For much of the time you are surfing, you will not actually be riding a wave! You will be paddling lying down on your board, looking for the next one! For this reason, a wetsuit of one sort or another is vital to keep you warm in most coastal waters at most times of the year.
So, what should you consider when choosing your first surfing wetsuit? Basic suits are inexpensive and provide you with that all-important warmth, have only average flexibility and simple, stitched seams. These ‘no frills’ suits are fine for entry level, when you are just putting your toe in the water, so to speak – and trying out surfing for the first time. Many more refinements are available to add to your enjoyment of surfing as a sport.
Key Considerations for a Wetsuit for Surfing
Glued seams: These keep out more water than basic stitched seams, so you will be warmer if the suit you choose has these.
Thermal linings: These are not usually available on entry-level wetsuits. They wick water that gets inside the suit away from your skin so they keep you warmer and keep in more of your body heat.
Zippers: The type of Zips provided on basic wetsuits are OK when you are upright on your board, but when you are paddling (or come off your board), they can pull. This allows a very unpleasant rush of freezing water down your chest or down your back (depending on whether the suit has a front or back zip).
- Look for a zip with ‘bat wings’ that help to seal the zip opening.
- Alternatively, Velcro fastenings also help.
- Wetsuits that zip at the back are the most popular, but you will need an extender on the zipper pull if you need to get in and out of your suit without assistance.
Extra Warmth: If you are a ‘chilly mortal’, love your creature comforts and have ‘deep pockets’, you might even consider a wetsuit that has a built-in heating system which runs on battery power and warms the torso section of the suit to keep your core heat up.
It is now possible to get a similar effect on a budget with chemical heat pads you can activate when needed. These are placed in a belt around the kidney area (worn inside your wetsuit), helping to warm the whole body. Because these pads can be reactivated again and used many times they are good value for money.
Other built-in methods of keeping you warm include titanium in linings. This helps to reflect back your own body heat. Again, these refinements come at an added cost.
Pockets: Another thing you might want to take into consideration is where are you going to keep your car keys? Stash pockets can be located in different places in wetsuits, depending on the manufacturer and style. Where you choose, is a matter of personal preference but it can be annoying if it is not easily accessible when you need to get back to your car after surfing alone.
Accessories to Consider
If you could only choose one accessory for your wetsuit for surfing, it should be a pair of wetsuit booties! These not only keep your feet warm in cold water, but they provide additional grip on your board. They also provide protection for your feet when walking to and from the water as you never know what might be lurking in the sand, or the gravel of the parking lot!