For those of us who enjoy the ocean but have to endure some seasons with cold ocean water, You have two choices in the cold weather. Move to Tahiti (preferable) or buy a a good wetsuit. So for the benefit of this article we will assume you are not going to move to Tahiti and warm water and you need a good wetsuit to get you through the long winter and some summer months.A good wetsuit is a must have to stay warm and comfortable!
As bodysurfers, there are some key things that need to be considered when choosing a wetsuit. Bodysurfing requires movement of almost every part of the body and the more flexible and range of motion you have the better. There are a lot of wetsuits and brands to choose from. This article is more about what to look for in a good wetsuit specifically for bodysurfing. Hopefully after reading this you will be a lot more informed when you go to buy your own.
Surfing wetsuits and materials have come a long way since the early days of Oneill, Bradner and the Body Glove crew. So for the most part the wetsuits used primarily for surfing will be more than adequate when it comes to bodysurfing due to their advances in materials, fit, comfort,flexibility and warmth.
We also know that most of you are watermen and woman, so what suit you buy can also be used in other activities like surfing and standup paddle boarding. Which will help when it comes to paying rent this month and not mortgaging the house for a 5 different wetsuits. In our mind there are The 3 critical things to look out for when choosing a bodysurfing wetsuit. If you follow the guide to these you should not have an issue and enjoy many hours in the water. Look for:
If you are like me, and wear your wetsuit to the point you have a huge hole in the ass region, you will be all too aware that that is not how a wetsuit is supposed to work and it isn’t with holes in it! A wetsuits basic function is to keep us warm in cold water. It does this by being very close to the skin with a tight fit. A thin layer of water forms between the neoprene and the skin, the body in-turn heats the water and that is how we keep warm.
That being said as water moves heat away up to 28% times faster than air it would be better that the suit was completely dry. The thin layer of water is not required for the wetsuit to function properly. How well the suit keeps you warm is how thick or how well it keeps water from you for longer. Anybody who has hung onto an old suit a year to long will know cold you can get when the degraded suit let flushes every time you go under the water.
Neoprene or polychloroprene as is It's chemical name was invented by DuPont in the early 1930’s. Neoprene is used in a variety of different uses from laptop sleeves to wetsuits. Neoprene is used because of its great chemical stability that maintains flexibility even when subjected to varying temperature changes. Neoprene is also very good at providing thermal insulation (awesome in cold water). The insulation properties depends on the amount of gas bubbles that make up the neoprene.
An alternative to Neoprene is Geoprene. As far as I can tell a fairly new material and only a few brands use it (like Matuse). On paper it sounds like a better alternative but the cost is up there. Old-fashioned neoprene is petroleum-based. Geoprene is derived from limestone that is 99.7% pure, according to the Matuse site. Each cell in Geoprene is an independent cell (closed cell structure). Keeping you warmer longer and has a longer life.
Once you've made your mind up on your base material. The next thing you will want to decide on is the thickness of the suit. As a handboarder/ bodysurfer unlike other water board sports you are always completely submerged in the water for long periods of time. This means you will require a slightly warmer suit than if you were surfing. This to me, along with flexibility is the most important things to look for a bodysurfer.
Being cold is not cool (no pun intended), and will end your session faster than cake being eaten at a weight watchers meeting. Below is a break down on suit thickness. Find out your local water temperature and start from there. Also take into account your own personal cold resilience when making a decision.
When we say a wetsuit is 3-2mm this means all the important stuff is protected by 3mm and the limbs and joint area are 2mm for flexibility. This is the same for any thckness 4-3 or 6-5mm.
|Water Temp||Wetsuit Thickness||Wetsuit|
|>77 F >25 C||The best result! No need for anything. Easily the best way to bodysurf. But requires an expensive plane ticket to Tahiti :)|
|72° F - 77° F 22C-25C||The Shorty wetsuit is normally 1mm to 2mm used on those days just chilly enough that going bareback might limit your session.|
|64F–68F 18C–20C||2-3 mm Long sleeve shorty spring suit is great in these conditions. The less neoprene you wear the better to retain flexibility.|
|59F–64F 15C–18C||The full steamer 3-2 mm or 4-3mm on the lower temperature side will keep you warm as a sparrows fart in some chilly water.|
|54F–59F 12C–15C||4mm-3mm This is getting into the realm of quite cold. This Temp will probably require booties and possibly a hoodie to stay in for anything over an hour depending on your resolve.|
|48F-54F 9C-12C||5-3 or with the Full Monty, booties, Gloves, Hoody anything colder and you are on your own because that is too cold for me.|
Back in the day when you purchased a new wetsuit, all you got was a neoprene wetsuit and that was it. As the industry involved and materials became available the more warmth was added to the basic neoprene by adding inner linings. Below are a 3 of the best wetsuit inner lining that will keep you snug as a bug
This has to be my number one choice, although a little heavy on the wallet. What you loose in child support you gain in hours more fun in the water. Patagonia's little invention. Merino is not only incredibly warm (it belong on sheep that have to naturally keep dry) so it has insane moisture wicking, and dries pronto. What makes merino the go to choice is it will make a 2mm neoprene keep you as warm as a 3mm without the reduced flex from too much neoprene.
Polyfleece lining is a little more forgiving on the monthly wage and also comes in a quick drying version, which is great for multiple sessions in a day. The inner lining wicks away moisture and retains your body heat like the Merino, although not as effective in my mind. A fleece 2mm lined neoprene is going to keep you as warm as a 3mm.
According to excell the Thermo Dry Celliant they developed is the first and only smart fiber technology on the market. The fiber is extremely fast drying and light weight. The fibers allow for maximum warmth, greater endurance ..... this is starting to sound like a pitch! regardless I have heard good thing about this technology. Give the video a watch and make up your own mind on what lining will be the best for you.
We can go on and on about what neoprene to use and what inner lining and thickness wetsuit to get. All of this means precisely squat if you get your suit too big, or too small for that matter. It is essential that you choose the right size.
Our suggestion is to do your research online and narrow your results to your 3 favorite suits. Then go find them and try them on at a store. A wetsuit, and the right wetsuit at that, is an investment. The right fit is super important to making your most of your time in the water. Below is a sizing chart that will give you an idea on what sizes to narrow yourself down to. Please note this is taken from the ripcurl wetsuit guide and is used as a reference brand sizes vary, so check before your buy
|size||height Range||weight||waist||neck||chest||leg length||body length|
Here are a few thing you might also want to keep in mind when purchasing your new bodysurfing wetsuit. Most suits that have a the above materials will have quality built in with great warranties, but these are definitely thing you want to have on your radar.
Each wetsuit is made up of panels that fit together to make the full suit. How those panels are stitched or stuck together matter as far as how much water they allow in. The best stitching to keep you the warmest is the blind stitch with a liquid seal or stitch-less with a liquid seal over the top of it. Other stitching styles include, Over lock Stitch, Flat Lock Stitch (pictured above), Spot Taped or Fully Taped.
The zipper can either be on the front chest or back zipper. This is preference. I personally prefer the front zipper. I find I feel like less water gets in the suit. The back zipper has made strides in the last few years to reduce water flushing. That being said the best way to check is try one on and make your own decisions.
So there you have it, hopefully now you will be little more informed when it comes to choosing one of the most important purchases for a bodysurfer. We wont give any specific recommendations on suits as the technology moves at such a fast pace that there are new suits almost monthly. However, when you know what to look for specifically, it is a lot easier to find what you need at the right budget. keep on getting shacked.