As you can imagine, it's obviously a little bit different choosing a wetsuit for bodysurfing, because we are completely submerged in the water all of the time. Plus there's an obvious need for a lot of flexibility, since we're swimming a lot.There are differences between choosing a wetsuit for bodysurfing and one you would choose for surfing.
If you choose a good bodysurfing wetsuit, you won't have any problems with it if you're surfing or stand up paddleboarding. Wetsuits are an investment. It's worth taking the time, energy and effort into learning how to choose an excellent one. Here are crucial things that we like to look at when we're choosing our wetsuits for bodysurfing.
We look at fit and flex, comfort, and of course warmth. The warmth is obviously the most important thing, because that's why you're wearing a wetsuit. People often don't realize, you can actually get a couple of different materials when choosing a wetsuit.
The most common material is the neoprene which is a petroleum-based product. It's been used since the beginning of time on wetsuits, and the signature material by most brands. Basically, neoprene is pretty much the standard of what you're going to get in a wetsuit.
However, there is also geoprene, which is actually a material that's formed from shale rock or limestone. It's a lot more eco-friendly and companies like Matuse are using them. Also Patagonia offers neoprene free natural rubber wetsuits.
You can get a 1/2, a 3/2, and a 3/4 overwear. Read this detailed article to gage what thickness to wear for what temperature.
The next thing you want look at, which is quite important because it will dictate what thickness of the neoprene for the wetsuit, a lot of people overlook this feature...inner linings or fabric.
You can choose an inner lining that stretches all the way down the entire suit, or it can just be in sections covering your most vital parts, like the chest area and groin. If you get a really good wetsuit get one, that is lined for the full body. I know Patagonia does a merino wool one that stretches the entire body and it is snug as a bug.
The major difference with adding an inner lining, is that it will actually keep your body a lot more water free. After all, the whole purpose of a wetsuit is to keep you dry, so the more that a wetsuit can repel water, the better.
Surprisingly, water is 28% more likely to wash away heat than air is. You really want to get a suit that actually repels water and doesn't suck it in. The most important thing is to keep that water away from you, and it's the lining that does that.
There are a couple of different kinds of lining. There's merino wool, that's probably the best that you're going get and the most expensive. The are actually priced typically in the $700- $800 price range. I guess that's the price of staying warm, and out in the ocean longer.
The next is poly fleece, which is a lot more commercially accepted and used by the different brands. There's also cutting edge technology called drylock which is done by Xcel wetsuits.
Each brand has different style and fit, it's essential to try them on in person. As frustrating of a dressing room experience that is, it's worth it. Don't just go online and say, "Oh, that's my size. I'm gonna grab that one."Do your research. Go to the store. Try a handful on. Try on different sizes, Models, Brands. Find the one that actually fits you the best.
If the fit isn't perfect for you body. If the wetsuit is too big, water will flush down the back, and if it's too small it will constrict your movement.
You want to be able to feel, you want to be able to move, and to flex.
Remember that, as bodysurfers we're doing a lot of swimming. We're doing a lot of movement in the water. You don't want to be constricted. You especially want this area around your shoulders, to have a lot of flex. There's nothing more tiring than trying to fight every single stroke that you do.
I grew up in the tropics so until I was about 18 or 19 and went surf traveling, I didn't need a wetsuit. I had no idea about manufacturing of a wetsuit, and the little details that matter like stitching. There are a couple of different kinds of stitching, the most common of which is the blind stitch and there's also an overstitch.
The blind stitch is essentially a stitch that then stitches the panels together, and then it's glued down there. It's fairly common on a low-end wetsuit.
The stitch that we recommend is a double stitch with a glued seam. Basically a liquid seal over the top of that seam. With the liquid seam over the top of the stitch it's not allowing any of the water in. Remember how I said you want to keep the water away from you. It's not about sucking the water in. It's about keeping the water off of your body. The liquid seams does an amazing job.
You'll notice some zippers are on the front of the wetsuit, some zippers are on the back. Once I tried a front zipper and loved it just because of the warmth and I've, kind of, never looked back from there. That's just a personal preference.
Wetsuit manufacturing has come so far in the last few years that the difference between a back and a front zipper is very minimal. However, I definitely feel that there is less flushing, with the front zipper.
The most important thing is you really want get a good wetsuit is warmth, comfort, flex. You really want a wetsuit that will give you a lot of movement, but it will also keep you really warm. Pay attention to the inner lining get a poly fleece or if you can splurge a merino wool inner lining. With a lining you can get a thinner wetsuit like 3/2, that will be just as good in typically colder condition.