Three surfers on the coast wearing wetsuits

​​Whether you're starting your surfing journey, swapping surf seasons or taking a trip, it can be tricky to work out which wetsuit you'll need! In this article, we'll be clearing a few things up and helping you select the wetsuit you'll need for your surf season!

We stock a great variety of wetsuits here at Wetsuit Centre, ranging from shorties to winter wetsuits! Check out our wetsuit sale to find the perfect suit for you!

What do Wetsuits Do and How Do They Work?

Wetsuits are incredibly detailed pieces of kit, packing in some impressive technology that helps us to stay warm and comfortable when out in the sea.

If you find yourself getting cold quickly or overheating, you're probably wearing the wrong kit. By selecting the right suit, you won't need to abandon your sport mid-way, making for a fun day out with your friends and family, or even solo if that's your style!

To start with, when picking out the right wetsuit, you'll need to have a good understanding of what a wetsuit does and how it works.

What are Wetsuits Made Out Of?

Wetsuits are made from a material called neoprene. Neoprene is used as a means of forming a protective layer between your skin and the sea. As well as protecting you, the barrier also traps a layer of warmth which prevents heat loss.

How do Wetsuits Work?

The primary way wetsuits keep your body warm is by trapping a thin layer of water between your skin and the suit. Your body warms this water, creating a natural layer of insulation.

Because of how wetsuits work, it’s vital you have the right fit. If your wetsuit is too loose, cold water will constantly flush through, making it harder to keep you warm.

A man surfing with a longboard

Wetsuit Thickness

When browsing through wetsuits, you'll notice a variety of thicknesses, often displayed as two numbers - for example, 5/3. The initial number refers to the thickness (in mm) of the neoprene around the torso. The second number refers to the thickness of the neoprene around the arms and legs.

Sometimes you will find the thickness to be in three numbers, for example, 5/4/3. In this example, the first number is the torso, the second number is the legs and the third is the arms.

Wetsuit Temperature Guide

Different people have different cold thresholds; it's worth considering this when choosing your suit. Our infographic below provides a rough guide to the recommended wetsuit thickness according to the water's temperature.

Wetsuit Thickness guide by Wetsuit Centre

Check out our Wetsuit Thickness Guide for an in-depth guide to wetsuit thicknesses.

Seasonal Wetsuits

When shopping for wetsuits, you'll come across three main categories designed for different seasons. These include:

  • Winter Wetsuits
  • Summer Wetsuits
  • Shorty Wetsuits

Consider which season you will be using your wetsuit. If you're more inclined to the summer, then you'll need a thinner suit or potentially a shorty depending on your general climate.

If you're after some serious waves, you might want to consider surfing in the quieter months of winter. Here, you’ll likely need a thicker winter wetsuit, and you might want to invest in some wetsuit gloves, boots and a hood while you're at it!

A man with a hooded winter wetsuit

Winter Wetsuits

Winter wetsuits have been designed to help you prevail through the colder months so that you can catch some serious waves!

Winter Wetsuit Temperature Range

The recommended water temperature range for winter wetsuits is between 8°C and 12°C.

Winter Wetsuit Months

If you're based in the UK, it's generally recommended that you wear a winter wetsuit from October to March. However, depending on your precise location and personal cold tolerance, this can vary.

Winter Wetsuit Thickness

Most winter wetsuits thickness will range from 5/3 to 6/4.

Winter Wetsuit Recommendations

Budget: O'Neill Epic 5/4 Back Zip 2022

O'Neill has proven their wetsuits to be a quality investment over the years. The Epic has been around for a long time; each year, O'Neill turns back to their classics to improve their affordable and consistent designs.

For this price tag, you’ll struggle to find a comparable wetsuit. It's flexible, comfortable and warm, perfect for the winter months!

Experienced: Xcel Comp 5/4 Chest Zip 2021

If you're a fan of the winter waves, then you'll want to check out this suit! The suit’s upgraded thermal lining allows you to stay out in the winter and get the best out of your surf!

The suit is made out of super soft and flexible 5mm neoprene, allowing easy movement. From this freedom, you'll have more energy to spare and surf with!

Two people surfing along a wave

Summer Wetsuits

Summer wetsuits are designed to offer you some insulation while still keeping the chill off during summertime.

