Living in California, where the weather can get cold and the ocean water, well, definitely cold, you might want to start looking into getting comfortable and warmer in the water, and here is the trick: wetsuits. You might be thinking that buying a wetsuit is an easy process, just go to a surf shop, choose the best size and you're good to get in the water. Let me tell you something: the wetsuit market can get pretty tricky with the various brands and options you can look up, and if you choose it wrong, trust me, it can get pretty uncomfortable in the water. Due to that, here are some of my best tips on what to look for when buying a wetsuit.
First of all, you will want to look into your budget for the new wetsuit. Usually a good wetsuit can start at $120 and eventually go up to $600. The price can vary depending on the wetsuit’s thickness, durability, brand… Before starting to look into what wetsuit you want, it is always good to set a price ceiling and choose from there.
Choosing the thickness of a wetsuit is very subjective. It depends on where you are originally from (if the water is generally cold or warm), if you are someone who is sensitive to cold water, or if you are someone that prefers to be a little bit colder, but having less weight on your body. The thickness of a wetsuit starts at 2/2mm. These are usually summer suits for places where the water gets to 23 ºC, or 72 ºF. The most common suit used is the 3/2mm, which starts to be a good option from 18 ºC (63 ºF) or under. Colder than 15 ºC (59 ºF), I recommend using a 4/3mm, which will keep you warm in the cold water and comfortable for surfing. Wetsuit’s thickness continues to go up (5/4, 6/5, 7/6), but for surfing they are not usually used. The 5/4mm can end up being used in the extreme north or south of our globe. 6/5mm and 7/6mm are usually used for deep diving.
It is good to keep in mind that the thicker the wetsuit, the heavier it will be on your shoulders to paddle, or even on your body to get up, which requires more physical effort. And of course the price goes up with the thickness. Well, at least you feel warm…
Something that many people who are buying their first wetsuit don’t know is that each wetsuit has a different zipper. The back-zip is the most basic, with the zipper on the back of the wetsuit, which is decent but there is more room for the water to go in the wetsuit. The second option can be chest-zip. As the name says, this option will add an extra layer at the level of your chest with a zipper, which will help with controlling the amount of water. The best option is a no zipper option, with the same extra-layer on the chest, but almost no entrance for water. Both chest-zip and no-zip are extremely warm on the neck, while the back-zip one does not go up as the others. Due to that, the no zipper ends up being the most expensive product, but by far the best.
I would also recommend going to a store and trying a wetsuit before buying. Nowadays the e-com is getting bigger and bigger and you might find the best wetsuit on-line. But definitely try on one (FROM THE SAME BRAND) at a physical store, as size varies depending on the brand. A good idea is also to rent one and see how different sizes feel in the water. In L.A, a good place to rent (both suits and boards) is El Porto Surf Shop, the local shop of the most crowded beach in the county. There is a big variety of options to try on and make the best decision on your purchase. Here is the RipCurl size chart for wetsuits:
Note that a wetsuit is made to be pretty tight, but not uncomfortable. You need to be able to move your arms around. On another hand, it is also normal to have a bit of water entering the suit. They are not made to stop water from getting in, but the tech around it keeps the water in the wetsuit warm. When testing the wetsuit on, make sure to stretch yourself with the suit on, so that you can test the stretchiness of the suit, which will give you flexibility when in the water.
What is the best wetsuit?
After all these tips, it is finally time for me to tell what I think is the best suit. First of all, to answer the debate once and for all, I do think that RipCurl makes the best suits in the world. This is due to the durability, the stretchiness, how comfortable they are, the ease to put them on, the fact that they let most of the water out, and what I like the most, the fast drying time. I own a RipCurl flashbomb 3/2 zip-free, which I absolutely love. The Flashbomb is by far the best model, but they can get pretty expensive. This is why, my to go for who is buying the first suit would be a RipCurl Dawn Patrol chest-zip, which is the middle option. Depending on the thickness, you can get it starting at $249.95. For the good but less expensive option, I would definitely choose the Omega back-zip, which starts at $170.
All of these suits are available at the El Porto Surf Shop, which is an official Rip Curl seller. The staff is extremely nice and helpful. If you have any questions, they will help you on the spot.