The Inertia Gear Editor
Staff
Best Wetsuits for Surfing. We tested them all.

We got our hands on as many wetsuits as we possibly could to put them through the wringer. If you’re looking for the best wetsuit to keep you warm and surfing longer, read the author’s assessment below. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice


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Wetsuits have come a long way since they replaced the wool sweater in the 1950s and ’60s as an inventive way for surfers to keep warm in cold water. They’ve even come a long way in the past couple years as new technologies and stretchier, eco-friendly materials have become a priority for wetsuit manufacturers.

After a couple of hard years of supply chain disruptions wreaking havoc on the wetsuit supply, the time was finally right for a full-blown, no-bs, apples-to-apples wetsuit test. I asked the top wetsuit makers in the biz to send me their warmest and stretchiest 4/3 wetsuit, and I put them all to the test in the chilly waters at my home break of Ocean Beach, San Francisco. The average water temp while I was testing hovered around 58 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air temperature was typically in the high 60s.

For consistency, I did my best to only test 4/3 front-zip suits without hoods. However, the wetsuits tended to fall into two main categories: true “steamer” wetsuits which prioritized warmth, and more “high performance” suits that prioritized light weight and stretch. I’ve done my best to indicate which way each suit leans.

Best Overall Wetsuit
Best Overall Wetsuit

The Rip Curl E7 Heatseeker Flashbomb is a worthy suit, with tons of stretch, a super-soft lining, and warmth for days. Price: $520
Buy NowCheck 3/2 Price on Amazon

 

I weighed the possibility of running different warmth and stretch tests, subjecting myself to a cold plunge with the suits on or stretching them as far as they go before they rip in half, but the cold plunge would have been challenging to do accurately. How long would it take between tests to re-calibrate my body heat? And an ultimate stretch test didn’t (at least to me) seem indicative of what a wetsuit actually goes through during use. So I did what any surfer would do. I surfed in these wetsuits as much as I could over the past few months, usually going through multiple suits a session for accurate comparisons. I also compiled helpful data like wetsuit weight and additional features to provide a full picture to help you make the best possible decision when purchasing your wetsuit this winter.

While that may seem like the best job in the world (and, I admit, it’s pretty fun), I assure you there is nothing glamorous about getting out of the water when the waves are firing to jog back to the car, take off a wet wetsuit, yank a dry one on over my still-wet body, and get back in the water. All for you, dear reader.

This year’s lineup of wetsuits truly blew me away. Any of the suits featured in this review would make a very worthy companion to your colder-water adventures, and no manufacturers paid for placement in this review. After a lot of testing, I’m pleased to present The Inertia‘s 2022-2023 Wetsuit Guide.

best women's wetsuits for surfing
We Reviewed The Best Women's Wetsuits for 2022
We reviewed the best women's wetsuits for 2021 from top brands like O'Neill, Billabong, and Patagonia, so you can stay warm, comfortable, and stylish in the water. Read more…
If you hate booties, why not give 'em another try? Photo: Heyden
The Best Wetsuit Booties for Cold-Water Surfing
These are the best wetsuit booties on the market. Keep your toes toasty. Read more…

For booties, check out our guide to the best booties. Read our review of women’s wetsuits here. Want to avoid getting your ears drilled? Read our earplugs review here.

TLDR (The Short Version)

Best All-Around Best Wetsuit: Rip Curl E7 Heatseeker Flashbomb
Best Value Wetsuit: Picture Equation
Warmest Wetsuit/Best Steamer: O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire
Best High-Performance Wetsuit: Quiksilver Highline
Most Sustainable Wetsuit: Patagonia R-Series
Warmest Wetsuit/Steamer (Value Option): Vissla North Seas

My favorite wetsuit this year in terms of stretch and warmth was the Rip Curl E7 Heatseeker Flashbomb, but for $200 cheaper the Picture Equation comes close to getting the job done. If warmth is your absolute top priority, I’d recommend the O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire.  If you want stretch, try the Quiksilver Highline.  For the most eco-friendly wetsuit, try Patagonia’s R-Series. For most durable, I currently have to give the edge to Manera’s X10D, Dakine’s Cyclone, or Patagonia’s R-Series (based on prior experience), but stay tuned as I will continue to update as I log more time in the surf in these suits this winter.

