Are There Special Wetsuits For Surfing?

Surfing demands more than just a surfboard. For most surfers, especially those surfing in colder waters, a wetsuit is essential. 

I have tried many wetsuits over the years, and I have found that some wetsuit designs are much better than others as they are designed with surfing in mind, with greater movement in the shoulders. 

There are special wetsuits intended for surfing. Surfing wetsuits for cold water are made with thicker neoprene material to provide insulation. They also have features like reinforced knees and elbows, extra stretch panels, and more movement in the shoulders to aid paddling.

In this article, I will explain what makes a wetsuit good for surfing, what to look for in a wetsuit and what to wear in general while surfing, drawing on my personal experiences.

A man holds a surfing wetsuit

What Should I Wear Surfing? 

When choosing what to wear while surfing, comfort, flexibility, and protection are paramount. A good surfing wetsuit should fit snugly without being too tight. It should allow maximum movement, especially around the shoulder area for paddling. Thickness is critical as it provides insulation: a 3/2mm wetsuit is suitable for water temperatures between 13-20°C, while a 4/3mm or 5/4mm suit is better for colder waters.

Pay attention to the quality of the neoprene and seam construction. High-quality neoprene is more flexible and durable, and sealed or liquid-taped seams prevent water from entering the suit, keeping you warmer for longer.

Remember, the goal is to stay warm without sacrificing too much mobility, as this can drastically affect your ability to surf. As always when it comes to wetsuits, comfort should guide your choice.

Are There Special Wetsuits For Surfing?

As mentioned, there are indeed special wetsuits for surfing.Surfing wetsuits are distinct because they cater to the unique needs of a surfer. They are designed with reinforced knees to resist wear from the surfboard, and they generally have a little more room around the shoulders to allow some flex while paddling. 

Many also have a smooth, wind-resistant surface on the chest and back to protect against wind chill. 

As for the thickness and flexibility, it varies based on the water temperature and individual preference. 

Some brands even offer wetsuits tailored for specific body shapes and sizes to ensure an optimal fit. So, while you can technically surf in any wetsuit, check if your chosen wetsuit is recommended for surfing since these wetsuits are designed to provide maximum comfort and flexibility in the water, making them an excellent choice for surfers.

Is There A Difference Between A Swimming Wetsuit And A Surfing Wetsuit?

Yes, there is a discernible difference between a swimming wetsuit and a surfing wetsuit. Swimming wetsuits are designed to maximize the swimmer’s speed and efficiency in the water. They are typically thinner, allowing for greater freedom of movement, particularly in the shoulder area for efficient stroking. They also often have a slick surface to reduce drag. 

On the other hand, surfing wetsuits are typically thicker for better insulation against cold water and wind, and they have reinforced areas to withstand rough contact with the surfboard. 

The design emphasis for surfing wetsuits is on durability and warmth while swimming wetsuits prioritize flexibility and speed. 

Therefore, although you can swim in a surfing wetsuit and vice versa, for optimal performance and comfort, it’s ideal to use the wetsuit designed for your specific sport.

What Is A Good Wetsuit For Surfing?

A good surfing wetsuit should be a perfect blend of warmth, flexibility, and durability. The material should be of high-quality neoprene that provides excellent insulation without compromising on flexibility. 

Thickness is a key aspect to consider; typically, a 3/2mm wetsuit is ideal for mild temperatures, while a 4/3mm or even a 5/4mm suit would be necessary for colder waters. 

Make sure to check the seam construction; sealed or liquid-taped seams offer the best water resistance. Reinforced knees and back panels cater to the rigorous demands of surfing. 

Lastly, a good surfing wetsuit should fit well, hugging your body without being overly restrictive, allowing you maximum freedom of movement while on the board. 

Some popular brands known for their quality surfing wetsuits include O’Neill, Billabong, and Rip Curl. Always remember, the best wetsuit for you is the one that matches your specific needs and comfort.

Do I Need A Wetsuit For Surfing?

Whether or not you need a wetsuit for surfing largely depends on the water temperature and your personal comfort. 

If you’re surfing in warmer climates where the water temperature is above 20°C, wearing a wetsuit may not be necessary. However, in colder waters, a wetsuit is crucial to protect you from hypothermia. It provides insulation, keeping your body warm, and it also adds buoyancy, making it easier to swim. 

