Buying a Wetsuit - thickness, uses and fitting

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Wetsuits are generally made  from neoprene, an aerated rubber material, which gives them a slight positive buoyancy .They work by trapping a thin layer of water between the body and the wetsuit which warms up to the temperature of the body giving a warm environment. This enables the wearer to enjoy a longer exposure  in the water than would normally be physically comfortable. The length of the exposure will depend on the actual water temperature and also the thickness of the neoprene used . Wetsuits come in a variety of styles and thickness - the most commonly used are either a full suit covering the whole body, legs and arms from the shoulders down or a shortie where the suit is usually short sleeved and ends just above the knee.The thickness of neoprene used in a suit is measured in millimeters. All good quality neoprene is lined with materials such as titanium which, combined with the air pockets in the neoprene itself, then provide a thermal barrier between the user and the elements. Types of neoprene used for specialist and high performance suits include Elasto, Super Stretch and Hyperstretch which aid movement and durability. A good quality suit will be a minimum 3mm in thickness and give excellent freedom of movement . They are ideal for warmer weather conditions such as those experienced around the shoes of the UK and Med. 5mm suits are used for cooler water conditions and where the wearer will be exposed for extended periods where little body heat is generated. Quality 5mm suits are usually butted and blindstitched to minimise water ingress , increase thermal insulation and provide maximum comfort.

Basically the colder the environment, the thicker the wetsuit will need to be. Session time will also be a factor especially in colder water.A long session of use will usually require a thicker wetsuit.Another important factor to take in to consideration is the actual activity the suit will be used for.If dynamic movement is involved with prolonged session time use such as surfing then the suit ideally will be very flexible and warm. If the suit is intended for general water use, then depending on budget, a less specalised suit would be suitable.

As with most things there is no substitute for quality. A cheap and thin neoprene will offer little warmth or protection and will show wear quickly. The suit will also generally be more difficult to get in and out of as there will be little 'give' or 'stretch' in the neoprene. However you don't have to break the bank to get a quality suit and for an excellent examples of affordable, quality wetsuits please see our ebay shop  Big Orange Watersports. Use of wetsuits for general beach /watersport use has increased dramatically over the last few years as we become more aware of  UV damage to skin. Shortie wetsuits are particularly popular for children offering maximum UV protection for covered areas as well as prolonging active water play. Suits also tend to include bright colours which are easilly spotted on beach.


A good tip is to leave your socks on! This will help you easily slide your feet through the legs of a full suit. Take your time putting the suit on . A slow and proper fitting will ensure you get the maximum performance and comfort from your wetsuit. If you have long fingernails do not apply too much pressure to the neoprene when pulling it on as your nails may damage the neoprene. Turn the upper body inside out so you can step in to the suit like a pair of trousers. Put your legs into the suit. Let the rest of the suit hang inside out down to your knees. Pull the legs up starting at the ankles by pulling up a section at a time. Do this by gripping a section or fold of rubber and pulling it up. (Where possible grip on to the inside fabric surface instead of the smooth outer surface). Grab and pull from the bottom of the legs one section at a time every few inches upward until the legs are on. NOTE: The legs are on properly when the crotch is as high up as it will possibly go. If the crotch is not sitting high, or there is an air pocket between your legs, then repeat the process by pulling up small consecutive sections from the ankles up until the fit is high in the crotch. It does not matter so much where the ankles of the suit finish. Having the legs pulled up as high as possible is the first and most important key to a proper fit. Continue this same 'section by section' upward process through the body. Place your arms in to the sleeves once the body has been pulled as high as possible.. In the case of full-sleeve suits, repeat the same process by pulling the sleeves high, starting at the wrist up to the shoulder, until the sleeves bunch slightly on the top of the shoulders. There is usually a thin panel of material that is positioned underneath the zipper running the length of the back. Be sure that this is flat and flush against your skin and beneath the zipper. This is an important element to minimise water entry.

How do I know if I have a good fit?

The suit should feel like a second skin. Snug and comfortably form- fitting. The suit will become supple when you are in the water. Stand straight and pull the neoprene at the abdomen away from your mid-section. you should feel suction. If the suit is too large, folds of neoprene will be evident in the mid section, rear or crotch areas. if the suit is too small there will be an uncomfortable tightness pulling down on the shoulders and up in the crotch area. Movement will be restricted. You should be able to comfortably raise your arms above your head and bend at the waist to touch the knees/toes.

Care of your wetsuit

Always flush through with fresh water after each use and hang up to dry on a broad hanger with plenty of ventilation , away from intense direct sunlight. Always make sure that your suit is thoroughly dry , inside and out, before storing away. Never use harsh detergents to clean.

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