Warmest Wetsuit
Warmest Wetsuit

The O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire is crazy warm, with surprisingly good stretch considering that it’s a 4.5/3.5.
Price: $440
Buy Now

What Matters Most When Buying a Wetsuit? How Did We Calculate Recommendations for Best Wetsuits?

My main criteria for this review was warmth, stretch, and durability. Each suit received a score out of 10 for each category, which I then averaged to reach the overall score. Since durability is a bit harder to capture after only a couple months of testing, that score was weighted less than warmth and stretch, the two main considerations. Scroll to the bottom for more info on these criteria, sustainability, and other things that matter in buying a wetsuit.

Here’s the breakdown. Warmth: 40, Stretch: 40, Durability: 20. For the benefit of hardcore stats nerds out there, I also took note of the weight of each suit, wetsuit fit, additional features, and sustainable manufacturing.

The Best Wetsuits for Surfing of 2023

Rip Curl E7 Flashbomb Best Wetsuits

The Rip Curl E7 Flashbomb Heatseeker ranked as the best all-around wetsuit. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice

Best Overall Wetsuit: Rip Curl E7 Flashbomb Heatseeker ($520)

Warmth: 9.5
Stretch: 9
Durability: 8
Overall: 9
Sustainability: No
Features: Full fuzz lining, zip-free entry, key pocket on left calf.
Weight: 3.54lbs

This wetsuit blew me out of the water. Pulling it on for the first time was an experience in luxury, with a super-cozy fleece lining throughout the entire suit, and very stretchy neoprene. The lining is said to generate heat while you paddle, which I’m pretty sure I could actually feel. However, that doesn’t do much while waiting for waves. While sitting in the lineup, I noticed it wasn’t quite as warm as the O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire. The fit was surprisingly good – laid flat the suit looked somewhat boxy (which usually doesn’t bode well for my lanky frame), but it fit like a glove. I wouldn’t be surprised if the optimized fit was a byproduct of Rip Curl’s super stretch. This wetsuit is a crossover steamer/high-performance suit, with steamer level warmth and the stretch (but not the lightness) of a high-performance suit.

The biggest downside is the price. This suit clocks in at $520 for a 4/3 without a hood, making it the most expensive wetsuit on this list. And if you’re a fan of zippers, this suit doesn’t have any. (That said, there is a chest-zip version available. I just didn’t test it.) It was also a decent bit heavier than other stretchy/high performance suits I tried (3.54 lbs to the Quik Highline’s 3.03), which speaks to its warmth. If warmth is less of a priority for you than high performance, I’d suggest looking at the suits from Manera and Quiksilver, below.

Check Price on Hansen Surfboards Check 3/2 Price on Amazon

 

O'Neill Hyperfreak Fire Best Wetsuits

The O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire clocked in as the pound-for-pound warmest suit included in this test, according to the author. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice

Warmest Wetsuit/Best Steamer: O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire ($440)

Warmth: 10
Stretch: 8
Durability: 8
Overall: 8.8
Sustainability: Recycled lining and use of oyster shells/eco carbon black in neoprene.
Features: Extra .5mm of neoprene, key pocket on right calf.
Weight: 3.7lbs

The O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire is a new wetsuit O’Neill is debuting this winter season, elevating its popular Hyperfreak with a new Technobutter 4 lining designed for increased stretch and warmth, as well as liquid seam sealing on the outside of the suit. The neoprene on this suit is awesome – while it isn’t quite as stretchy as Rip Curl’s E7, above, or the Quiksilver, below, it’s super flexible and feels a bit more capable of taking a beating. the TB4 lining provides steamer-level warmth without the weight and stiffness that some thicker linings have, and the medium fit me great.

