Guide to choosing a wetsuit

Guide to choosing a wetsuit

Coming into the Winter months of the year, it has begun to cool down out in the surf and with so many different options out there, selecting which wetsuit to buy can be a little daunting. Each wetsuit will have features that will play a role in its overall durability, flexibility, fit and most importantly warmth.

Below is a short guide that will provide you with some knowledge to make sure you are choosing the best wetsuit for you.

Types Of Wetsuits

Firstly, you should consider what type of wetsuit you need. There are three common types, Steamers, Spring suits and Tops. All three are available in a wide variety of brands, colours and thickness. Below is a breakdown of the main wetsuit options.


Steamer Wetsuit

Full Length Wetsuit (Steamer)

Steamers cover the full length of the body down to your wrists and ankles and up to your neck. These are made for colder water temperatures and will also offer the best protection from wind.
You will find most full length suits range from 2mm to 5mm thick.

Spring suits (Springy)

As the name explains, these are great for spring and summer days when the water is a little warmer. There are several options available including Short Sleeve with Short legs, Long Sleeve with Short Legs and the most common variant being the Short Sleeve with Long Legs. They are lightweight and still offer great protection from the cold waters and also the sun during the warmer days. Thickness generally ranges from 1mm to 3mm.

Wetsuit Tops

Wetsuit Tops are made to provide warmth to the upper body and can come with Short Sleeves or Long Sleeves. They are best paired with Board Shorts and are generally a thinner material ranging from 0.5mm to 1.5mm. Sleeveless options (Vest) are also available.

Wetsuit Materials and Thickness Guide Australia

Neoprene is the commonly used Surf wetsuit material due to how buoyant, flexible and stretchy it is. The material comes in different thicknesses ranging from 0.5 to 6mm, the thicker the Neoprene the warmer the wetsuit. Most neoprene is laminated foam and as technology evolves, manufacturers are able to offer more durable options that still fit just as good.

When it comes to the thickness of your wetsuit it's important to know which thickness is the right fit for you. That's why we wrote the perfect wetsuit thickness guide:

1. Different Thickness Wetsuits

For surfing wetsuits, you’ll often see thickness options with two numbers like 3/2mm or 4/3mm. This means that the body of the wetsuit is 3mm/4mm thick while the other parts are only 2mm/3mm thick. The arms and legs are thinner than the body of the suit to allow the most mobility.

2. Short or Long Wetsuit?

When you can’t decide if you need a long or a short wetsuit, the first question you should ask yourself is, if you are a person who freezes more likely in the water or not. In the winter season you rarely see anyone in the water with a short wetsuit but you can always wear your winter wetsuit in summer and the other way around. It’s mostly about how you feel more comfortable.

3. Thicker or Thinner Wetsuit

You should have in mind that a thicker wetsuit is warmer but you have less flexibility than in a thinner wetsuit. As a beginner the best wetsuit for surfing is a 3/2 mm full wetsuit. You have full coverage but also a lot of flexibility to move in your wetsuit. It’s also smart to check the water temperature since it can vary depending on where you plan on going surfing. The water temperature in Australia is warmer during autumn than spring so you will see more people wearing a thinner wetsuit in autumn than in spring.

4. Entry System

Another important thing to consider, is the entry system you wanna go with. The entry system will affect how easy you will get your wetsuit on and off. We will show you three different types you can go with:

- Back Zip

The Back zip is one of the most common styles you can get. Even though the zip goes down on your back, you don’t need any mate to help you get into the wetsuit, because of the long tag which is attached to the zip. Since the top of the suit opens fully up, it is easier to get into the suit, that's why it's often used by beginner surfers.

- Chest Zip

Also very common these days is the so-called chest zip wetsuit. Similar to the back zip wetsuit, you enter the wetsuit at the top. But instead of zipping it up you have to pull the panel over your head and attach it to the sipper which is horizontal across in front of your wetsuit.

- Zip-Free

This wetsuit seals instead of a Zip only with fitted overlapping panels. These wetsuits are mostly used as competition wetsuits because of the minimal amount of flushing and the maximum amount of stretch. Have in mind that it's a little bit of a struggle to get into your wetsuit, especially when you are not that experienced with surfing.

Wetsuit Fit & Size Guide

Now you’ve figured out what type of wetsuit you want, you want to make sure you are going to be comfortable. Traditionally wetsuits fit similar to shirt size. If a medium Tee fits through the shoulders and the chest then a medium Wetsuit should be what you need.

However, this is just a rough guide and sizes also differ from brand to brand so it is always best to try on the Wetsuit in-store or manufacturers will have a sizing guide available on their website.

In these guides they will always ask about chest, waist, height and weight to be more precise. So don’t get confused if you normally have a small or medium size and get a large or extra large wetsuit. Keep in mind that you have to feel comfortable and still have enough flexibility in your wetsuit to catch some good waves.

A successful day of surfing at the Beach

Now that you know how to choose your wetsuit and what you should have in mind before buying it, we provided some tips and tricks to make your surf experience a success. 1. Bring a hooded towel to make it easier to change in and out of your wetsuit, without being cold. 2. Pack enough Sunscreen and Zinc for your skin. The sun is especially strong in the water, so you should always secure your skin before going surfing. 3. Wax your Board before going in, to have a better grip while surfing your first waves! 4. Pack lunch for after your surf. Surfing is exhausting and especially in the beginning you will paddle a lot to catch some waves. 5. Have fun out there!

Shop Sideways for the Perfect Wetsuit

We offer a huge range of Wetsuits for Men, Women and youth in-store at Sideways surf. With a limited range available online due to agreements with manufacturers. Choosing the right wetsuit is going to allow you to do what we all love the most and that is spending more time out in the water catching waves. If you have any questions regarding wetsuits - Head into any of the Sideways Surf stores or contact our team here

Surfing wetsuit guide