How changing your wetsuit will drastically improve your surfing

This isn’t about how long a wetsuit should last. No. This is about upgrading your wetsuit to reflect your performance standard. Think of it like a surfboard. You’re not going to learn on a shortboard. Instead, you’re going to start with a longboard and practice on easy waves. Over time, you’ll feel more comfortable in bigger surf and start to drop down in surfboard sizes. The same notion can be applied to wetsuits…


Entry-level wetsuits

The most basic of wetsuits that’s perfect for beginners. There is nothing fancy about an entry-level wetsuit, nor should there be. Its main function is to keep you warm, because if it’s your first time surfing, you don’t need to know the intricate features of your wetsuit.

Traditionally, a back zip entry system has been used across all beginner wetsuits, as it’s the easiest way to get in and out. The zip runs down the back of the wetsuit and can be pulled using a cord that is attached to the zip. However, surf brands are now opting for a chest zip entry system as it is less restrictive on the shoulders and ensures less water seeps into the wetsuit. However, it’s all about personal preference, and given it’s your first wetsuit, it’s much of a muchness.

The seams and lining of the wetsuit shouldn’t even be on your radar as a beginner. Just trust that whichever thickness you decide on, it’s going to do the job and keep you warm when you’re in the water. For more information on wetsuits and temperature read Wetsuits for Global Destinations.

The moment you know it’s time to upgrade to a mid-level wetsuit is when:

- You grow out of it

- You notice restriction when paddling in decent surf

- It hinders your performance on the wave

- The neoprene is beginning to wear away

Our entry-level wetsuit picks are:

For Men...

Billabong Intruder Flatlock Wetsuit

Quiksilver Syncro Series Flatlock Back Zip Wetsuit

Rip Curl Dawn Patrol GBS Chest Zip Wetsuit

For Women...

Billabong Womens Launch Flatlock Wetsuit

Roxy Womens Syncro Series Flatlock Back Zip wetsuit

Rip Curl Ladies Dawn Patrol GBS Back Zip Wetsuit


Mid-level wetsuits

If you’ve surpassed the whitewater and feel comfortable paddling out in consistent surf, but are more of a weekend warrior, then a mid-level wetsuit is what you need. It’s a clear step-up from an entry-level wetsuit and packs a lot more features, which as an intermediate surfer, you should now be aware of.

Warmth is still a major factor to consider. This is determined by the thickness of the neoprene. However, you want to have a stretchy mid-level wetsuit. The reason for this is so you can be out in the water for longer and not tire yourself out. Because, believe it or not, paddling is tough on the body. It’s even harder on the body when you’ve got a wetsuit on. So, if you can reduce the restriction around your shoulders and legs, then that’s a good thing.

Words to look for when purchasing a mid-level wetsuit are ‘light’ and ‘flexible’. There will be a lot of different terms that brands use, however, if you can cut through all the ‘technical jargon’ you should be able to determine if the wetsuit will enhance your paddling, rather than hinder it.

The moment you know it’s time to upgrade to a high-end wetsuit is when:

- You surf more than just on the weekends

- You begin to realise there are different stitching methods that can add to your performance

- You’re completely hooked and will surf during the deep depths of winter

Our mid-level wetsuit picks are:

For Men...

Billabong Absolute Comp Chest Zip Wetsuit

Quiksilver Syncro+ Chest Zip Wetsuit

Rip Curl Aggrolite Chest Zip Wetsuit

For Women...

Billabong Womens Synergy Chest Zip Wetsuit

Roxy Womens Syncro+ Chest Zip LFS Wetsuit

Rip Curl Womens Dawn Patrol Chest Zip Wetsuit


High-end wetsuits

All you can think about is surfing. From the moment you wake up right until the time you go to sleep. Or better yet, you’re actually surfing everyday and are now comfortable in all conditions – except for Nazare. No one can ever be ready for Nazare. The point is, you’re a good surfer, and need a wetsuit that is going to reflect your standard.

Every feature of the wetsuit should now be on your radar. Such as:

- Seams

- Lining

- Neoprene

- Entry system

- Shield protection (windchill)

You don’t have to know every complex detail, but a thorough understanding of what’s gone into the design of your wetsuit and how it’s helping you perform, should be something you’re aware of. So, when it comes to the seam, you should be looking for either Glued and Blindstitched (GBS) or Fluid Sealed. A GBS seam works by not completely penetrating the neoprene, making it a completely watertight and durable. Fluid Seal has liquid rubber applied to the inside seam making it 100% waterproof.

The lining of your high-end wetsuit is an area which has arguably had the greatest technical development over the years. You just have to look at Rip Curl’s new Flashbomb Heatseeker. The Australian surf brand has introduced Flex Energy - a heat generating flash lining that warms the body when stretched. So, the more you paddle, the toastier you’ll be.

It’s rare you’ll find a back-zip entry system on a high-end wetsuit. However, if a surf brand is feeling nostalgic, chances are one will be thrown into the mix. The two most common entry systems on a high-end wetsuit are chest-zip and zipperless (zip free). This is due to a back-zip being restrictive across the shoulders which after a lot of paddling becomes an issue.

Our high-end wetsuit picks are:

For Men...

Billabong Furnace Carbon Ultra Chest Zip

Quiksilver Highline+ Chest Zip Wetsuit

Rip Curl Flashbomb Heatseeker Zip Free Wetsuit

For Women...

Billabong Womens Furnace Carbon Comp Chest Zip Wetsuit

Roxy Womens Peformance Hooded Chest Zip Wetsuit

Rip Curl Womens Flashbomb Chest Zip Wetsuit


It should be noted that surfing isn't the only watersport where upgrading your wetsuit is applicable. Windsurfing, wakeboarding and kitesurfing all require 'stepping up' as your skill level and confidence improves.

Written by Sam Quennell



Published on 6th November 2018 in Windsurfing

Updated on 24th March 2021

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