However, it seems the Hyperfreak Fire only comes in “4/3+” which has an extra half millimeter of neoprene, making it a 4.5/3.5. That’s the suit that I tried, and the difference is palpable, mostly in the shoulder area when paddling, but by no means performance-hindering. For those who run cold and like a bit of extra rubber, this is the move. This suit is just crazy warm, and for a 4.5/3.5, it’s extremely flexible, matching the stretchiness of at least a few 4/3 suits on this list. Another very small, very nit-picky “con” was the lower-leg key pocket. It’s a bit too small to fit my electric key fob in its KGUARD case, not a problem on other suits with the lower-leg pocket.

Check Price on Backcountry Check Price on Amazon

 

Quiksilver Highline

The Quiksilver Highline was the dark horse surprise of a top performer among the wetsuits tested. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice

Best High-Performance Wetsuit: Quiksilver Highline ($360)

Warmth: 7.5
Stretch: 10
Durability: 8
Overall: 8.6
Sustainability: Dope dyed interior.
Features: Super light and stretchy neoprene, key loop in front zip.
Weight: 3.03 lbs

I wasn’t expecting to be this impressed with a wetsuit from Quiksilver, but they have hit the nail on the head when it comes to the Highline. A performance-based wetsuit with a solid, warm lining, Quiskilver’s wetsuit matched the Rip Curl suit in terms of stretch, with an exceedingly comfortable lining. It wasn’t quite as warm as Rip Curl’s E7 Flashbomb, but it was slightly lighter, fit pretty well, and was about $160 cheaper. If the price tag were a little lower, it would certainly have edged out the Picture Equation as the best value wetsuit, but as things stand, this is a solid and more affordable high-performance wetsuit with admirable warmth.

Durability-wise, I’ll be interested to see how the stretch in this suit holds up over time, but if what you are looking for is a high-performance, high-stretch suit that makes you forget you’re wearing a 4/3, this is it.

Check Price on Quiksilver Check Price on Amazon

 

Picture Equation Best Wetsuits

The Picture Equation is the best value wetsuit I tested. And it’s extremely sustainable, a major plus. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice

Best Value Wetsuit: Picture Equation ($315)

Warmth: 7
Stretch: 9
Durability: 8
Overall: 8
Sustainability: limestone, recycled rubber, and oyster shell neoprene, recycled lining.
Features: Rib pads, drain holes on calves. Key pocket on right calf.
Weight: 3.08lbs.

I’ve known about Picture (formerly Picture Organic Clothing) for a while now, but had no idea they made wetsuits until this year. Picture is a company dedicated to sustainability, so I was stoked to see them take a stab at neoprene, claiming to have a sustainable material that trumps regular neoprene in terms of stretch.

Their wetsuits are made from a combination of recycled tires, oyster shells, and limestone, with a recycled lining. And they live up to the hype. The neoprene felt buttery smooth and quite stretchy. The lining was comfortable, and it’s got some rad features I’ve never seen in a wetsuit before like rib pads (which as a skinny surfer I’m stoked on) and calf holes to help water drain from the suit. The fit was great, and best of all, despite the sustainable accolades, the suit doesn’t come with the higher price tag most eco-friendly options demand. In fact, their price tag (currently $315 for the 4/3 Equation) was the lowest on this list.

The main downside is warmth, as it’s more of a high performance suit rather than a steamer. If you want to go the steamer route, I’d recommend checking out Picture’s Dome wetsuits, which feature similarly competitive prices. For those interested in even more stretch (at the cost of some warmth), check out Picture’s line of Flex Skin wetsuits, which use an even stretchier neoprene in the arms and shoulders.

Check Price on Backcountry Check Price on Evo

 

Patagonia R2 Wetsuit

Patagonia always tries to trailblazer when it comes to sustainable products. Such is the case with Patagonia’s R2 wetsuit, our environmentally friendly pick. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice

Most Sustainable Wetsuit: Patagonia R2 ($460)

Warmth: 8
Stretch: 7
Durability: 10
Overall: 8
Sustainability: As good as it gets: Yulex rubber, recycled lining, fair trade and sustainable manufacturing.
Features: Key loop in front zip, 3.5/3mm thickness.
Weight: 3.0lbs

Patagonia suits are the most sustainable wetsuits you can get your hands on, period. Made from all-natural Yulex material, their impact on the environment is as low as it gets when buying a wetsuit. Also of note is the brand’s repair policy, where they’ll do what they can to keep your suit seaworthy for as long as possible.

