Wetsuit Buying Guide
Wetsuit Shopping Guide Surfshop Alohasurf
Looking for a new wetsuit?
Buying a new wetsuit can be a daunting task, whether it's your first or your sixteenth wetsuit. Nowadays there are so many types, sizes, brands and technical features that you easily can get lost and have no clue anymore in what wetsuit would be right for you.
We, the experts from Aloha’s Surfshop, will try to give you a short and concise explanation about all the different types of wetsuits and when to use what wetsuit in terms of thickness. This will help you choosing the right wetsuit and will get you enjoying going out surfing even more.
The first and immediately most important question you should ask yourself is: 'When am I going to use my wetsuit and how warm is the water?'. Is this in winter, summer, or maybe spring and autumn? Based on your answer to this, you can choose a 'shorty, long john or long jane, full suit or a full suit (or steamer) with a fixed hood.
As soon as you know what kind of wetsuit you are looking for, the next thing is the sizing of the wetsuit. We have made a useful size chart for every wetsuit brand that we sell at Alohasurf, which you can find here.
With this you can quickly find your type of wetsuit in the desired size online, it couldn't be easier!
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us for advice. We can be reached daily by phone between 09:00 – 18:00 or send an email to [email protected]
What is the function of a wetsuit?
The way a wetsuit works is as follows. A wetsuit is made of neoprene, this neoprene ensures that your body is well wrapped and insulated against the cold from outside and therefore from the cold water. The name already indicates it: 'wet-suit', a thin layer of water is placed between your body and your wetsuit. This thin layer of water warms up by your body heat and keeps you warm for the rest of your surf session.
What does the neoprene thickness of a wetsuit mean?
All wetsuits have a certain neoprene thickness, this is the thickness of your wetsuit. This is indicated in two numbers, for example “5/4”. The number “5” represents the thickness of the neoprene on the torso in millimetres, the number “4” indicates the thickness of the neoprene in millimetres on the arms and legs.
What do these wetsuit neoprene thicknesses mean?
It is very handy to know what the numbers in a wetsuit stand for, but how do I scale this? When do I need a 5/4 and when do I need a 4/3 for example? In other words: what thickness do I need for which water temperature or season?
As a rule, you can follow these guidelines in the Netherlands (and Belgium):
3/2 wetsuit: summer wetsuit suitable for a water temperature between 15 – 22 degrees and can be used roughly in the months of June, July, August, and early September.
4/3 wetsuit: spring and autumn wetsuit suitable for a water temperature between 12 and 17 degrees and can be used roughly in the months of May, June, September, October, and November.
5/4 wetsuit: winter wetsuit suitable for water temperatures below 12 degrees and can be used roughly for the months of December to April/May.
6/5 wetsuit: thick winter wetsuit suitable for water temperatures below 7 degrees and suitable for the really cold winter days with icy eastern winds and outside temperatures around freezing point.
Water temperature chart in relation to neoprene thickness of your wetsuit:
Water temperature (°C)
Neopreen thickness (mm)
Full suit with fixed hood
Full suit with fixed or non fixed hood
3/2mm - 2/2mm
Full suit/ Long John/ Long Jane
3/2mm - 2/2mm
So remember: pay close attention to the water temperatures of where you will be practicing your water sports. It is of course logical that the water in France is warmer than in the Netherlands, and you can therefore surf for a longer period of time in a thinner and more flexible wetsuit. A good website to consult the current water temperature, anywhere in the world, is: surf-forecast.com, search for a surf spot where you want to know the water temperature and click on 'water temperature'.
When does your wetsuit fit well?
A wetsuit should fit snugly around your body, like a second skin. It is important that you take a good look at the size charts of the wetsuits on our website and that you measure your own body measurements accurately. There should not be too much (if any) space left under the armpits, at the arch of the lower back and at the crotch. If this is the case, this ensures that too much water runs into the wetsuit and you will get cold faster. In addition, it will also chafe in these places, which causes nasty 'rash spots' if you wear your wetsuit a lot.
What should you pay attention to when trying on a wetsuit?
Putting on a wetsuit should be a bit difficult, especially with thicker winter wetsuits. A wetsuit should fit seamlessly to your body, especially check whether it fits well at the armpits, lower back, crotch and knees. Make sure you pull up your wetsuit from the bottom to top. Make sure that the extra protection at the knees, the knee pads, are actually over your knees. Your crotch should also be well pulled up. We know that baggy is hip, but unfortunately not with wetsuits, baggy pants are definitely not what you want. Finally, you can also roll up the sleeves in such a way that there are no seams or folds, this gives you more room at the shoulders.
Once you have the wetsuit on, see if you can still bend your knees easily and if you are not held back too much if you raise your arms above your head and make some paddle movements with your arms. If you are held back too much by your wetsuit, it is too small.