Summer Wetsuit Temperature Range

Summer suits are recommended for temperatures ranging from 12°C to 19°C.

Summer Wetsuit Months

Summer Wetsuits are usually worn in the UK from the beginning of May to September.

Summer Wetsuit Thickness

Summer wetsuits are commonly available in a 3/2 thickness, although some can be even thinner. A thinner neoprene doesn’t keep you as warm but can allow for more freedom of movement.

Summer Wetsuit Recommendations

Below we've selected some of our summer wetsuit recommendations!

Budget: Rip Curl Freelite 3/2 Women's Back Zip 2021

If you're in search of a durable summer suit, you should check out Rip Curl’s Freelite!

The suit has been crafted out of quality neoprene to deliver a light and comfortable suit. It's designed with strategic panelling and super stretch neoprene to provide freedom of movement.

Experienced: Xcel Comp 3/2 Women's Chest Zip Wetsuit 2021

This impressive piece of kit is perfect for the summer months. The thermal lining has recently been upgraded, allowing you to retain heat for longer without overheating in the sunshine. The neoprene's been designed to feel super soft and flexible, allowing you to move with ease.

A woman surfing with a winter wetsuit

Shorty Wetsuits

Shorty wetsuits are best suited to warmer climates or sea temperatures. They often prove a refreshing change in the height of summer in the UK.

Shorty Wetsuit Temperature Range

Shorties are perfect for warm sea temperatures. Although not common in the UK, they are seen during the height of summer, and for a good reason!

Shorties are usually recommended from 15°C and above.

Shorty Wetsuit Months

Shorties are often best worn from June through to August, although this can obviously vary depending on your cold tolerance.

Shorty Wetsuit Thickness

Shorty wetsuits are commonly the thinnest suits you'll find. You'll usually find shorties clocking in at 3/2 or 2mm.

Shorty Wetsuit Recommendations 2021

We've selected some of our favourite shorty wetsuits!

Budget: Mystic Brand 3/2 Shorty Wetsuit 2021

This lightweight shorty is a great water sports all-rounder! The 3/2 neoprene is not only flexible but fast-drying, perfect for those quick summer getaways.

The suit features M-Flex neoprene, which allows for greater freedom of movement.

Experienced: O'Neill Hammer 2mm Chest Zip Shorty 2021

Of course, we have to mention one of our best-selling wetsuits! The Hammer delivers high-quality neoprene and a chest zip to allow for great freedom of movement while also keeping you warm and protected.

Shorty Wetsuit vs Full Length Wetsuit

Whether you opt for a shorty or full-length wetsuit will primarily depend on the temperature of the water, with personal preference likely being the next point of consideration.

Shorty wetsuits are most appropriate during the warmest summer months in the UK. They are the ones to pick if you feel you might overheat in a longer suit but still want to keep warm or you just want to feel a little more sun on your skin! The shorter arms and legs on these wetsuits can also provide increased flexibility and freer movement, which might be preferable for summer water sports. 

However, you may still decide to wear a full-length summer wetsuit during these warmer months, especially if the UK weather is still notoriously gloomy. Full-length suits will also provide additional protection against UV rays and shield your skin from potential bumps and scrapes, with summer wetsuits still thin enough to prevent you from becoming too hot.

And when it comes to winter, you’ll certainly want a full-length wetsuit with the right thickness to provide full-body insulation. 

  • Shorty wetsuits: For use in summer and temperatures at least 15°C.
  • Full-length wetsuits: For use in summer and winter. Wetsuit thickness will depend on water temperature. 

How to Pick a Wetsuit

When investing in a suit, there are a few factors you'll want to bear in mind. You'll find that finding the right suit for your needs will be made significantly easier by simply considering these factors.

When choosing the right suit, think about:

  • What activity you'll be performing – if you're sat in the sea on your surfboard for long periods, you will get significantly colder.
  • What conditions will you most likely be experiencing?
  • What is your personal cold threshold?
  • Use our Wetsuit Size Charts to determine the size you will need.
  • Consider your budget.

If, after reading this article, you're still struggling to pick a suit, why not speak to one of our members of staff? Here at Wetsuit Centre, we're always happy to help!