At first, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of stretch due to the all-Yulex construction. The suit felt a bit stiffer than other suits on this list right out of the gates, but after a few surfs I found myself pretty impressed with how much the suit had loosened up. It’s now more flexible, and while it isn’t “stretchy” like some suits on this list, it didn’t feel like my performance was hindered. For warmth, the lining was super cozy, and the suit was surprisingly warm given the lack of .5mm of neoprene (excuse me, Yulex) on the torso. That being said, while the R2 might get you through a SoCal winter, up here at Ocean Beach, I would personally go for the R3 as my winter wetsuit. The fit is solid, but not nearly as comfortable as Rip Curl’s E7 Flash Bomb Heat Seeker.

Durability-wise, I know that Patagonia suits stand the test of time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the longevity is due to that lack of stretch.

Check Price on Patagonia

 

Manera x10d

When it comes to wetsuit fit, Manera’s X10D is second to none. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice

Lightest, Best-Fitting Wetsuit: Manera X10D ($470)

Warmth: 7
Stretch: 9
Durability: 10
Overall: 8.4
Sustainability: Dope-dyed yarn.
Features: No key loop/pocket.
Weight: 3.0lbs.

For the past few years, I’ve been a massive fan of French-made Manera wetsuits. For those who aren’t familiar, their claim to fame is the “3D design” of their suits, which they say fits the shape of the human body better than suits designed in 2D, and I find it hard to disagree. These wetsuits fit me better than any other I’ve worn.

The stretch is great, not quite reaching the levels of Rip Curl’s E7 or Quiksilver’s Highline, but it comes darn close. Where this suit truly shines is the lightness of the neoprene. Performance-wise, the suit feels like a 3/2, while retaining the warmth of a high-performance 4/3. And the weight reflects that as this was the lightest wetsuit I tried. It’s a full half-pound less than some of the steamers. If the wetsuit was even slightly cheaper or a bit stretchier, I would have definitely given this the edge as “best high-performance suit” over the Quiksilver Highline.

Another area where Manera’s wetsuits shine is durability. These wetsuits stand the test of time, especially in the seams. My one complaint is the lack of a key loop or pocket, but I’ve heard this feature will be rolled out soon across their line of suits.

If you’re interested in the fit of Manera’s suits, but are looking for something warmer, check out the Meteor Magma, the warmest suit I’ve ever worn.

Check Price on Jack's Surfboards

 

Vissla North Seas Best Wetsuits for Surfing

The Vissla North Seas is a great choice for a very warm wetsuit that won’t break the bank. Photo: Cory Diamond

Warmest Wetsuit/Steamer (Value Option): Vissla North Seas ($390)

Warmth: 9
Stretch: 8
Durability: 8
Overall: 8.4
Sustainability: Limestone neoprene, recycled and dope-dyed liner
Features: Key loop in front zip.
Weight: 3.73lbs.

The Vissla North Seas didn’t exactly blow my mind in any category, but it was up there with the best in every one. The suit is solidly warm and solidly stretchy. It has a thick and cozy lining from the chest down for warmth and a thinner jersey in the arms and shoulders for increased paddle-ability. It’s a nice combination. I’m also a fan of the smoothie panels on the front and back that help ward off the wind chill, and it fit exceptionally well. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a high-quality steamer this well-priced.

My only complaint is that the lining on the shoulders and arms is a bit rougher than other suits I tested. I wouldn’t say that it’s uncomfortable, but it’s not the fuzzy coziness I’ve come to expect after trying other top-of-the-line steamers. It was also the heaviest wetsuit on the list, albeit by only .03 pound (next heaviest being the O’Neill). Overall, this is a very solid and affordable choice if you’re looking for a true steamer wetsuit, with solid sustainability to boot.

