuits one thing that you can normally guarantee is that you are going to get what you pay for. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to break the bank and invest in an incredibly expensive wetsuit, but if you stick with some of the main brands, just know that if you go for their cheapest option, you are not going to be getting high-end performance from your wetsuit.
One thing to consider when assessing the price of the wetsuit is the stitching. Some of the cheaper wetsuits on the market will be stitched and that will be visible on the inside and outside of the wetsuit. These holes potentially allow water into the suit, which may affect the warmth on offer. A wetsuit that has sealed stitching, or even zero stitching, will help to eliminate this problem, but again, you will find these on the more expensive wetsuits.
Another variable to consider will be the flexibility of the neoprene. Some wetsuits that you may have seen in seaside shops, will be chemically made neoprene. The issue with this, is that the neoprene does not have much flexibility to it. You may find that it is very stiff and the problems that you might encounter are that it does not stick to your body very well, which is not helpful in terms of keeping you warm. I would avoid these budget wetsuits are all costs as they are not going to provide any longevity to your purchase.
If you are looking to try and save some money then focus on some of the entry level wetsuits from the usual major brands such as Ripcurl, Billabong, Quiksilver, O’Neill etc as they will have a higher quality neoprene within them. The only downside of investing in the entry level suits are that they will lack some of the higher performing technical details of a more expensive suit. The higher end wetsuits these days have incredibly flexible neoprene within them and special technical features that help provide extra warmth while you are surfing.