Springsuits, also known as “shorty” wetsuits, bring you a bit of extra warmth when it’s needed without the cumbersome bulk of a wetsuit, by using thinner neoprene and shortening the arms and legs, or chopping them off altogether.
Every surfer should have a springsuit in the arsenal, but with so many different options and styles out there, it can be hard to decide on the right suit for you. Assuming that’s the reason you came here, read on. After taking stock of the current springsuit market, and testing the best of the best on Oahu’s North Shore, we’ve got some answers to the question, “what’s the best springsuit of 2023?”
For ease of comparison, we did our best to only test long arm/short leg springsuits. For more info on different types of springsuits, see our buyer’s guide. And to see how the suits stacked up against each other, check out our comparison table.
What Are the Best Men’s Springsuits?
Best Overall: O’Neill Hyperfreak
Best Budget Springsuit: Xcel Axis
Most Flexible: Picture Organic Meta
Most Sustainable: Patagonia R1Lite
Warmest Springsuit: Manera Seafarer Hybrid
Other Springsuits We Loved
O’Neill Hyperfreak ($229)
O’Neill’s Hyperfreak line of wetsuits and their legendary Technobutter neoprene have been on top of the wetsuit game for years, and when it comes to springsuits, the story largely remains the same. Technobutter is one of the stretchiest, lightest, and most comfortable wetsuit materials on the market, three key aspects that are top-priority when it comes to springsuits.
We tested both the classic springsuit (long sleeves, short legs) as well as the “shorty” style (short sleeves, short legs) and found the comfort and flexibility of these suits to be basically unmatched among other springsuits we tested. The Picture Organic Meta, below, won out on paddle-flexibility, but suffered in the warmth department as a result, which is why we awarded the O’Neill Hyperfreak springsuits as best overall.
Best Budget Springsuit
Xcel Axis ($140)
Pros: Great bang for buck, comfortable.
Cons: Not the stretchiest neoprene. No key loop.
Xcel’s Axis line of springsuits provide some of the best bang for your buck when all you’re looking for is a bit of neoprene to ward off the chill. Simple, with flatlock stitching, a back zip, and a basic, but comfortable lining, the suit doesn’t provide the same high-tech stretch as the Hyperfreak, above, but it clocks in $100 bucks cheaper, and will do what a springsuit is made to do: provide a decent bit of warmth for cool-warm waters without encumbering your performance.Check Long Sleeve Price on Evo Check Short Sleeve Price on Evo Check Short John Price on Evo
Most Flexible Springsuit
Picture Organic Meta
Available In: Long Sleeve/Short Leg, Short Sleeve/Short Leg
Pros: Flexskin neoprene in upper arms and chest makes for great paddle-ability and easy of movement.
Cons: Flexskin panels are very thin, so this suit runs a little cold.
Picture Organic is a brand rooted in the mountains that has recently taken its sustainable ethos and competitive prices to the world of surfing. And we’re glad they did. The Picture Organic Equation wetsuit recently took home the award of Best Budget Wetsuit in our review of the Best Wetsuits of 2023, and did so with solid sustainability to boot. That’s no easy feat, and they’ve done it again with their Meta Springsuit.
The springsuit features Flexskin panels on the chest and shoulders, Picture’s proprietary super-stretchy neoprene that makes for incredibly easy paddling, feeling more like 1mm of neoprene rather than two. That said, it also feels a bit more like 1mm of neoprene from a warmth perspective. If you’re someone who would rather sacrifice a bit of mobility in return for added warmth, rather than vice versa, you might want to look at the Seafarer Hybrid, below.Check Long Sleeve Price on Evo Check Short Sleeve Price on Evo
Manera Seafarer Hybrid ($299)
Available In: Long Sleeve/Short Leg
Pros: 3/2 construction was the warmest “springsuit” we tested.
Cons: It’s basically a 3/2. No key loop.