Please note: winter wetsuits are a lot thicker and therefore a lot stiffer than summer wetsuits.
Various types of wetsuits
There are many different types of wetsuits available. With the knowledge that you now have about the thicknesses of wetsuits, these types of wetsuits are generally distinguished:
Lycra: a neoprene or UV-resistant long-sleeve or short-sleeve shirt that mainly protects against chafing (rash spots) and the sun (UV-protection). Lycra’s are used at water temperatures above 22 degrees. Buy a Lycra here.
Shorty: A shorty is a neoprene wetsuit with short arms and short legs. These are often 2/2mm thick and are worn in the summer when a lycra and boardshorts/bikini are just a bit too cold. Buy a shorty here and here.
Short John/ Short Jane: A neoprene wetsuit with short legs but no sleeves. These are often 2/2mm thick and are worn in the summer when a lycra and boardshorts/bikini are just a bit too cold. Buy shorts John/Jane here.
Long John/ Long Jane: A neoprene wetsuit with long legs but no sleeves. These are often 2/2mm thick and are worn in the summer when a shorty is just a bit too cold. Buy a long John/Jane here.
Fullsuit or steamer: a neoprene wetsuit with long legs and long sleeves. These come in different thicknesses. Buy a wetsuit here.
Fullsuit or steamer with fixed cap/hood: a neoprene wetsuit with long legs and long arms and a fixed cap/hood on the wetsuit. This is for the really cold winter days. Buy a wetsuit with fixed cap/hood here.
Chest zip, back zip or no zip?
Wetsuits come with different closure systems. A backzip, chestzip and since a few years also the nozip or zipperless wetsuits.
Chest zip: wetsuits with a chest zip have a zipper on the chest. These type of wetsuits have been developed by the wave surfing world. This is because wave surfers want as much freedom of movement as possible in the chest and shoulders. A front zip gives more freedom of movement than a back zip. A nice additional advantage is that less water enters through the neck and a front zip is therefore warmer than a back zip. However, a front-zip wetsuit is less easy to get on.
Backzip: Wetsuits with a backzip are the traditional wetsuits. The zipper runs over the entire back and is very easy to put on. However, whilst using a back-zip wetsuit more water enters through the neck and back than with chest zip wetsuits, which ensures that they are a bit colder.
Nozip / Zipperless: nowadays there are also quite a few wetsuits that no longer have a zipper at all, so a no-zip or zipperless wetsuit. Multiple flaps that go over each other ensure the closure of the suit. The advantage of this is that you have a lot of freedom of movement and that little excess water flows into your suit. A disadvantage is that it is a lot harder to get in than a front-zip or back-zip wetsuit.
What should I pay attention to when buying a wetsuit?
The most important thing is that your wetsuit fits well to your body. You can purchase the thickest and most expensive wetsuit with the most high-tech features, if the wetsuit does not fit well, it will still be too cold and not work properly.
All wetsuit brands have different ranges in their wetsuit lines; cheaper and more expensive lines. The biggest difference in price is in the neoprene that is used in a wetsuit. The cheaper wetsuits use stiffer neoprene which gives less freedom of movement. The more expensive wetsuits often use 4-way stretch neoprene, which gives a lot of freedom of movement and is also very warm. In addition, a big difference in price and quality of the wetsuits is the seams and lining that are used. The better the seams are sealed against water and wind, the warmer the suit is. Many wetsuits have GBS seams, or Glued Blind Stitched seams. These allow little wind and water to pass through, some top of the line wetsuits also have liquid sealed seams where no water is allowed to go through at all. The lining in a wetsuit is like the 'fur' that is processed on the inside, this reflects and retains your excess body heat extremely well. In general, most winter wetsuits only have a lining at the chest, but with some top of the line wetsuits this goes all the way to the arms and legs.
How long does a wetsuit last?
This of course is very dependent on how often you go into the water with your wetsuit, do you go once a week or do you go in the water every day? What is extremely important is that you take good care of your wetsuit. If you go to the beach by bike in your wetsuit, put a plastic bag over your saddle so that you have less friction between your wetsuit and your saddle. This way you prevent wear marks in an annoying place in your wetsuit, the crotch. After each session, rinse your wetsuit with fresh cold water so you rinse off all the salt and sand. After that you hang your wetsuit to dry in a spot out of the sun and over a hanger where you do not hang your wetsuit on the shoulders, otherwise it will stretch too much.
Do you want to know more about wetsuit care? Read our blog about maintenance of your wetsuit and accessories.
That's it folks! Take a look at our wetsuit page and find your perfect wetsuit with these handy tools and tips. If you have any questions, you can always email or call us for tailor-made advice.