Welcome to our Men's Wetsuit Buyer Guide
“What exactly is a wetsuit?” you might ask.
To put it simply: it’s insulated technical gear designed to help make your experience in cold water more enjoyable. A marvel in craftsmanship and innovative materials with the help of some good, old-fashioned body heat, today’s best wetsuits can make surfing and other activities in the planet’s iciest waters not just tolerable, but totally comfortable.
his guide breaks down everything you need to know about your next wetsuit, from types to size to materials to thickness. The hope is that it can ultimately help steer you toward the ideal wetsuit for the next time you’re looking to paddle out in cooler waters. Because no matter how hard you try, it’s tough to have fun when you’re shivering.
The Different Wetsuit Types
Surfing wetsuits continue to push the boundaries on warmth, performance, flexibility and comfort. In water temps that have multiple wetsuit-type options, the best choice for you ultimately comes down to personal preference, ie. whether you like more flexibility and freedom in the arms versus more complete coverage. The main types listed have their advantages depending on personal preference.
A full wetsuit (or fullsuit) covers the entire body, including arms and legs to the wrists and ankles. Full wetsuits are available in a range of thicknesses and are best worn in water temps ranging from 55-69 degrees, offering the best combination of warmth and performance.
Like a full wetsuit, but with a built-in hood for added warmth – keeping the water out and heat in. The hooded fullsuit is best for offering warmth and performance in extremely cold waters, and are most often worn in water temps ranging from 54 degrees and below.
Spring suits are best worn for comfort and flexibility in warm climates, featuring thinner material and short arms and/or legs. They are best worn in water temps ranging from 66 degrees and up.
Nearly identical to the short john, but with a full length leg - the long john wetsuit is best worn in warm climates, specifically in water temps of 70 degrees and up, and offers added comfort for knee paddling.
Similar to the spring suit, the short john wetsuit is best worn in warm climates, specifically in water temps of 70 degrees and up. The short john is a sleeveless wetsuit with above the knee-length legs for added flexibility.
Keep in mind that as the water gets colder, your options eventually narrow to simply the warmest, thickest full wetsuits and accessories on the market.SHOP WETSUITS ONLINE
How do you pick the right men's wetsuit thickness?
A wetsuit’s thickness is based on the measurement of the internal foam core. In general, the thicker the foam core, the warmer the suit. On the flip side, the thinner the foam core, the more lightweight and flexible the suit. For wetsuits designed for surfing, thicknesses range anywhere from 0.5mm in warm water up to 7mm in the coldest waters.
Optimal thickness and wetsuit type can shift in many regions based on the season. It’s important to have a few different options of wetsuit types and thicknesses based on the shifting temps in any given region.
Different types of wetsuit seams
A wetsuit seam is the fusion point of a suit’s various panels. In general, the less seams in a wetsuit, the more comfortable it is. Seam placement is also critical for comfort and performance, as a seam in the wrong place can create excessive chafing and/or resistance in areas that require flexibility.
All wetsuit seams are designed to keep most if not all water from leaking into the suit. As the water gets colder, it’s important to choose a fully-sealed wetsuit since your body won’t be able to heat up the amount of water coming in through porous seams.
There are three primary types of construction:
Flatlock construction is a flat stitch connecting the panels of a wetsuit together both inside and out. Flatlock seams are common in wetsuits for warmer water since they’re not fully sealed. The flat stitch is comfortable, highly flexible, and typically your best option for those warmer water suits like jackets and short johns.
Glue and Blindstitched Seams (GBS)
When the individual neoprene panels of a wetsuit are cut, there’s a 90-degree angle on the edge of each one. The edges of these panels are then glued and fused together. Once dry, a stitch is sewn across the outside of the suit and halfway through the material, leaving a sealed seam held together by the single-side stitch and the glue. This is the most common wetsuit seam and, if perfectly executed, will ensure a strong, watertight seam. To reduce the risk of imperfections or excessive wear and tear, the unstitched internal seam often receives an extra layer of sealed neoprene tape in key friction areas to serve as additional reinforcement.