It almost feels like cheating to give the award of “warmest springsuit” to the Manera Seafarer Hybrid when they went ahead and simply added an extra mm of neoprene to the torso, but then again, nobody else is doing it. The Seafarer Hybrid is a classic springsuit (long sleeve, short leg) with 3mm of neoprene on the torso, and 2mm on the arms for paddling. A thin and comfortable jersey on the inside of the suit completes the fit without adding any extra warmth, honestly a good thing. I often found myself running a bit warm in testing on the North Shore of Oahu during December.
The suit is also available in a short sleeve/long leg version (titled the Manera Seafarer Steamer SS, and included below) however it’s worth noting that the Steamer SS is made completely of 2mm neoprene, without the 3mm of warmth in the chest area. If you really want that level of warmth without the sleeves, just buy a 3/2 Seafarer and cut the sleeves off.Check Price on Backcountry
Most Sustainable Springsuit
Available In: Long Sleeve/Short Leg, Short Sleeve/Short Leg, Short Sleeve/Long Leg, Short John, Long John
Pros: Super sustainable Yulex construction and a wide variety of cuts.
Cons: Yulex isn’t quite as flexible as neoprene.
Patagonia’s highly sustainable line of wetsuits have been a staple in the surf world for years, and with good reason. They’ve been leading the charge on sustainable materials with their Yulex natural rubber wetsuits, and while other manufacturers are slowly catching up with their own sustainable suits (often made of recycled materials although some non-Patagonia Yulex suits are hitting the market this year) they have yet to dethrone the king.
If the environment is your top priority, you won’t find a better springsuit than those made by Patagonia. That said, you will have to make a couple sacrifices, namely in a slight uptick in price, as well as a slight downgrade in flexibility. However, with the thinness of springsuits and their often-shorter arms and legs, it’s worth noting that the difference in flexibility makes much less of a difference than in, say, a wetsuit.Check Long Sleeve Price on Patagonia
Other Springsuits We Loved
Available In: Long Sleeve/Short Leg, Short Sleeve/Long Leg
Pros: Smoothie panels on the outside cut windchill. Back zip (if that’s what you prefer).
Cons: Interior jersey lining is less comfortable than others on this list. No key loop.
RVCA’s 2/2 Balance packs a punch in the warmth department, with smoothie panels over most of the suit, while retaining a 2/2 construction for flexibility and performance. Smoothie panels help deflect windchill, improving warmth, without impacting the flexibility like adding an extra millimeter of neoprene would do. The suit had a solid fit and back-zip construction (if that’s something you prefer) with a certain amount of, dare we say, style as well.
However, the lining of the suit wasn’t the most comfortable compared to others included here in this review, which combined with the lack of a key pocket, kept it away from a top spot.Check Long Sleeve Price on RVCA Check Price on Jack's Surfboards
Available In: Short Sleeve/Long Leg
Pros: Super light and flexible short sleeve fullsuit in 2/2mm construction.
Cons: No key loop. Pricey.
The Manera Seafarer has been a longstanding favorite suit of ours in the wetsuit department, and when it comes to springsuits, the Seafarer Short Sleeve Hybrid does not disappoint. Unlike it’s long sleeve/short leg sibling, above, the suit features 2mm of neoprene throughout, and a very thin (and comfortable) interior jersey, leading to a light and unencumbered experience. That said it runs on the colder side of things. Which can be a good thing. If you’re looking for the rash protection of a short sleeve hybrid springsuit in waters where you’d normally be wearing something lighter (and less protective) this is a great option.Check Price on Jack's Surfboards
|O’Neill Hyperfreak||$229||No||Front Zip|
|Xcel Axis||$140||No||Back Zip|
|Picture Organic Meta||$165||Yes||Zip Free|
|Manera Seafarer Hybrid||$299||No||Front Zip|
|Patagonia R1 Lite||$269||Yes||Front Zip|
|RVCA 2/2 Balance||$260||No||Back Zip|
|Manera Seafarer Short Sleeve Hybrid||$319||No||Front Zip|
Different Types of Springsuits
When it comes to springsuits, there’s a lot of different suit styles, all dependent on which part of the wetsuit got chopped off to make it a “springsuit,” along with a whole host of different names and abbreviations for each. When it comes to abbreviations, “SS” signifies “Short Sleeve,” “LS” for “Long Sleeve”, with SL and LL for “Short Leg” and “Long Leg,” respectively.
