Your wetsuit is often one of the most important pieces of gear you’ll buy for any watersport. Whether you’re surfing, scuba diving or windsurfing, your wetsuit is a worthwhile investment to make sure you feel comfortable in the water and are able to perform well and have fun. There are a few factors that play a part in choosing the right wetsuit, but understanding them can help narrow down the choices and find the wetsuit that best suits your needs.

Wetsuit Fit

One of the most common mistakes when buying a wetsuit for the first time is purchasing a wetsuit that is too big. Wetsuits are designed to fit very snugly — that’s partly how they keep you warm and keep excess water out. One important indicator of if a wetsuit is too big is to lift your arms up in the air. If the material around your armpits isn’t snug to your skin, the wetsuit is too big.

A tight wetsuit can be difficult to put on and take off though, which can cause some risk of tearing or permanently stretching the wetsuit during the process. For beginners, silicone lubricants are a great way to make donning and doffing a wetsuit easier. We also recommend using a plastic bag such as a grocery bag to slip over your hands and feet when putting them into your wetsuit.

How Do Wetsuits Work?

Wetsuits help keep you warm in three ways. First, by providing a physical barrier between your skin and the water. Second, by trapping a thin layer of water between your skin and the suit. This layer of water becomes warm from your body heat and insulates your body. Third, the wetsuit traps tiny air pockets in the neoprene material, creating a third layer of insulation.

Wetsuit Thickness

Wetsuit thickness generally ranges between 1 and 7 millimeters in thickness and will usually be labeled with two thickness, such as 3/2mm or 5/4mm. The first number refers to the neoprene in the torso, while the second number refers to the neoprene in the sleeves and pant legs. This difference in thickness helps provide better flexibility.

When considering wetsuit thickness, it’s important to consider the temperature of the water in which you’ll be, as well as the activity you’ll be doing. Surfing, for example, requires more flexibility than scuba diving, so you may want to consider a thinner neoprene when surfing.

Also, keep in mind that people have varying sensitivities to temperature. If you know you are more sensitive to cold temperatures, it may be beneficial to go with a thicker wetsuit than is generally recommended.

Water Temperature Recommended Thickness
68-77°F 1-2.5mm
59-68°F 3-5mm
50-59°F 5-7mm
Below 50°F 7-mm

Wetsuit Coverage

Wetsuits come in a variety of styles that depend on the activity you’ll be doing. Again, for sports with more movement, it’s often preferred to have less coverage for better flexibility in the water.


Full coverage with sleeves and pant legs

Long Johns

Sleeveless with pantlegs

Short Johns

Sleeveless with short pant legs


Long sleeves with short pant legs or no pant legs


Short sleeves with short pant legs

Wetsuit Seams

While all wetsuits are designed to allow a little bit of water in to create an insulating layer, the amount of water should be kept to a minimum and there should not be much movement of water. To make sure that your wetsuit will keep flushing and seepage to a minimum, look for seams that are blind-stitched and glued, sometimes referred to as GBS seams. Seams that are not both glued and blind-stitched have less durability to resist water flow through the wetsuit.