Check Price on Backcountry

 

Billabong Furnace Best Wetsuits

The Billabong Furnace impressed, but the author noted a few leaky snafus after the first surf. Photo: Cory Diamond

Billabong Furnace ($420)

Warmth: 8
Stretch: 8
Durability: 6
Overall: 7.6
Sustainability: Limestone neoprene with 30% recycled car tires, scrap rubber & oyster shells. Recycled lining.
Features: Key loop in chest zip.
Weight: 3.4lbs.

It has been years since I’ve tried a Billabong suit, and I’m super impressed on the uptick in stretch and sustainability these suits have seen since then. The Furnace features a thick and cozy Graphene lining from the chest to the ankles and stretchy neoprene – especially in the arms and shoulders – as well as solid sustainability and a great fit.

However, I was disappointed to find a bunch of leaks in my first surf with the suit. As soon as I hit the water, I could feel the telltale pinpricks of cold at my knees, groin, and chest from water sneaking in. It could have been unique to the wetsuit I received, but definitely noteworthy since that didn’t happen with any other wetsuit I tested. If it weren’t for that small issue, this suit would have been up there with the best of them.

Check Price on Backcountry Check Price on Amazon

 

Body Glove Red Cell Best Wetsuits

Body Glove’s Red Cell technology is undeniably warm. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice

Body Glove Red Cell ($465)

Warmth: 9
Stretch: 7
Durability: 8
Overall: 8
Sustainability: No.
Features: Super warm lining, liquid sealed and interior taped seams, key loop in chest zip.
Weight: 3.6lbs.

Body Glove’s Red Cell has been touted as one of the warmest suits on the market, so I was stoked to give it a try. And make no bones about it, this suit is a steamer. The red-cell insulation from the chest down kept me incredibly toasty, almost too warm in early-fall waters here in SF, and I was impressed with the stretch of the unlined neoprene in the arms and shoulders.

My biggest challenge was the fit. The suit felt incredibly tight around the chest, and the kneepads were mostly on my lower thighs rather than my knees. It felt like the suit was made for someone a lot shorter, and with a smaller chest than me, which I wouldn’t have expected based on how most other mediums fit me. As I’ve continued to surf in the suit, that chest-tightness has eased somewhat, but not completely. While this suit scored highly on warmth and stretch, the fit put it a lot lower on my list than the overall rating implies.

Check Price on Body Glove

 

Buell RB1 PLUS Accelerator ($300)

Warmth: 7
Stretch: 8
Durability: 8
Overall: 7.6
Sustainability: No.
Features: Front zip fully detaches, key pocket on right calf.
Weight: 3.17

Buell makes awesome wetsuits, and their brand is second to none. They understand that surfing should be fun, and I see more and more of their wetsuits in the lineup all the time. I’m a big fan of the brand, but as far as my experience with the wetsuit I tested, the neoprene felt solidly average in terms of stretch. The lining was warm, but nothing to write home about. The extra features like two snaps to secure the zipper and a fully-detached front zip didn’t make a ton of sense to me.

The suit is super light, so if you’re looking for a high-performance 4/3 and don’t want the extra stretch in a suit like the Quiksilver Highline, this could be a great choice. It’s also quite affordable, which is always a plus.

Check Price on Buellsurf.com

 

Dakine 4/3 Cyclone wetsuit

The Dakine Cyclone has survived a year of hard use and is still in great condition. That deserves an honorable mention. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice

Honorable Mentions

There are a couple of other suits I didn’t get to test this year or that weren’t new, but are still working great, that I’d like to call out. First of all, I’ve been a big fan of Xcel’s suits after relying on a couple of their CompX suits while I was in college. Xcel sent me a Drylock to check out this year, that arrived too late to include in this guide as of publish date. I’ll get it in the lineup as soon as I can and will report back.

Another wetsuit I want to mention here is the Dakine Cyclone, which I tried last year. And while I’ll admit I didn’t get my hands on a fresh one to test alongside the new rubber from other manufacturers, I’d like to call them out for creating an awesome wetsuit that I am still wearing a year later. I put my suits through the wringer, so when a wetsuit makes it through an entire year in good shape, I’m impressed. That’s the case here. The welded seams have stayed completely watertight, the neoprene has lost the new-suit stretch but still feels great once you hit the water, and it looks like this year’s lineup from Dakine has an even warmer lining. Check them out here. I’d also like to give a call out to the O’Neill HyperFreak 4/3 FUZE Chest-Zip. Two years later, our tester is still loving this suit. It has started to degrade a bit, but it’s still comfy and warm. Many props.

