What wetsuit should I buy?
If it’s your first time buying a wetsuit and you’re confused by all the options you're faced with, we’re here to help, whatever the season, reason and sea temperature you need it for. Whether you’ve suffered from a serious case of wax rash, or get way too cold surfing, you need more protection.
Rashies and going without a wetsuit
Water Temp - 70°F / 21°C +
When surfing in the summer, some people will ditch the wetsuit altogether and jump in with only boardshorts or a bikini. This is fun and all, but wax rash and sun burn can soon get the better of you, making you seriously reconsider the wetsuit. "But it's way too hot!" we hear you say. Well, the thinnest layer of protection you can opt for is a rash vest, (occasionally people just wear a t-shirt), which is designed to be worn with boardshorts or over a bikini, providing an added layer of (usually very thin) material protection. Some offer an SPF rating, protecting against sun burn, and they all keep wax rash at bay.
If a rash vest proves to be a little too cold, opt for a wetsuit jacket or top, a thin layer of neoprene that’s usually 1.5mm to 2mms thick and adds a little extra insulation.
Water Temp - 62-69°F / 16-20°C +
Springsuits can come in all shapes and styles, which you’d usually wear if the water and weather are too hot for a full-length wetsuit. The combinations of leg and sleeve length regularly differ: long arms; short arms; sleeveless; short leg, etc., and you should pick a springsuit depending on your preference of warmth and protection. If you’ve tried surfing bare-legged and your knees get bruised, you might want to opt for a short arm/sleeveless, long leg springsuit, and if your shoulders are prone to sunburn and you feel the cold, maybe you’d go for a long sleeve, short leg. We’ve broken down the combinations for you below:
- Long Sleeve Spring Suit - long sleeves and short legs. Men’s short leg springsuits usually cut off at mid-thigh, but women’s can be a little higher and feature a ‘bikini cut’ bottom.
- Short Sleeve Spring Suit - a t-shirt style sleeve with short legs.
- Short Johns - Short in the legs with no sleeves.
- Long John Wetsuits - Long legs with no sleeves for men.
- Long Jane Wetsuit - Long legs with no sleeves for women.
Full length steamers
Water Temp - <61°F / <16°C
The most common wetsuit is a full-length steamer, a full body suit with neoprene covering the whole body, to the wrist and ankles. The millimetres represent the thickness of neoprene in the arms and body, so a 2/2mm wetsuit is 2mm of neoprene in the body and legs, and 2mm in the arms; a 3/2mm features 3mm in the legs and body, 2mm in the arms; and a 4/3mm features 4mm in the body and legs, and 3mm in the arms.
Boots, hoods and gloves
During the winter months, the water around New Zealand can get a whole lot colder, especially the lower parts of the North Island and the South Island. The extra material of boots, gloves and/or a hood will keep you warmer and in the water for longer, perfect for if you’re already donning a thick wetsuit and need a little added warmth, or need more protection from the wind (hoods and gloves offer this, booties not so much). They are all available in a number of thicknesses, and as with most neoprene, this usually results in different flexibility. Thicker boots, for example, will be less flexible but warmer than thinner booties. You can also buy booties designed for walking over reef, often called reef shoes. These have a much thicker sole than conventional wetsuit booties, and some people find surfing in them frustrating, with less ability to feel the board on the soles of your feet.
Overall, you have lots of options to choose from when it comes to wetties, and all depend on a number of factors, including weather, water temperature, and your sensitivity to the cold, plus more. Hopefully our guide has given you a little more direction in your search for the perfect wetsuit, but if not, feel free to pop in store or give us a call and find out more. If you're a complete beginner, read our guide to surfing for beginners.