Wetsuit Thickness Guide 2024!

Welcome to the essential wetsuit thickness guide for surfers. Whether you’re braving a frosty dawn patrol or enjoying sunlit afternoons, selecting the right wetsuit is crucial for your comfort, performance, and safety.

 

To kick thing’s off, check out our wetsuit thickness calculator. 

The Wetsuit Thickness Calculator

Enter the sea temperature at your chosen surf spot and we’ll do the rest. If you’re unsure, check the sea temperature charts below (choose the closest option). 

Sea Temperature Charts

Destination Jan - Mar (°C/°F) Apr - Jun (°C/°F) Jul - Sep (°C/°F) Oct - Dec (°C/°F)
North Shore, Hawaii 24-25 / 75-77 25-26 / 77-79 26-28 / 79-82 25-27 / 77-80
Gold Coast, Australia 25-27 / 77-80 22-25 / 72-77 21-23 / 70-73 23-25 / 73-77
Cornwall, UK 8-10 / 46-50 10-12 / 50-54 15-17 / 59-63 10-12 / 50-54
Santa Cruz, California 10-13 / 50-55 11-14 / 52-57 13-16 / 55-61 12-14 / 54-57
Outer Banks, North Carolina 6-14 / 43-57 18-25 / 64-77 25-28 / 77-82 14-21 / 57-70
Biarritz, France 12-14 / 54-57 15-18 / 59-64 19-21 / 66-70 14-16 / 57-61
Bali, Indonesia 29-30 / 84-86 28-29 / 82-84 27-28 / 81-82 28-29 / 82-84
Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa 19-21 / 66-70 18-20 / 64-68 14-16 / 57-61 16-18 / 61-64

Understanding Wetsuit Thickness

Wetsuit thickness is crucial for thermal insulation. The colder the water, the more neoprene you need. 

 

Measured in millimeters, wetsuit thickness is represented with two or three numbers separated by slashes (for example 3/2mm).

 

The first number indicates the thickness around the torso, providing core warmth. The subsequent numbers represent the thickness of the material at the extremities, where flexibility is key.

 

For example, a “4/3” wetsuit is 4mm thick around the torso and 3mm thick at the arms and legs.

Why Does Thickness Matter?

The primary function of a wetsuit is to keep you warm (obviously). This is achieved by trapping a thin layer of water between the suit and your skin, which your body then heats.

 

The thickness of your wetsuit determines its warmth but also affects flexibility. Thicker wetsuits offer more warmth but less flexibility, and vice versa.

The Best Wetsuit Brands!

Each brand has its own approach to wetsuit design, with specific focuses on technology, sustainability, and performance.

 

Here are some notable brands and what sets them apart:

1. Rip Curl

Renowned for their award-winning Flashbomb wetsuits, Rip Curl focuses on creating suits that are easy to get into and out of, without sacrificing warmth or flexibility. Their wetsuits are a favorite among cold-water surfers (myself included).

wetsuit recommendation - the rip curl flashbomb

The Rip Curl Flashbomb line clinched our Wetsuit of the Year award for its unparalleled blend of warmth, flexibility, and innovative features. My personal wetsuit of choice!

2. O'Neill

Often credited with creating the first wetsuit, O’Neill continues to innovate with high-quality suits for all levels of surfer. Known for their Hyperfreak and Psycho series, they offer great flexibility and warmth.

3. Patagonia

With a strong emphasis on environmental responsibility, Patagonia uses neoprene-free, natural rubber in their wetsuits. They are ideal for surfers who prioritize eco-friendliness without compromising on performance.

4. Billabong

Offering innovative features like graphene-infused linings, Billabong wetsuits are designed for warmth and comfort. Their Furnace series is particularly popular for its thermal efficiency.

5. Quiksilver

Known for their high-performance wetsuits, Quiksilver combines advanced materials and technology to ensure warmth, flexibility, and durability. Their Highline series is a testament to their commitment to quality.

6. Xcel

Xcel wetsuits are favored by many for their Thermo Lite and Radiant Rebound technology, focusing on retaining heat and enhancing performance. They offer a wide range of wetsuits to suit various conditions.

