Buying Your First Wetsuit

Dr. Dan tries on his first wetsuit at the Ripcurl Outlet in Costa Mesa, CA
Getting on a wetsuit is a thousand times easier than getting one off.

It’s the start of the winter surfing season here in South Orange County.  The water is getting cold, and if you want to be out more than a few minutes you are going to need a wetsuit.

First off, a quick internet search will open a huge volume of options in regards to wetsuits.  There is a large range of cost; anywhere from $150, all the way up to $500 and there are plenty of reputable brands to choose from as well.  The differences begin in the designs, thickness, and extra features.

It’s important to remember this detail while shopping – when you are wearing this wetsuit, you will be paddling a surfboard, not scuba diving.  You will be generating a significant amount of body heat from the exercise of paddling.  Furthermore, you will require as much mobility as you can gather in your arms while maintaining a good fit.  If you don’t have a wetsuit that fits, you will certainly end up with rashes and sores.  3mm of wet neoprene rubbing up against a sensitive body part for 2-3 hours… Just imagine.  A well fitting suit limits all of that discomfort.  How can you learn this from shopping on Amazon? You can’t.  If you are going to buy a wetsuit, please visit a local dealer first.

I chose to visit our Ripcurl outlet first.  We are lucky to have lots of options here in Orange County, I thought this was a good place to start.  I didn’t want to short change myself, though.  I have heard that many high-end brands make lower quality products specifically for their “factory outlet” stores.  My first question to the lady that was helping me was, “Why are these products here?  Are there problems with them, or are they made with the wrong colors?”  She explained to me that Ripcurl doesn’t do that.  The products there have either been over produced and not selling as well as anticipated, out of season, unpopular colors, or for no reason at all.  Awesome.  Let’s try some on!

Sizes – More complicated than your average swim suit! Based on your height, chest and waist size, wetsuits come in short, regular and tall versions of all sizes S, SM, MS, M, ML, LM, L, and XL.  Be honest about your measurements – once you try to take one off, you’ll quickly realize that you don’t want to put on any more than you must.

Designs – Sleeveless, short legs, separate bottoms and tops, one piece, back zip, chest zip – Where do you even start?  “The one piece back zip is by far the most common, and easiest to get in and out of,” my sales lady said.  I take the one in my size into the changing room, and by the time both of my legs are in 15 minutes have passed.  I’m so relieved that I didn’t try one of the harder ones.  After I got it all on, and verified that I had plenty of arm mobility and not too much slack, it took me another 25 minutes of struggling to get it off.  I was not about to try on another.

At the register, I asked about how to care for something like this.  The answer I got was simple.  Wash it off after every time in the ocean.  Hang it to dry, out of direct sunlight, by the waist only.  Turn it inside out at least once during the drying time, and store it the same way.

I cant wait to try it out.