A proper wetsuit makes the difference between a full, fun day of surfing and a short, miserable time. With a poor-fitting suit, it’s easy to feel like you’re freezing important body parts off. Conversely, a correct wetsuit’s sole purpose is to keep you warm so you can fully enjoy whichever variety of watersport keeps you going.
Picking the right wetsuit shouldn’t be about fashion, color, or going with what the pros wear. Instead, make your choice based on fit, water temperature, suit thickness and flexibility, air temperature, and wind temperature. Your personal sensitivity to cold also makes a difference in comfort based on the suit’s relative thickness. Accessories such as hoods, gloves, boots, and rash guards also affect your choice by helping you conserve body heat with the same wetsuit on chillier days.
Keep in mind that wetsuits aren’t strictly for surfing. The same suits often work for diving, body surfing and boogie boarding, spearfishing, waterskiing, paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking, sailing, and even work for triathlons and Tough Mudder events — though some of those sports have special requirements.
To help you navigate the sea of available options, we focused on wetsuits for serious surfers willing to invest in a suit capable of lasting at least two or three years with lots of use. If you only surf a few days a year, or even a few weeks, you won’t need the highest quality suit — in most cases, the same brands sell less expensive lines sufficient for casual surfers.
O’Neill Psycho Tech Men’s Wetsuit 4-millimeter by 3-millimeter FUZE Chest Zip FSW Full Wetsuit
Why should you buy this: The O’Neill Psycho Tech F.U.Z.E. Closure wetsuit is an investment in comfort, durability, ease of entry, and quick-drying convenience.
Who’s it for: Serious year round surfers looking for serious equipment that’s usable in all but the coldest temperatures.
How much will it cost: $420-425
Why we picked the O’Neill Psycho Tech F.U.Z.E. 4/3 FSW Full Wetsuit:
O’Neill’s Psycho Tech line with F.U.Z.E. closure combines the company’s TechnoButter 2 neoprene with a single seam weld and its latest entry system. According to O’Neill, its TechnoButter 2 is the lightest and most durable neoprene yet. It even retains 30 percent less water than the original TechnoButter material and dries much quicker.
The Front Upper Zipper Entry(F.U.Z.E.) closure has a 360-degree inner barrier to shield water entering the zipper from your body. Three strategically placed drain holes guide the water out of the entry. Other features include TechnoButter 2 Air Firewall insulation for extra body core warmth, Super Seal cuffs so water can’t enter the suit at your wrists or ankles, and Krypto Knee Padz so you won’t rub your knees while paddling.
The Psycho Tech F.U.Z.E. 4/3 suit provides ample warmth for most people when water temperatures are in the low 50s to low 60s, which makes it a great shoulder season suit. If the water temp drops into the 40s where you surf you’ll need more protection but the 4 by 3 weight could suffice as a serious surfer’s only wetsuit, especially when paired with hoods, boots, and gloves on colder days.
The best warm water wetsuit
Xcel Men’s Revolt TDC Fullsuit 3-millimeter by 2-millimeter
Why should you buy this: The Xcel Revolt TDC Fullsuit 3 by 2 uses two different Thermo Dry Celliant lining thicknesses for maximum torso warmth and lower body flexibility.
Who’s it for: Avid surfers who surf where the water seldom drops much below 60 degrees.
How much will it cost: $395
Why we picked the Xcel Men’s Revolt TDC Fullsuit 3/2:
If you surf in the southern United States, or spots where low water temperatures range from the mid-50s to mid-60s, Xcel’s Revolt TDC 3 by 2 Fullsuit can be your one and only. The Revolt boasts a multitude of features that balance flexibility and warmth. Xcel’s Ultra Stretch lightweight neoprene has a tight weave for durability and maximum stretch.
The suit’s rubber is textured for wind resistance on the outer chest panels and hoods. Drylock wrist seals and thin bands of liquid neoprene inside the wrists and ankles add to the suit’s seal.
The Revolt uses two types of Thermo Dry Celliant (TDC) pile lining, both of which are fast drying, lightweight, and naturally hydrophobic. High pile TDC helps preserve core warmth with Smart Fiber Technology that converts body heat into infrared energy for greater warmth and endurance, along with faster recovery. Low Pile TDC has similar properties to the high pile version but is thinner and less restrictive for greater flexibility.
The X2 Front Entry system has a front zipper that angles along the upper chest with an inner flap to keep water out of the suit. An inner Crossover Neck Entry feature has overlapping panels that stretch for easier suit entry. Other noteworthy Revolt TDC Fullsuit features include grooves in cutouts behind the knees for flexibility, Duraflex stretchable knee panels, and a design concept that minimizes seams for greater flexibility.