Temperature Guide and Thickness Chart

Water Temperature Wetsuit Thickness Recommended Wetsuit Type
>72°F (>22°C) N/A Rashguard
65-75°F (18-24°C) 0.5 mm - 2/1 mm Top / Shorty
62-68°F (16-20°C) 2 mm - 3/2 mm Springsuit / Full Suit
58-63°F (14-17°C) 3/2 mm - 4/3 mm Full Suit + Boots
52-58°F (11-14°C) 4/3 mm - 5/4/3 mm Full Suit + Boots + Gloves + Hood
43-52°F (6-11°C) 5/4 mm - 5/4/3 mm Full Suit + Boots + Gloves + Hood
42°F and below (6°C and below) 6/5 mm + Full Suit + Boots + Gloves + Hood

Types of Wetsuit

  • Full Suit: Covers the entire body. Ideal for colder conditions. In extreme temperatures, may even include a hood. 
  • Spring Suit: Often a thinner full body wetsuit, but may have long arms and short legs. 
  • Shorty: Similar to a spring suit but with short sleeves and legs.

Wetsuit Technology and Features

  • Sealed Seams: Glued and blind stitched for waterproofing and durability.
  • Zipper Types: Back zip for ease of entry, chest zip for better seal and flexibility, and zipperless for the highest flexibility.
  • Neoprene Types: Standard neoprene and eco-friendly alternatives like limestone or plant-based neoprene.

Wetsuit Accessories

Wetsuit accessories improve your comfort and protection in various water temperatures.

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Here’s what you need to know:

1. Boots (Booties)

Essential for cold water, they also protect your feet from rocks and coral. Thickness ranges from 2 mm for mild conditions to 7 mm for extreme cold.

2. Gloves

Like boots, gloves are crucial for cold waters. They come in different styles, including full-finger and webbed for paddling efficiency. Thickness varies similarly to boots.

3. Hoods

For icy conditions, a hood prevents heat loss through your head. Choose based on water temperature, matching the thickness to your wetsuit.

4. Rash Guards

Worn under a wetsuit or alone in warm water, they prevent rashes from board friction and provide UV protection.

5. Thermal Layers

For extra insulation without increasing wetsuit thickness, thermal vests and pants can be worn underneath. 

Fit and Sizing

A well-fitting wetsuit should fit snugly without restricting movement or breathing, with no excess material. It’s crucial to try on different sizes and brands, as sizing can vary.

 

For example… a size MS (Medium Short) from Ripcurl fits me perfectly, but the same size from Quiksilver is far too tight. 

Care and Maintenance

  • Rinse with fresh water after each use.
  • Hang to dry away from direct sunlight.
  • Avoid folding to prevent creases.

Conclusion

My wetsuit thickness guide was carefully crafted to demystify the process of finding the ideal wetsuit.

Why is this so important?

The right wetsuit thickness is key to ensuring comfort, warmth, and flexibility in the water, allowing you to focus on what truly matters: enjoying the surf!

 

Whether you’re facing the chill of colder waters or enjoying the warmth of tropical seas, understanding the essentials of wetsuit thickness will undoubtedly enhance your experience.

 

Happy surfing, and remember…

 

It’s never “too cold to surf”, you just need the right wetsuit!

FAQS

Yes, depending on where you surf, you may need different wetsuits for different seasons. Colder months require thicker wetsuits (4/3 mm to 6/5 mm) to maintain body heat, while warmer months might only need a light top or a 2/1 mm shorty. 

While a thicker wetsuit provides more warmth, it also reduces flexibility, which will impact your surfing performance. Balance is key; choose a thickness that keeps you warm without significantly hindering movement.

Surf wetsuits prioritize flexibility; dive wetsuits focus on buoyancy control and may not suit surfing well. 

Use a rash guard and ensure your wetsuit fits properly. Some people apply wetsuit lubricant to sensitive areas. Having said that, most modern wetsuits have soft linings and smooth internal seams. 

With proper care, a good quality wetsuit can last several seasons. Frequency of use and maintenance are key factors.

Yes, small tears can be repaired with neoprene glue/cement. For larger damages, consult a professional.

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