Since we can’t all live in Hawaii year round, there is a good chance that you may need to invest in a wetsuit at some point in time. Whether you plan to surf the Great Lakes in January, boogie board in North Carolina or stand up paddle board in Washington, the right wetsuit can keep you feeling warm and cozy all season long – no matter the temps.

We understand that there are a lot of options out there and the technical jargon can get a little confusing so we are here to decode all that tech so you can make the right wetsuit purchase to fit your needs. We will help navigate thru all the different attributes of a wetsuit including styles, stitching and thickness so you can keep enjoying the water, all year round.

Wetsuit Material

Wetsuits are made of neoprene and available in different thickness options depending on the temperature of water you will be in. Wetsuits will allow a small amount of water inside the suit and your body temperature will warm that water, creating a barrier to keep you warm. Always know the temperature of water you will be dealing with before purchasing your wetsuit. For colder temps, look into accessories like booties and gloves to help add warmth. 

How a Wetsuit WorksWetsuit Thickness

Wetsuits are measured by the thickness of the neoprene and referenced in millimeters. When you buy a wetsuit, there will be one or two numbers in the name of the wetsuit, referring to how thick the suit it. The thicker material will always be in your core area where you need it the most, and require less mobility. For example, a 3/2 will have 3mm thickness in the body or core area and 2mm thickness in your extremities.

In your arms and legs, where you require more movement, you will find the thinner of the two materials. You will find heavier suits that may mix up to three different thicknesses (6/5/4) and some lighter suits that will be just one thickness throughout (like a 2mm spring suit). The same rating also applies to the accessories, however these will all be just one thickness. For example, a wetsuit glove could be available in a 3mm or 5mm version and wetsuit booties range from something as low as a 2mm bootie to a cold water bootie that may be up to 7mm.

Reference our chart below for the recommended temperature guide to find the right thickness for the water temp you are going to be in. Keep in mind, every body is different and we all react differently to various temperatures. If you run hot, you may be able to use a thinner suit than recommended and vice versa.

Wetsuit Water Temp Guide

Water Temp Range (°F) Wetsuit Thickness Wetsuit Style Seal Type
80°-74° Rashguard, Surf Tee, Bareback
73°-66 1mm to 2/1mm Wetsuit Top, Shorty
65°-58 2mm to 3/2mm Long Sleeve Short Suit, John Full Suit Flatlock
58°-55° 3/2mm to 4/3mm Full Suit, Booties Sealed
54°-49 4/3mm to 5/4/3mm Full Suit, Booties, Gloves, Hood Fully Sealed
49°-43° 5/4mm to 5/4/3mm Full Suit, Booties, Gloves, Hood Fully Sealed
42° and below 6/5 mm to 6/5/4 mm Full Suit, Booties, Gloves, Hood Fully Sealed

Wetsuit Seams

When buying a wetsuit, you will hear a lot of terms thrown around like “fully sealed seams” or “flatlock seams”. This refers to the way the suit is put together and based on the thickness of the suit, these processes will vary. For example, a suit made for 75 degree temps may not need the same type of protection and sealing that a suit made for 40 degree temps will. 

Fully Sealed Seams (sealed and taped)

Fully sealed seams, or sealed and taped seams, will be found in cold water suits only. This seal is the strongest of all and assures no water will pass thru the seam and compromise the warmth of the suit. After the suit is stitched together, it is also glued on both sides which not only creates a durable seal but also blocks any water from entering your suit. 

Sealed Seams

Sealed seams will generally be found in mid-weight warmth suits (3/2 or 2mm) and will have a seam that is glued and then blindstitched. This process makes the suit highly water tight, but not as water tight as the fully taped option. The seam is glued and then the two seams are butted up to each other and stitched. (this process is referred to as blindstitching)

Flatlock Seams

Flatlock stitching is found in warm water suits and allows a small amount of water thru the seams to create a balanced temperature inside the wetsuit. This is a simple way to stitch the seams together, creating a smooth feeling seam that is comfortable on the inside and durable on the outside. 

Wetsuit Zippers

The placement of the zipper on a wetsuit will vary between back zip and front zip styles.

Back Zip Style

Back zip suits have the zipper on the back of the suit going from the neck to the lower / middle back area and some suits will zip in the front in a horizontal line in the upper chest / neck area. The benefit of a back zip suit is easy entry however some back zip suits can allow a small amount of water in.

Front Zip Style

The front zip suits will be the most water tight but can be a pain to get in and out of. (but if you are surfing in 40 degree water, getting in and out of the suit is the least of your worries)

Wetsuit Styles and Terminology

Depending on the temperature of the water and activity taking place, there is a wetsuit style that will work perfectly for you.

Wetsuit Fullsuit

Full Suit

The most common wetsuit would be a Fullsuit, this is a full bodied wetsuit with both arms and legs completely covered. Some colder water suits will even come with a built in hood. (referred to as Fullsuit with hood) 

Wetsuit John Style

John Style

For slightly warmer temps, you might look to a John style wetsuit. This wetsuit has long legs but a tank top style upper. Some people prefer a john with a jacket that can be easily removed for changing temps. 

