Best Wetsuits for Surfing
As surfers, we believe that wetsuits are the greatest invention of all time and we have divers to thank for that. Three men lay claim to inventing the wetsuit to this day! In the early 1950s a physicist at Cal Berkley, Hugh Bradner, started using neoprene to trap water close to the skin so it would stay warm.
Jack O'Neill claims he started making wetsuits in 1952 in his garage, and then started selling his wetsuits in 1959. Bob Meistrell started his company Body Glove at roughly the same time.
No matter who really invented wetsuits, they have been helping keep surfers warm ever since. The first suits were hard to get on and tore easily, but with the introduction of spandex and nylon in addition to the neoprene the wetsuit industry took off in the late 1980s, coinciding with the boom in surfing.
Today, you can stay warm in just about any condition and surf so many more awesome breaks thanks to your wetsuit. We've researched the best wet suits for surfing to make sure you can catch the break you want and stay comfortable enough to surf until your arms fall off!
Our Favorite Picks
#1 Best Mens Wetsuit - O’Neill Epic
#1 Best Womens Wetsuit - Seavenger Alpha
#1 Best Spring Suit - O'Neill Men's Reactor
The 5 Best Wetsuits For Surfing
Best Mens Wetsuits
#1 O’Neill Epic
The O'Neill Epic is hands down one of the best surfing wetsuits out there.
The neoprene is high quality and durable while also providing triple glued seams to keep water out while maintaining flexibility.
The pattern fits to the body very well which also helps to limit abrasion and rough spots.
The 4/3 thickness is ideal for colder waters, but not too thick to wear when the temperature goes up a little over the seasons. For our money, this is the best of the best.
#2 O'Neill Men's Reactor II
If you live in a more temperate climate, the Reactor II is the right choice for you.
The 3/2 thickness works great during the winter in warmer climates, but can also function well in all but the warmest waters.
The super stretch neoprene should last for years as well.
Although you don't get the same seam construction as the Epic, this is one of the best entry level wetsuits to get you out on the waves.
Best Womens Wetsuits
#1 Seavenger Alpha
The Seavenger Alpha is our top pick in the women's category because of the high quality neoprene, and because of the cut and pattern give it a superior fit for the female body.
The 3MM thickness is also very versatile and will help keep you comfortable in a variety of ocean conditions.
The full zip back combines with the stretchy neoprene makes for easy on and off as well.
We also like the flatlock stitch to help reduce friction in normal chafing areas.
All in all, this beats all the other competitors wetsuits as our top pick for women.
#2 O'Neill Women's Reactor
Just like the men's, the women's Reactor is a fantastic entry level suit.
The 3/2 thickness for this wet suit provides excellent versatility with high performance neoprene that will last for a long time.
It is easy to get on and off with a full zip back, and the cut is well suited to females.
Again, this is one of those wetsuits that will give you great bang for you buck and you won't regret buying it!
Best Spring Suit Wetsuit
#1 O'Neill Men's Reactor
Of all the wetsuits we tested, the spring suits are the most fun.
Its like the sweatshirt of surfing, you grab it just in case you need a little something to stay warm.
The Reactor shorty is great for early mornings dawn patrol during the summer, or late evening sunset sessions.
the 2MM neoprene will add just he right level of protection without becoming a nuisance.
Durable construction, low price, and excellent materials round out this great line of spring suits.
Wetsuit Temperature Guide - What thickness wetsuit do I need?
Remember that water temperature isn't the only thing affecting how you feel. You want to make sure to check for air temperature, windspeed and whether you run hot or cold when deciding on what thickness to get.
Here is another temperature guide!
Who makes the best wetsuits for surfing?
What are the best wetsuits for surfing?
The best suits for surfing are those that keep you warm and comfortable. There is nothing worse than being shivering cold or burning up while out on your board. The only other important thing to look for is the closure of the wetsuit. You absolutely do not want a zipper that comes down your front. Look for either a back zip entry or a top entry with the chest zip above your collar bone. Otherwise the zipper will be uncomfortable on your chest at best or can ding your board while you are paddling at worst. The zipper location is the main difference between a scuba type wetsuit and a surfing wetsuit.
How to put on a wetsuit?