Wetsuit Comparison Table

Suit Overall Rating Price Weight Sustainability Key Pocket Style
Rip Curl Flashbomb Heatseeker 9 $520  3.54 No Lower leg Crossover
O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire 8.8 $440  3.7 Yes: Alternate neoprene, recycled lining. Lower leg Crossover/steamer
Quiksilver Highline 8.6 $360  3.08 Yes: Alternate neoprene, recycled lining. Front zip High-performance
Manera X10D 8.4 $470  3.0  Sorta: Dope dyed yarn. None High-performance
Patagonia R2 8 $460  3.0 Yes: Yulex rubber, recycled lining, and more. Front zip Neutral/crossover
Picture Equation 8 $315  3.1 Yes: Alternate neoprene, recycled lining. Lower leg High-performance
Vissla North Seas 8.4 $390  3.73  Yes: Alternate neoprene, recycled lining. Front zip Steamer
Billabong Furnace 7.6 $470  3.4  Yes: Alternate neoprene, recycled lining. Front zip Steamer
Body Glove Red Cell 8 $465  3.6  No Front zip Steamer
 Buell RB1 Plus  7.6  $300  3.17  No  Lower leg High-performance
 Dakine Cyclone  8.4  $450 N/A  Sorta: Dope dyed yarn.  Front no-zip High-performance

 

Factors to Consider When Buying a Wetsuit

Testing the best wetsuits for surfing

These wetsuits weren’t going to test themselves, so we put them through their paces at Ocean Beach, in San Francisco, an excellent wetsuit proving ground. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice

Wetsuit Fit

Without a doubt, fit is the most important factor in choosing a suit. It doesn’t matter if it’s the stretchiest and warmest suit in the world, if the fit isn’t right, you will not enjoy wearing it.

All of the suits I tested in this review are a size M, which is generally my preferred wetsuit size. I’m 6’0” and weigh 150 lbs. As you can probably tell from the photos, I’m a bit of a lanky guy, usually leaving me with a bit of exposed skin at the wrists and ankles. However, in my wetsuit-buying experience, I’ve been most pleased with how Medium suits fit my torso. A Small Tall tends to fit much tighter on my body, causing the seams to fail quickly, and I’m usually far below the recommended weight category for a Medium Tall suit. In this review, I’ve made sure to point out when a suit fits particularly bad, or particularly well.

Best Fitting Wetsuit
Best Fitting Wetsuit

Manera’s wetsuits fit insanely well, are durable, and the X10D has super light, stretchy, and comfortable neoprene to boot.
Price: $470
Buy Now

 

However, fit is as personal as it gets. Be sure to read the size charts, and if you find a manufacturer whose suits fit you particularly well, it might be worth sticking to your guns.

Warmth vs. Stretch

The second and third most important factors in choosing a suit. While these two criteria certainly aren’t mutually exclusive, they do cut against each other. Want a warmer suit? That means more layers of insulation (both in terms of the millimeters of neoprene itself and a heftier lining of the inside of the wetsuit) and less flexibility. Want more stretch? Gotta make a sacrifice somewhere…

Some wetsuits on this list prioritize stretch, some prioritize warmth, and others try to strike a happy medium. It’s certainly worth taking a sec to figure out your priorities before going all-in on new rubber.

Most Sustainable Wetsuit
Most Sustainable Wetsuit

Patagonia’s R-Series of wetsuits are the most sustainable suits by far, with Yulex rubber and sustainable manufacturing practices.
Price: $460
Buy Now

 

Sustainable Wetsuits

Sustainable manufacturing is booming in the surf industry, and wetsuits are no exception. It used to be that if you wanted a sustainable wetsuit, your option was Patagonia, and while their Yulex material is still the most sustainable wetsuit material out there, it’s no longer the only one. For their part, Patagonia has proactively shared their technology and suppliers with other manufacturers for the planet’s sake. It’s also not a bad marketing talking point for Patagonia.