Wetsuit Spring Style

Spring Suit

For warmer temps, a Spring Suit is a great option. This suit has a knee-length bottom and short sleeved top. These suits will generally be one thickness throughout, usually a 1mm or 2mm to keep your core warm on windy or slightly chilly days. 

Wetsuit Long Sleeve Spring Suit

Long Sleeve Spring Suit

A crowd favorite for the ladies is a long-sleeved spring suit option. This suit will have full sleeves but fit more like a bathing suit on the bottom. Since the core and upper body takes a bit more to warm up, this style suit is a great option for warmer water but chillier air temps. 

Wetsuit Top

Wetsuit Top

For high 60’s temps, a simple wetsuit top may be a good option. Generally, these tops are 1mm – 1.5mm thick and can help give a little boost of warmth in your core area. These tops can be worn with boardshorts and for extra insulation, try a liner short underneath. (like the O’neill Thermo Shorts)

Wetsuit Rashguard

Rash Guard/Surf Tee

If you just need a little UV protection or something between you and your board, a rashguard is what you need. Similar to a t-shirt or long sleeve t-shirt, the perfect lightweight alternative to stop the bad UV rays and keep you protected in warm water conditions. A surf tee will be similar to a rash guard but more similar to a t-shirt with a light UV coating.

Cold Water Accessories

For the serious waterman (or woman) looking to get out in the coldest of temps, some basic accessories can add a ton of warmth to your wetsuit. Investing in a few key pieces will keep you in the water much longer than those less prepared. 

Wetsuit Hoods

Wetsuit Hoods

Freezing cold water getting into your ears is a huge bummer. Wetsuit hoods look ridiculous and are pretty annoying to wear but absolutely get the job done. There are several variations of hoods available – some with brims, some that completely cover the neck, some that velcro under the chin, etc. Hoods usually come in 1.5mm – 3mm options. 

Wetsuit Gloves

Wetsuit Gloves

Wetsuit gloves are a no brainer for paddling out on cold days. There are varying thickness available as well as options with or without grip. If you are getting your SUP on, we recommend a good gummy, grippy palm area to help hang on to the paddle. For traditional surfing, the grip is not as important as the warmth factor. 

Wetsuit Booties

Wetsuit Booties

Wetsuit booties are one of the most useful cold water accessories you can buy. Especially for the SUP crowd, a bootie can get you out on your board much earlier in the season, keeping your feet toasty and protected from the elements. Just like the other accessories, bootie styles vary from lightweight “reef” booties that offer protection from sharp rocks in the water, all the way up to a 7mm cold water boot that rises above the ankle area so you can tuck your wetsuit in and create a water-resistant seal. Again, reference the water temp to find out what thickness will be best for you.

Wetsuit Size Guide

Finding the right size for your wetsuit is based on your height and your weight. Some brands will vary in their sizing. This chart from O’neill does a good job at finding the exact size in an O’neill style suit and works well across the board for most brands. As far as the overall fit goes, personal preference certainly plays a part but for colder temps, you really want the tightest fit possible. If you are in between sizes, trying the suits on is obviously the best scenario – but if you can’t just watch out for maxing out on the height restriction. A suit that is too ‘short’ for you will pull down on your neck area and feel pretty uncomfortable. If a suit is overall too big, you could end up with air pockets and extra material in various places. The size chart below should help you narrow down what sizes you should head out and try on. 

mens wetsuits

  2XS XS S ST M MS MT L LS LT XL XLS XLT 2XL 3XL
Height (In.) 5’6″ – 5’8″ 5’7″ – 5’9″ 5’8″ – 5’10” 6’0″ – 6’2″ 5’9″ – 5’11” 5’6″ – 5’8″ 6’1″ – 6’3″ 5’10” – 6’0″ 5’7″ – 5’9″ 6’2″ – 6’4″ 5’11” – 6’1″ 5’8″ – 5’10” 6’3″ – 6’5″ 6’0″ – 6’2″ 6’0″ – 6’2″
Weight (LB) 115 – 130 125 – 140 135 – 155 145 – 165 150 – 170 140 – 160 160 – 180 170 – 190 160 – 180 180 – 200 190 – 210 180 – 200 200 – 220 210 – 230 230 – 250
Chest (in.) 32″ – 34″ 34″ – 36″ 36″ – 38″ 36″ – 38″ 38″ – 40″ 38″ – 40″ 38″ – 40″ 40″ – 42″ 40″ – 42″ 40″ – 42″ 42″ – 44″ 42″ – 44″ 42″ – 44″ 44″ – 46″ 47″ – 49″
Waist (In.) 27″ – 29″ 28″ – 30″ 29″ – 31″ 29″ – 31″ 30″ – 32″ 30″ – 32″ 30″ – 32″ 32″ – 34″ 32″ – 34″ 32″ – 34″ 34″ – 36″ 34″ – 36″ 34″ – 36″ 36″ – 38″ 38″ – 43″
Height (CM) 168 – 173 170 – 175 173 – 178 183 – 188 175 – 180 169 – 174 185 – 191 178 – 183 171 – 177 188 – 193 180 – 185 174 – 179 190.5 – 195.5 183 – 188 183 – 191
Weight (KG) 50 – 54 57 – 64 61 – 70 66 – 75 68 – 77 64 – 73 73 – 82 77 – 86 73 – 82 82 – 91 86 – 95 82 – 91 91 – 100 95 – 104 104 – 113
Chest (CM) 83 – 88 88 – 93 93 – 98 93 – 98 98 – 103 98 – 103 98 – 103 103 – 108 103 – 108 103 – 108 108 – 113 108 – 113 108 – 113 113 – 118 119 – 124
Waist (CM) 69 – 74 71 – 96 74 – 79 74 – 79 77 – 83 77 – 83 77 – 83 83 – 88 83 – 88 83 – 88 88 – 93 88 – 93 88 – 93 93 – 98 98 – 110