With patience. A wetsuit will fit close to your body, so it will take a little bit of effort to put on. How you put the suit on is roughly the same for both top entry and back entry wetsuits. The bottom goes on first, so try to gather the legs as close together as you can while keeping the ankle hole open, like putting on a sock. Try to get your foot all the way through, and then repeat on the other side. Once your feet are through then firmly grasp the middle of the wetsuit and pull up until it is over your waist. You can work it over your body a little at a time and adjust as you go, too. Then, slide both arms in to the sleeves down low in front of you, and once they are fully on lift your arms all the way up and stand tall to bring the wetsuit all the way over your shoulders. Next, for a back entry, pull the zipper up your back using the lanyard and secure any Velcro closures around the neck. Top entry will require a little more scrunching and pulling because the opening is smaller. Top entry will require a little more gathering and pulling because the opening is smaller, but you don't have to reach around for the zipper. Pull the neck closure over your head and zip it shut across the top of your chest. Now go get in the water! Here is a great tutorial with gifs, too!
How should a wetsuit fit?
Let's be honest, wearing a wetsuit on land is not the most comfortable thing in the world. However, they transform in the water. When you first try on any of your options for wetsuits, they should fit just a smidge uncomfortably tight when dry. Don't worry, this is how it is supposed to be, and how you know that it will trap the water close to your skin to help keep you warm. The tightness will loosen a little as you move, and it will also loosen a little bit when you get in the water. In the water, it should be tight, but not annoyingly tight. You should still be able to move reasonably well, and especially check to make sure you can still swivel your head comfortably as well as reach overhead like you are paddling easily enough with only a little extra effort. If your movement is restricted, then it is too tight and you should try a different suit or brand. You want to make sure that the suit has enough flexibility that you can actually surf!
How do I choose a wetsuit for surfing?
Our top recommendations will all work great, but we know fit can be difficult. Before you invest in a wetsuit, it can't hurt to go to a surf shop and rent some of these options. Most surf shops that rent boards will also have wetsuits, so you can get a feel for sizing and whether you like top entry or back entry better. We've found that the sizing charts are pretty true to size, so if you are close on those you should be fine. Also, if you aren't sure about which entry, go with a back entry. It is easier to get in to, even though a little extra water can seep in to the bigger zipper it still will keep you warm throughout your session.
What's all this about seams?
When you are looking at wetsuits, you will read a lot about different types of seam construction. This is because the seams are the most vulnerable to water leakage and to tearing while the stitching can cause irritation. Most of the time, you will see seams as flatlock, taped or glued, but there is a lot of variation in those terms. Here is an excellent explainer on the subject. We recommend at least flatlock seams to reduce chafing in temperate waters, and glued and taped seams in colder water as a good value to keep you both warm and flexible.
What are the best wetsuit brand?
There are many, many reputable brands making wetsuits. The originals, O'Neill and Bodyglove are both excellent. Ripcurl and Patagonia have some great wetsuits too. We also like Billabong as well as Quicksilver and its sister brand, Roxy. Xcel and Hurley both make very good, technically advanced wetsuits as well. All of these brands are known for their great surf wetsuits and they stand for high performance, durable materials, excellent range of motion and peerless customer service. You can't go wrong with any of them.
Do you wear anything under a wetsuit?
Yes and no. Lots of people where nothing under their wetsuits, minimizing any irritation from scrunched up fabric between you and a tight fitting wetsuit. This also helps keep you from overheating before you get in the water. Other folks, however, like to keep a layer between themselves and their wetsuits to avoid chaffing, especially around the neck and armpits to say nothing of certain delicate areas. Having something under the wetsuit also makes it much easier to avoid accidentally displaying those delicate areas when you take your wetsuit off in a parking lot. Otherwise you have to become very skilled at holding a towel while removing your wetsuit. Our only recommendation is go with what works for you, but don't wear too many clothes under your wetsuit. A pair of lightweight swim bottoms for the male or female form along with a short sleeve rashguard that covers your neck is the most that you will need.
How much should you spend on a wetsuit?
As we have often said, don't spend more than you can afford! For a full body suit, the best surfing wetsuits should range anywhere from around $100 for a warmer water/thinner option to upwards of $300 for a thicker option. If you are in the $115-$215 range you are probably in good shape. Any less and the suit might not hold up, while anymore and you might be paying for more than you need. This is not a hard and fast rule though, as notably our top women's suit comes in below this range (which in this case just constitutes a smoking deal.) Spring suits, of course, should be less, generally $75-$100 or so should get you any in a range of decent wetsuits.
Final Verdict - Which Wetsuit Should You Buy?
After all the information above, we hope you feel ready to buy the right wetsuit for you. For men's wetsuits you can't beat the combination of quality construction, comfort, warmth, and price in the O'Neill Epic, especially the 4/3 model.
Of all the suits out there, this is the one that we surf in most. For the best women's wetsuits for surfing, we love the Seavenger Alpha for its comfort, flexibility/stretchability, and quality materials at a low price. Whether you are in warmer water temperatures or cold water, these wetsuits will help you stay out longer and enjoy your session on the waves!
OUR #1 PICK - O’Neill Epic