In this country wetsuits are pretty much a necessity. If you stay warm in the water you will be a lot more comfortable and hence able to perform and coordinate your movement’s at the most efficient level for longer periods of time.
Wetsuits are made from neoprene and nylon, sometimes even mixed with rubber in some areas, designed either to protect from wear, or to repel water which cools the exterior of a suit taking important heat away from the core.
They are designed to let a small amount of water in, holding it next to your body, which heats up from the natural energy produced by you during exercise. The water gets flushed through during surfing especially when waves break on you. If this warm water escapes alot you will get cold, since new cold water will enter and you will use energy heating it again. It is important to minimise this flushing by choosing a well fitted suit without any baggy bits around your limbs. It should not be uncomfortable or restrict your circulation. Do not compromise in choosing your wetsuit as it will hamper your enjoyment if you get cold. Second hand suits are not really a good idea if you want to be surfing regularly, since they have formed around someone else’s body, and you have only to look how many different shapes and sizes humans come in. New suits come in a wide variety of sizes for men, women and kids, and don’t be afraid to try them on until one fits you perfectly.
Different companies do have slightly different sizing so remember to check. Look to get a full length suit in England, of at least 3:2 ml thickness to start with.
Thickness of suits obviously varies according to how cold the water will be i.e. how much insulation is offered by the neoprene. The thicker the suit the less flexible and light it will be but the greater its capacity is to maintain heat. In Southern Britain the summer from June to October warrants a 3:2 millimetre thickness suit or 3:2 for short. This has neoprene panels in the core areas that are three millimetres thick and two millimetres thick in the leg and arm pieces. A spring suit will normally cover you either end of the season and throughout the winter if it’s combined with the use of boots, gloves and even a hood in extreme cases, which must all fit well so they do not fill with water. A spring suit is 4:3 in thickness.
Beyond this there are winter suits available in 5:4:3 ratios for extreme cold. Short arm and leg varieties are also on the market but these are really personal preferences depending on how much one feels the cold, or travels.
A great deal of suits are available some of which will dazzle you with technology. Remember that the seams which join each panel to one another are the important bits, since these and the zip which closes the suit are the key areas prone to splitting or water loss/entry.
Overlocked stitching is an exposed seam where the panels join and water penetrates these areas. Wetsuits with this type of seam are cheap, and flexible, but much colder due to extensive flushing.
Flatlock stitching is when the two pieces of neoprene are lapped together, forming a flat comfortable join. A band of interlocked thread is used on both sides of the suit. It does let some water in, but not as much as an overlocked seam will do. Summer suits are often made with this system.
Blind and glued stitching is the most effective form of seal, although not a durable it offers the best insulation. Panels are glued and butted together, sealing in stitches that do not penetrate the outside of the neoprene. This prevents any water entry, is the most comfortable and of course the warmest.
Rash vests are used underneath a suit to prevent rubbing of the neoprene against the skin which can cause chaffing in joint areas. Insulated vests are also available which can help retain warmth if used in conjunction with a correctly fitting suit. If your ears are susceptible to infections purchase some ear plugs that are designed for water use, but bear in mind that this will hamper your awareness.
The cost of wetsuits varies from a basic level of fifty pounds up to winter suits and technical suits of two hundred pounds.
To keep your wetsuit in good condition it is necessary to peel it off inside out without overstretching, rinse it thoroughly in fresh water then hang it up to dry away from direct sunlight preferably on a hanger. Try to avoid folding a wetsuit as it will crease easily, roll it up instead.