The black art of buying a wetsuit
The black art of buying a wetsuit
It’s a fact that the majority of surfing over the last 50 years has migrated to more frigid water conditions. The birth of surfing was in warm water where a wetsuit was unnecessary and unavailable. This all changed when surfers looked for and found a material they could fashion into a suit that would keep them warm and comfortable. Early neoprene wetsuits were developed in the 1950′s, they were at best crude and uncomfortable, but it gave surfers access to waves in cold water conditions. Today the modern wetsuit has evolved into a product that does a fine job at keeping us warm and comfortable. This all sounds fantastic, now we have access to water temperatures as low as 6c and can surf for 3-4 hours at a time. However a wetsuits performance is only as good as its fit, construction and thickness.
Let me elaborate, better an inexpensive wetsuit that fits you properly than an expensive suit that fits poorly. Why? A functioning wetsuit only works because it has the ability to take on board a small amount of water, ideally just enough to wet the inside of the wetsuit and to retain it. To keep this warmed water trapped inside the wetsuit it needs to fit tight all over, high on the neck and snug against the small of the back. If this is not achieved the wetsuit will not seal, cold water will enter and flush warm water out of the suit. This will become evident the first time the wetsuit is used in the surf.
Most manufactures run sizes from XS to XXXL. These sizes will vary from one brand to the next as does the shape of their wetsuits. This means the prospective buyer has to match their body to a wetsuit shape and size to obtain the best fit, rather than selecting a wetsuit only on brand preference.
Cheaper wetsuits generally start with the Flatlock construction. This type is regarded as an introduction wetsuit. Flatlock is a type of stitching used to put the suit together, It has the disadvantage that the seams leak letting in cold water and flushing the warm water through the suit making you feel colder and reducing your time in the surf. Typically this a mid-summer suit with limited use.
The Blindstitched wetsuit – this type of construction eliminates leakage through the seams, which results in the small amount of water trapped inside of the suit being retained and warmed by the body. The thickness of the neoprene creates a thermal barrier between the body and the outside conditions. Typically in water temperatures of between 12c – 17c the wetsuit of choice for most surfers will have 3mm neoprene thickness in the body panels and 2mm in the shoulders, arms and legs. These two thicknesses will give warmth to the body and flexibility to the limbs.
As the water and air temperatures drop, the thickness of the suit has to increase to maintain warmth; most wetsuits during our UK winter period will be 5mm on the body panels and 3 or 4 mm on the limbs.
Wetsuit longevity is your responsibility, look after it. It’s got an important job to do. In my experience, not baking it in the sun, washing it out after a surf and not peeing in it, is all good stuff; but the most important wetsuit preservation tip I have to offer is, put it on and take it off carefully, as over- stretching neoprene will damage it’s elastic qualities leaving you with a cold and baggy wetsuit.
Boardwalk Surf Shop stock a variety of Wetsuit Brands Including O’Neill, Billabong, Alder,Animal, Rhino, Xcel and C-Skins.
About the Author
Glenn has been surfing since the 70′s and enjoys lots of different watersports Surfing and Sailing being two which he enjoys the most. Having grown up in Newquay Cornwall Glenn has enjoyed watching Surf technologies develop and has worked at Boardwalk Surf Shop as Wetsuit Guru for the last 5 years.
Amiri Baraka reads Black Art
[affmage source="ebay" results="10"]black art[/affmage]