As far as other wetsuit materials go, regular neoprene is derived from crude oil, which makes it very environmentally unfriendly indeed, putting it at the bottom of the list. Not far above that sits limestone neoprene (also referred to as Yamamoto neoprene) which uses calcium carbonate from limestone instead of crude oil. That’s certainly better as a step away from fossil fuels, but limestone still needs to be extracted from the earth and takes a lot of energy to transform into neoprene. Even better than limestone are wetsuits produced with recycled materials such as rubber from old tires (like Quiksilver and others’ “Carbon Black”), oyster shells, and other recycled materials. Many suits on this list use a mixture of limestone and recycled materials to make their suits, which is good, but not as sustainable as Yulex.

Best Value Wetsuit
Best Value Wetsuit

Picture’s Equation wetsuit lands solid sustainability at an incredible price, with a cozy lining, stretchy neoprene, and fun features.
Price: $315
Buy Now

 

Performance-wise, limestone neoprene probably performs the best, with regular neoprene clocking in at a close second-best. Recycled blends vary, but are often majority limestone, and therefore quite stretchy. Yulex is definitely the lowest-performing material here, but not by that much, and new tech and different blends are closing the gap. Manera, Billabong, and Quiksilver just announced their own Yulex wetsuit lines, which sounds promising as a potential industry-wide shift towards better materials.

There are a few additional sustainability efforts of note from wetsuit manufacturers. The use of recycled polyester or nylon in the lining of the suit, water-based glue (such as Aqua Alpha) for seam sealing, and dope-dyed fabric all make contributions toward minimizing the footprint of a wetsuit.

Wetsuit Durability

All that being said, perhaps the most important aspect of a sustainable wetsuit is durability. The longer a wetsuit lasts before you have to buy a new one, the less of an impact your years of wetsuit-buying will have in the long run. And it will save you money. Overall, stretchier suits tend to degrade quicker, and while Yulex suits certainly don’t win the stretch category, they do win the durability category for that reason. I will keep this article updated with notes on durability as I continue surfing in these suits.

zipper design

Some zippers require two hands, some don’t, but then need a snap to make sure they stay shut. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice

What Other Features Matter in a Wetsuit?

There are plenty of other factors to consider when buying a suit. Perhaps the most impactful is the key pocket. I generally prefer a key loop inside of the front zipper as it can accommodate both my car’s small valet key as well as the larger fob in a waterproof case. Another popular design is the outer calf key pocket, which is way more comfortable, but maybe a little less secure and a far smaller pouch than the front zip of your suit. However, my KGuard electronic key bag managed to fit in all of the calf pockets I tested, except for O’Neill’s. A larger pouch like the Aquapac Keymaster, would not have fit in any of them.

Zipper design is another feature of note. Some zippers require that you put the two pieces of the zipper together, some have the zipper already attached, allowing you to simply pull it across one-handed. However, most of these suits then require a snap to keep the zipper from opening. The first is more secure, but a bit more troublesome than the second option. Wetsuits with two-handed zippers in this review are the suits from: Quiksilver, Body Glove, Billabong, Patagonia, and Buell. One-handed zips are: O’Neill, Vissla, Picture, and Manera. Rip Curl and Dakine feature zip-free constructions.

O'Neill Wetsuit Seams

A liquid seam-seal on the outside of a wetsuit will keep your seams watertight for a lot longer than normal. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice

Seams matter, too. GBS seams (Glued and Blind Stitched) are the best in terms of water-permeability, which all of the wetsuits in this review have. Most of the suits also make use of inside taping, and some even go for seam seals on the outside. Both taping and seam seals increase the waterproofing and longevity of a suit, but can reduce the overall flex.

How Do I Take Care of my Wetsuit?

