Wetsuits – GearGuide

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In colder climates or weather conditions it is necessary to wear a wetsuit whether you are on a kiteboard, surfboard, a SUP or on a dive. A wetsuit is made of neoprene, which makes it elastic and makes it easy to pull on and off.

Wetsuits are available in different thicknesses. The thicker the wetsuit, the more heat it gives. Moving, however, becomes more difficult, since a thick wet out is rather stiff. On the other hand, although you can move more easily in a suit that is less thick, this will give you less thermal protection compared to a thicker suit. What you choose depends mainly on the conditions under which you will use a wetsuit (wave surfing, SUPs, kite surfing, windsurfing, wakeboarding or diving).

Image: O’Neill Men’s Wetsuit Psychofreak 4.5/3.5mm Fullsuit

In addition to the thickness, wetsuits can also differ in terms of the model. A ‘shorty’ covers only your upper legs and upper body, while a ‘long john’ covers you from just under your shoulders to your ankles. If you go diving you can go over it – when diving in cold water – wear a long neoprene jacket with a zipper. This acts as a second layer for your upper body.

Here are some tips to prepare for the purchase.

  • How a wetsuit works
  • Fit
  • Thickness
  • Seams
  • Zippers
  • Elasticity
  • Maintenance

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How a wetsuit works

The basics, where is your wetsuit actually made and how does it work? In principle, surfers are not eco-friendly because until now all suits are made of neoprene. Neoprene is a synthetic rubber made from petroleum and super elastic and adhesive. Ideal for lying in the water. Because the suit is tight around your body, there is only a thin layer of water between your skin and the wetsuit. Your body can easily and quickly heat up this layer of water and this insulates perfectly so that you stay warm. This is also the reason why a wetsuit should be as tight as possible.

Durable wetsuits

wool_ss_wetsuit_woolA pioneer in the development of sustainable wetsuits is Patagonia. In 2009 they started to manufacture wetsuits that are less damaging to the environment. They use Merino wool for excellent warmth.

Recently Patagonia, together with the Yulex Corporation developed a wetsuit from guayule. Guayule is a sustainable bio-rubber and the first alternative to traditional, fossil neoprene. The new wetsuits consist of 60 percent of the plant materials. Patagonia has set itself the goal of ensuring that the suits are 100 percent vegetable in the long run.

Fit

Just as with clothing, a wetsuit will also become slightly larger due to the use of the neoprene. In addition, the wetsuit will also be slightly larger if you actually are in the water. A new suit, if you are going to fit, really must be very tight. Of course you should be able to get in and out of it in a normal way and your breathing should not be constricted in any way. A wetsuit that feels a bit too tight actually has the right fit for you. A wetsuit must fit to your skin as good as possible everywhere.

Image: Bare 2mm Sport Shorty

The fit of wetsuits differs per brand so trying multiple brands is not a luxury. Pay special attention to your chest, around your arms, around your neck, under your armpits, at your waist and in your lower back. If the suit is really too spacious in some places and too much neoprene is hanging loose, then excess water will be able to flush through so that you cool down quickly. Especially the closure around your neck and neck is extra important.

Sizing

The size of wetsuits usually runs in standard S-M-L-XL sizes. There are also two intermediate sizes: MT and LT (Medium Tall and Large Tall respectively). A Medium Tall is Medium in width, but with the length of a Large wetsuit. Ideal if you are a little taller and narrower of posture and the fit of a large suit is suitable only in terms of length but just a bit too far on your upper body.

Thickness

The thickness of a wetsuit is always indicated in millimetres. 3/2 or 4/3 for example. The first number is the thickness of the body and the second number is the thickness of the limbs. In thick winter suits, there are sometimes, even more, distributions of thickness, 6/5/3 for example.

The thickness you choose depends mainly on the conditions under which you will use a wetsuit (wave surfing, SUPs, kite surfing, windsurfing, wakeboarding or diving). Are you a good-weather water sports enthusiast and you only go water in the summer in the Netherlands or France, then a 3/2 or even a shorty is sufficient. If you are active in the Netherlands or Belgium in the spring (from May) and autumn (until November) in or on the water, then a 4/3 is better. If you want to be able to do water sports all year round in the Netherlands / Belgium, you can save for two wetsuits: for example a 6/4 or 5/3 and a 3/2 for example. For the autumn and winter, you need extra rubber in the form of boots, gloves and a cap.

Seams

A wetsuit consists of several neoprene panels that are sewn together. The seams are often the weakest part of your wetsuit. Roughly speaking, there are two ways of “stoking”

Flatlock stitching: The yarn is pushed from outside to inside and back again, so you can see and feel the seam on both the outside and the inside of your wetsuit. This is a cheaper version with the disadvantages that you can get irritation from the sanding of the seam and that water can run through the seams (holes are punctured through the panels).

Blind stitching: The panels are first glued together and then the seams are not completely inserted through the neoprene. The needle makes a turn halfway through the neoprene and this creates no holes through which water can leak. In principle, blind stitched is therefore warmer and more comfortable. With the most expensive suits, an extra tape is often glued over the seams.

Zippers

The zipper is also an important factor for freedom of movement and isolation. There will always be some water leak through the zipper but there is a lot of difference.

Back Zip: Your zipper should be on the back (always the question if you put on a wetsuit for the first time in your life) and runs vertically from your neck to halfway down your back. Relatively you can easily get in and out, although you often see cramped surfers asking a buddy if they want to help up that zipper. More expensive suits have an extra panel of neoprene between the zipper and your back. As a result, the water that flushes through it does not immediately reach your body but runs away through a “drain hole”. A disadvantage of a Back Zip is that the zipper makes the freedom of movement of your rupg panel stiffer. This makes, for example, the paddling (wave surfing) a bit heavier compared to wetsuits with a Front Zip.

Front Zip: Here the zipper is horizontal over your chest. It is a little more pulling and worming to get in and out of your suit, but because the zipper is much shorter and not on your back there is much less water. So a lot warmer. In addition, you really notice that your back is much more flexible due to the lack of a vertical zipper. You often see the Front Zips with thick winter suits.

Elasticity

In principle it is simple: cheaper wetsuits are generally a bit tighter, in more expensive suits more elastic neoprene panels are often used. You notice the difference well and you move once more easily in a more elastic wetsuit. High-end material is simply more expensive.

Maintenance

Make sure you maintain your wetsuit well. Wash it after every use with clean fresh water. Turn the inside out, hang it to dry and prevent wrinkles. Salt eats in on the seams of your west. The salt crystals also dry out the neoprene, causing cracks in it.

Do not hang your wetsuit after rinsing at the shoulders on a hanger, by the weight of all the water in the suit it pulls your shoulders out of the right shape. You can better place the suit over an edge or take a hanger with a trouser bar and hang the suit halfway over it.

Do not hang your wetsuit to dry in full sun. UV radiation is fatal, even for neoprene.

While on and off, watch out for your nails. If you put your nails in and start pulling, you can tear the neoprene. Also look for your fins, they also want to take advantage of your wetsuit.

MEER GEARGUIDE