Even in milder conditions, many surfers prefer to wear a wetsuit for protection against the sun, rashes from surfboard wax, and accidental contact with rocks or reefs. 

The choice ultimately comes down to your personal preference and the specific conditions where you’ll be surfing.

How Do You Pick A Wetsuit For Surfing?

Choosing the right wetsuit for surfing involves considering a few key factors:

  1. Water Temperature: The thickness of your wetsuit should match the temperature of the water you’ll be surfing in. As mentioned earlier, a 3/2mm wetsuit suits water temperatures between 13-20°C, while a 4/3mm or 5/4mm suit is for colder waters.
  2. Fit: A well-fitting wetsuit will hug your body without being too tight, allowing a full range of movement, particularly around the shoulders for paddling.
  3. Build Quality: Look for high-quality neoprene, which provides flexibility and durability. The seams should be sealed or liquid-taped to prevent water ingress, keeping you warmer for longer.
  4. Features: Additional features like reinforced knees, back panels, and key pockets can enhance your surfing experience. Consider if these features are important to you.
  5. Price: Wetsuits range in price, and often, you get what you pay for. Balance affordability with quality and features that meet your needs. 

Remember, trying on different wetsuits and testing them in the water is the most reliable way to find the perfect suit for you.

Do Surfers Wear Anything Under A Wetsuit?

Whether surfers wear anything under a wetsuit depends greatly on personal preference and the wetsuit design. Some surfers prefer to wear a swimsuit or board shorts under their wetsuit for extra comfort or modesty when changing. 

Others choose to wear nothing underneath, arguing that a wetsuit is designed to be worn directly against the skin to work most effectively. It’s important to note that wearing bulky clothing under a wetsuit can limit its ability to trap a thin layer of water against your skin, which is heated by your body temperature to keep you warm. Therefore, if you opt to wear anything under your wetsuit, it should be thin and form-fitting. Some wetsuits come with a built-in liner or rash guard for additional comfort. 

Ultimately, the choice is a personal one and should be based on what feels most comfortable while surfing.

I like to wear a rash vest with a turtleneck. This stops any chafing by the wetsuit in the neck region. 

Why Do Surfers Always Wear Black Wetsuits?

The predominance of black wetsuits among surfers can be attributed to a couple of factors, the most notable of which is heat absorption. Black absorbs more sunlight and retains heat better than lighter colours, which is beneficial in colder waters and weather conditions. This helps surfers stay warm while waiting for waves in the lineup.

Another reason is tradition. When wetsuits were first introduced, the available neoprene was black. Consequently, black wetsuits became the norm, and this has largely continued, driven by the perception that black wetsuits are more professional or serious. 

Finally, black is a colour that doesn’t show dirt or wear as easily as lighter colours, which is a practical advantage considering the regular contact with seawater, sand, and wax. While there are wetsuits available in a variety of colours and patterns today, black remains the universally favoured choice for its heat-retaining properties, traditional appeal, and practicality.

Are There Shark-Proof Wetsuits?

Shark-proof wetsuits are a topic of considerable interest among surfers. While no wetsuit can guarantee complete protection from a shark attack, there are certain brands that claim to make technology which will deter sharks. 

One such brand, Sharkbanz, uses patented magnetic technology that supposedly disrupts a shark’s electro-receptors, discouraging them from approaching. 

Another company, SAMS (Shark Attack Mitigation Systems), designs wetsuits with unique patterns that either mimic creatures unpalatable to sharks or create an illusion of dangerous animals, theoretically deterring sharks. 

These wetsuits, however, are still relatively new on the market, and their effectiveness remains a topic of debate within the surfing community. It’s important to note that the best protection against shark encounters is always to follow local guidelines and safety precautions.

Final Thoughts

The choice of a wetsuit for surfing is a personal decision that hinges on several factors, including water temperature, fit, build quality, features, price, and personal comfort. 

While black wetsuits remain the go-to choice for many surfers due to their heat-retaining properties and traditional appeal, there’s a growing interest in wetsuits claiming to deter shark interactions. However, their effectiveness remains a topic of debate. 

Always remember, the key is to prioritize your comfort and safety and choose a wetsuit that best suits your needs and conditions. 

Happy surfing!

Emma Moore

Hi, I am Emma, and I am obsessed with all watersports, from swimming to surfing and everything in between. I spend my free time in the water or preparing for my next water travel adventure.

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