womens wetsuits

  2 4 6S 6 8S 8 8T 10S 10 10T 12 14 16
Height (In.) 5’1″ – 5’3″ 5’3″ – 5’5″ 5’2″ – 5’4″ 5’4″ – 5’6″ 5’3″ – 5’5″ 5’5″ – 5’7″ 5’6″ – 5’8″ 5’4″ – 5’6″ 5’6″ – 5’8″ 5’7″ – 5’9″ 5’7″ – 5’9″ 5’9″ – 5’11” 5’9″ – 6’0″
Weight (LB) 90 – 105 100 – 115 105 – 120 110 – 125 115 – 130 120 – 135 125 – 140 125 – 145 130 – 150 135 – 155 140 – 160 150 – 170 165 – 185
Chest (in.) 29″ – 31″ 30″ – 32″ 31″ – 33″ 31″ – 33″ 32″ – 34″ 32″ – 34″ 32″ – 34″ 34″ – 36″ 34″ – 36″ 34″ – 36″ 35″ – 37″ 37″ – 39″ 38″ – 40″
Waist (In.) 23 – 25 24 – 26 25 – 27 25 – 27 26 – 28 26 – 28 26 – 28 27 – 29 27 – 29 27 – 29 29 – 31 30 – 32 32 – 34
Height (CM) 155 – 160 160 – 165 159 – 164 163 – 168 161 – 166 165 – 170 169 – 174 164 – 169 168 – 173 171 – 177 170 – 175 172 – 180 175 – 183
Weight (KG) 40 – 48 45 – 52 48 – 55 50 – 57 52 – 59 55 – 61 57 – 64 57 – 66 59 – 68 62 – 71 64 – 73 68 – 77 75 – 84
Chest (CM) 75 – 80 77 – 83 80 – 85 80 – 85 83 – 88 83 – 88 83 – 88 86 – 91 86 – 91 86 – 91 90 – 95 94 – 99 98 – 102
Waist (CM) 58 – 63 60 – 66 63 – 68 63 – 68 66 – 71 66 – 71 66 – 71 68 – 73 68 – 73 68 – 73 73 – 78 76 – 81 81 – 86

youth wetsuits

  1 2 3 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
Height (In.) 2’10” – 3’2″ 3’2″ – 3’6″ 3’6″ – 3’10” 3’10” – 4’1″ 4’1″ – 4’4″ 4’4″ – 4’7″ 4’7″ – 4’10” 4’10” – 5’1″ 5’1″ – 5’4″ 5’4″ – 5’7″
Weight (LB) 25 – 30 30 – 35 35 – 40 40 – 55 50 – 65 60 – 75 75 – 90 90 – 105 105 – 120 120 – 135
Chest (in.) 19″ – 21″ 20″ – 22″ 21″ – 23″ 23″ – 25″ 24″ – 26″ 26″ – 28″ 28″ – 30″ 29″ – 31″ 31″ – 33″ 33″ – 35″
Waist (In.) 18″ – 20″ 19″ – 21″ 20″ – 22″ 20″ – 22″ 21″ – 23″ 22″ – 24″ 24″ – 26″ 25″ – 27″ 26″ – 28″ 27″ – 29″
Height (CM) 87.5 – 98 98 – 108 108 – 117 117 – 124 124 – 132 132 – 140 140 – 147 147 – 155 155 – 163 163 – 170
Weight (KG) 11 – 13.5 13.5 – 16 16 – 18.5 16 – 23 20 – 27 37 – 34 34 – 41 41 – 48 48 – 54 54 – 61
Chest (CM) 48 – 53 51 – 55.5 53 – 58.5 62 – 67 64 – 69 66 – 71 71 – 76 74 – 79 79 – 84 84 – 89
Waist (CM) 45 – 50 48 – 53 50 – 55 50 – 55 53 – 58 55 – 61 61 – 66 63 – 68 68 – 73 71 – 76
2017-05-02T13:22:50-05:00

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