The best cold water wetsuit
O’Neill Heat Wetsuits Men’s 6-millimeter by 5-millimeter by 4-millimeter mm Full Wetsuit with Hood
Why should you buy this: For winter surfing when you don’t want cold water to keep you from the waves.
Who’s it for: Anyone who surfs in water temperatures in the mid-40s.
How much will it cost: $400
Why we picked the O’Neill Heat 6 by 5 by 4 Full Suit with Hood:
The O’Neill Heat 6 by 5 by 4 Full Wetsuit with Hood’s stand out feature is in its name: Heat. Constructed entirely of O’Neill’s “ultra gooey” Ultraflex DS Neoprene with FluidFlex Firewall material in the chest and back, the Heat wetsuit is all about keeping you warm in extremely cold water. If you insist on surfing when water temperatures sit in the 30s, this is your suit.
The Heat suit is a back zip design with a urethane-coated RedZone zipper with offset teeth that interlock to keep water from traveling in or out of the suit. The zipper panel has been re-designed for easier in-and-out which tends to be a major factor in thick suits. Additional functional design features include a seamless paddle zone and LSD — otherwise known as Lumbar Seamless Design.
All seams are triple glued and blind stitched on the inside for durable flexibility and have an 8-millimeter silicon-based urethane Fluid Seam Weld on the exterior. The Heat also features Krypto Knee Padz to shield your knees while paddling and an external key pocket.
The best shortie wetsuit
Patagonia R1 Lite Yulex Front Zip Spring Suit
Why should you buy this: Patagonia‘s neoprene-free Yulex Spring Suit gives you an edge when the water approaches summer temperature levels.
Who’s it for: Spring and fall surfers, or summer surfers who have low cold water tolerance, and like Patagonia’s statement about naturally sourced materials.
How much will it cost: $230
Why we picked the Patagonia Men’s R1 Lite Yulex Front-Zip Spring Suit:
Patagonia’s wetsuits are all constructed of neoprene-free Yulex, the company’s natural rubber-based material. The R1 Lite Yulex Front-Zip Spring Suit shortie is made from 85 percent Yulex and 15 percent synthetic rubber. The suit is lined with 100 percent recycled polyester for flexibility and fast drying time.
According to Patagonia, the natural rubber in Yulex is sourced from trees that are Forest Stewardship Council certified by the Rainforest Alliance. What that all adds up to is a greener look at the materials used in the suit’s construction than neoprene suits, which are petroleum-based.
The R1 suit is rated by Patagonia for water temperatures from 65 to 75 degrees. In many coastal U.S. areas, that’s as warm as the water ever gets, even in summer. This short suit also works for those who are more cold-sensitive than average and desire extra warmth, even in summer waters above 75 degrees.
The seams on the R1 Lite Yulex Spring Suit are triple glued and blindstitched, with additional spot taping inside at high-stress areas. The suit has a front-zip entry with a fully repairable, corrosion-proof Salmi zipper. The front entry on this lightweight suit makes entry and exit about as good as it gets.
The best hooded wetsuit
Rip Curl Men’s FlashBomb Chest Zip 5.5-millimeter by 4-millimeter Wetsuit
Why should you buy this: It’s Rip Curl’s warm, flexible, and durable wetsuit meant for winter surfing where water temperatures don’t dip below the 40s.
Who’s it for: Winter and cold water surfers in all but the very coldest parts of the country, like northern New England.
How much will it cost: $460
Why we picked the Rip Curl Men’s FlashBomb Chest Zip 5.5 by 4 Wetsuit:
Rip Curl‘s FlashBomb E5 Flash Lining is engineered for more stretch and faster drying times than earlier linings. The lining and liquid tape technology, along with the FlashBomb’s interior stress point E5 taping, work together to keep you warm and dry for longer days on the water.
Rated as a 5.5 by 4 wetsuit, the FlashBomb (with its hood) should be comfortable for most surfers when water temperatures are close to 40 degrees, especially if you wear gloves and booties. If you consistently surf in water in the mid to high 30s, you might need something extra.
According to Rip Curl, E5 Flash Lining funnels water out of the suit rapidly for maximum comfort. Additionally, Rip Curl’s E4 neoprene is extremely flexible, meaning wearers can expect a nice range of movement while in the water. The FlashBomb’s chest zip also boasts a lock slide design closure for easy operation and water impermeability. To top it off, Rip Curl included a magnetic stash pocket for storing car keys.