The classic “shorty” wetsuit has short sleeves and short legs. However, the most popular springsuit style you’ll find out in the water is the long sleeve, short leg suit which is what we focused on in this review for ease of comparison. The opposite style (short arms, long legs) sacrifices a bit of upper-body warmth in exchange for lower-leg warmth and rash protection. This is my personal favorite style of springsuit, as, being a bit on the skinnier side, the cut off legs sometimes hitch up and lead to some bunching “down there.”
Other styles of springsuit include the “long john” or “farmer john” wetsuit, which has the arms completely cut off at the shoulders. These suits are popular with kayakers, as well as longboarders for the unrestricted movement and ease of paddling. A popular choice at longboard breaks like San Onofre in the summer is a long john suit paired with a wetsuit jacket, perfect for quick transitions on days of variable sun, or when the wind picks up.
In the warmest of waters, some will even choose a “short john” – a long john suit with the legs cut short above the knee. While they don’t offer a ton in the way of springsuit warmth, they do provide the rash protection of a wetsuit in key areas like the chest and stomach, without any restrictions to one’s movement.
Springsuit Materials and Sustainability
Like many things in the surf industry, the neoprene in wetsuits and springsuits isn’t the easiest on the environment. Classic neoprene is derived from, you guessed it, fossil fuels, namely oil. Classic neoprene does provide some of the best stretch out there, but it comes at a cost to our planet.
Limestone neoprene (also known as Yamamoto neoprene), prized for its lightness and flexibility, does provide a bit of a lessened environmental impact, using calcium carbonate from limestone instead of crude oil, but still needs to be extracted from the earth, and requires a lot of energy to be transformed into neoprene.
Yulex neoprene, popularized by Patagonia and derived from natural rubber is certainly the lowest-performing option, with less stretch than your average neoprene. However, this fall we’ll be seeing an entirely new line of suits from Patagonia, that has wildly increased stretch, on par with all but the stretchiest neoprene, as well as some fun new features. Stay tuned for more as we approach wetsuit-season.
These days, more and more wetsuit manufacturers are turning to recycled blends to create their neoprene, with material from scrap tires, pulverized oyster shells, and other recycled bits making their way into the blend, along with (in most cases) a percentage of limestone neoprene. And performance-wise, we’ve been super impressed with these recycled neoprene blends, particularly those from Quiksilver, Billabong and Picture Organic in their most recent wetsuit lines.
Features to Look For in a Springsuit
Key Pouch/Key Loop
Ahh, the wetsuit key loop. In my opinion, a good loop or pouch is something that every wetsuit should have, yet somehow that’s just not the case. There’s very little difference between having a key loop or a key pouch, mostly coming down to personal preference. However, if you use a waterproof pouch for your electronic key fob while surfing, there’s a chance you’ll want to choose a suit with a key loop in the chest zipper rather than a pouch on the leg, so you can be sure that key fob fits.
Do you prefer a back-zip or a front zip? What about a no-zip? The options for various styles of entry abound. It’s worth noting here that a main concern for back-zips among wetsuits – letting water in – is much less of a problem with warm water and springsuits. If you’ve been itching to get back in a back-zip, now might be your time to shine.
Sure, 2mm is basically the industry standard when it comes to springsuit wetsuits, but that doesn’t mean it’s the be-all, end-all. Some suits like Manera’s Seafarer Hybrid go with a 3/2 construction for added warmth, and some go with thinner materials for greater flexibility.
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.