Liquid sealed and taped wetsuit seams
With these types of seams, a silicone-based liquid is added to the exterior seam (a method similar to the use of a caulking gun) allowing for a long-lasting, watertight seal. Internally, the seam receives an extra layer of sealed neoprene tape in key areas to serve as additional reinforcement. This type of seam is often used in higher-end suits for the coldest water due to the extra durability.
Wetsuit zip systems / entry
The entry system of your wetsuit can be one of the most important factors to consider in purchasing your next wetsuit. There are three primary types of entry systems, and each one has its benefits and drawbacks. Ultimately the entry system best suited for you should be based on the tradeoff between ease of entry and the flexibility it allows.
Back zip suits are exactly that: a long, sturdy zip system that extends from the neck to the lower portion of the back. For first-time wetsuit wearers, the back zip entry is recommended due to the ease of putting it on and taking it off. The primary drawback of the back zip is that you’re sacrificing flexibility and it does have the most exposure to water entry of the three systems.
Chest zip suits are currently the most commonly worn as they strike the best balance of ease of entry and flexibility. The main advantage of the chest zip is that it’s moderately easy to get into and out of and there’s plenty of flexibility due to zero bulk in the back of the suit.
Zip-free suits are highest on the flexibility scale, but also hardest to get in and out of. These suits are not recommended for beginner surfers. Taking a zip-free wetsuit off — especially for new wetsuit wearers — can feel like a challenge best suited for Harry Houdini.
How Should a Wetsuit Fit?
A “perfect-fitting” wetsuit should feel like a superhero’s costume. No bulk, no extra length at the arms and legs, and all freedom. Below is a general men’s wetsuit size chart, along with a step-by-step checklist to make sure your new suit is the perfect fit. One thing to keep in mind: weight is the most important thing to get right. A suit will still function properly if it’s a little short or a little long.
Wetsuit fit checklist
- Tight Fit: After putting on your wetsuit and zipping it up, check for bunched fabric or folds and pull them out so the entire suit is flush to skin.
- No extra material: Check the armpits, back of the neck, and chest. If there is extra material in these areas, consider going down a size.
What is the best men’s wetsuit material?
A wetsuit is made up of three main layers: the internal jersey, the foam core, and the outer jersey. Each of these layers can be a variation of different types of materials and compounds, but all are trying to achieve a similar goal: the perfect balance between warmth, comfort, and flexibility.
The internal jersey of a wetsuit is typically designed with thermal properties for added warmth – especially in key areas such as the chest and back. This internal layer is typically made from polyester and nylon yarns since they’re light, strong, increase thermal retention, and don’t hold water. Most premium wetsuit brands have their own proprietary thermal lining solution where the yarns are coated with heat-generating material.
The internal jersey is laminated to what is known as the “foam core” of the wetsuit. This has typically been made from various formulas of chloroprene, but there have been recent advancements in adding less toxic, more sustainable materials to the foam core. For surf suits, you want this foam core to be more aerated to ensure more flexibility and lightweight performance.
The outer jersey of a wetsuit is generally a nylon/polyester/Spandex combination designed for durability while maximizing expansion and stretch. This outer jersey is laminated with water-based glue to the foam core using heat pressure and time.
Men’s Wetsuits Accessories
As the water dips below 60°F, wetsuit accessories come in handy to help keep the extremities warm. Below is a quick primer on the three primary surf accessories used to combat winter water temps and some basic tips for each.
Wetsuit Boots or “booties” are the first accessory you’ll likely wear once the water dips below the threshold. They’re important because the feet are generally the first extremity to go numb in colder water. The best boots are the ones that allow for maximum board feel and minimal leakage. For the best fit, try sizing down from your shoe size.
Wetsuit hoods are typically the next line of defense in cold water as the ice cream headaches set in once temps hit around 57°F and below. An “Ice cream headache” is the uncomfortable sensation of your forehead freezing over after successive duck-dives in cold water. Shop for hoods with thermal linings for the best comfort and added warmth.
Wetsuit gloves come in “handy” as water temps plunge below 55°F. There are two primary types of gloves: five-fingered and “claws.” What works best for you is a matter of personal preference.