Choosing the right rubber is important, but so is treating your wetsuit well to ensure it will last you as long as possible. After each use, make sure to rinse your wetsuit with fresh water, and hang it to dry (check out our guide to the best wetsuit hangers) in the shade. Reminder: Fold your suit to hang it. Don’t hang it by the shoulders. This will help you avoid gravity stretching (and eventually) tearing those shoulders over time. Sun and salt water, especially in combination, will reduce your wetsuit’s overall lifespan. They’ll also make the rubber stiffer and less flexible. If you notice that happening, you can always use one of these awesome wetsuit washes, which will also help kick the wetsuit stink before (or even after) it starts. I do my best to wash my wetsuit with a cleaner every couple of weeks to keep it feeling supple and smelling good. If you happened to rip your wetsuit, or noticed your seams are letting in more water than you would like, don’t worry, your wetsuit’s life is far from over. Check out our helpful guide to wetsuit repair.

How Long Should My Wetsuit Last?

Your wetsuit should last at least a year for the every-damn-day surfer and a potentially a lot longer than that if you surf less (and are a fully grown adult). I have wetsuits that have held up nicely with regular use up to four years, which I would call the gold standard of durability. But a wetsuit is expensive. It should last. Less-stretchy, more durable wetsuits will last longer than high-performance, high-stretch wetsuits. You can keep your suit seaworthy even longer by re-sealing your wetsuit seams when they start to fail, washing your wetsuit regularly with a wetsuit wash, being gentle when taking your wetsuit on and off, and generally avoiding the downward spiral of negligent wetsuit care. Don’t change directly on asphalt (especially parking-lot asphalt with all that yucky car-grease) or let your wetsuit sit in its own funk overnight because you were too lazy to wash it after your evening session.

What Thickness Wetsuit Should I Get?

Great question, and one that depends on a variety of factors including where you surf, what time of year you’re surfing, and how hot/cold you tend to run. Here in Northern California, a 4/3 wetsuit is the go-to, year-round suit, but dedicated winter surfers or those who run cold might choose a 4.5/3.5, 5/4/3, or 5/4. A hood is often a great idea, too. Down in Southern California, a 3/2 is often the suit of choice, with all but the hardiest of surfers switching over to a 4/3 come fall/winter. Below is a general guide to choosing wetsuit thickness based on water temperature based on Quiksilver’s temperature chart.

Water Temperature Wetsuit Thickness Other Accessories
75+ Boardshorts/Rashguard Wetsuit jacket if you run cold.
65-75 .5-2mm wetsuit jacket/springsuit N/A
60-65 3/2mm fullsuit N/A
55-60 4/3mm fullsuit booties and hood if you run cold.
50-55 5/4mm fullsuit with hood booties, gloves if you run cold.
50 and below 6/5mm fullsuit with hood thick booties and thick gloves.

However, the above is just a guideline. There’s a lot of other factors to consider when choosing a suit. First is personal cold-tolerance. While a thinner suit will tire you out less and overall allow for faster reactions, all those advantages go away when your body is tense or even shivering with cold.

Wind and sun can also play a big factor. Surfers in windier conditions would benefit from a rubber “smoothie” panel which some wetsuits have on the chest and/or front that helps block windchill. And if it’s overcast, not only will the sun not be warming you, it won’t be warming the top layer of the water those crucial few degrees either.

Another consideration is how active you tend to be in the water. Surfers who are constantly paddling can choose a thinner suit, and those who find themselves sitting and waiting for waves would probably prefer a thicker suit. This can also vary from one break to the next depending on crowd factor, the type of wave, and other factors. When I’m surfing Pleasure Point, I tend to choose a thicker suit as I’m often waiting my turn amongst the crowd. At Ocean Beach, a thinner suit can help keep my arms fresh as I battle the lines of whitewater to reach the outside.

Best High-Performance Wetsuit
Best High-Performance Wetsuit

The Quiksilver Highline is an awesome wetsuit. It was the stretchiest suit I tried, had a super warm and cozy lining, and fit well.
Price: $360
Buy Now

 

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. I’ll be doing my best to keep this article updated as wetsuits go in and out of stock online. I will also keep you posted if I’m able to try any more new wetsuits or if any durability problems arise that were premature to note here.

Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

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