Rip Curl Wetsuits Mick Fanning

Wetsuits: Everything You Need To Know

This is Bodyline Wetsuit Repairs full run down on wetsuits.

How Wetsuits Work

A wetsuit works by trapping a thin layer of water between your body and the neoprene material of the wetsuit. This thin layer of water is warmed by your body heat, which keeps you warm whilst you are in the ocean, and provides protection against the elements.

Neoprene is made of small closed cells that are filled with air that provide insulation against cold water. Although neoprene itself is waterproof, a wetsuit will not keep you completely dry.

Wetsuit – Neoprene thickness

The thicker the neoprene of your wetsuit is, the warmer your wetsuit will be!

When buying a wetsuit you need to carefully consider the appropriate thickness of neoprene. The thickness of a wetsuit is measured in millimetres, represented numbers separated by a slash i.e. 3/2 or 5/4/3. The first number represents the thickness of the neoprene in the torso area and the subsequent numbers represents the thickness of the neoprene in the extremities (arms, legs and joints).

The thicker neoprene is used for your torso in order to increase your core body heat. Thicker neoprene offers more warmth but less flexibility. The thinner neoprene is used for your extremities, where your body is constantly in motion.

Types of Wetsuit Seams


Flatlock stitching is recommended for use in water that is above 16°C. This stitch will lie flat against your body, causing no discomfort, but may let a little water into the wetsuit.

Sealed (Glued and Blind stitched)

Sealed seams are recommended for use in water that is above 12°C. Panels are glued and then blind stitched on the inside of the wetsuit. Blind stitching does not go all the way through the neoprene, instead the stitch comes out the same side it went in, making it practically watertight.

Sealed and Taped (Glued, Blind stitched and 100% Taped)

Sealed and taped seams are glued and then blind stitched, but it also contains an interior seam taping. The interior taping will add durability, reinforce the seam and prevent any water from seeping through.

This seam is recommended for use in water that is 12°C and below.

See below our recommendations for wetsuit type, neoprene thickness, seam seal and accessories to help you choose the most suitable wetsuit.

Water Temperature and Wetsuit recommendation chart

Water Temp °C Wetsuit Thickness Wetsuit Type Seal Type
27 – 24°C N/A Boardies/Rash Vest N/A
23 – 19°C 1mm or 2/1mm Pod or Shorty Flatlock
18 – 14°C 2mm or 3/2mm Full Suit Sealed
14 – 13°C 3/2mm or 4/3mm Full Suit & Boots Sealed and Taped
12 – 9°C 4/3mm or 5/4/3mm Full Suit, Boots, Gloves & Hood Sealed and Taped
9 – 6°C 5/4mm or 5/4/3mm Full Suit, Boots, Gloves & Hood Sealed and Taped
5°C or below 6/5mm or 6/5/4mm Full Suit, Boots, Gloves & Hood Sealed and Taped

In addition to the above guidelines, Bodyline Wetsuit Repairs recommends taking the following into consideration;

–          Air temperature

–          Wind speed

–          Level of activity in the water

–          Sensitivity to the cold

Colder air temperatures, stronger wind and less movement in the water may require a thicker wetsuit.

Wetsuit Zips

There are essentially two different options of available – back zip wetsuits or chest zip wetsuit. These offer various advantages and disadvantages over the other.

Back Zip Wetsuits

Zips fitted to the back of a wetsuit have been the classic solution for a number of decades. The zip runs along the spine with a long cord attached to the zip slider to enable the wearer to zip him (or herself) up easily unaided.

Patagonia Wetsuits R3 Back Zip

The major advantage of a back zip is that they are very easy to get in and get out of. On the downside, back zips do tend to allow more water to enter the wetsuit, which in colder water is major issue. Some brands do fit ‘bat wings’ and overlapping flaps to their back zip suits in order to eliminate water entering through the zip.

Back zips can also be restrictive to the wearer when bending forward and backwards due to the lack of flexibility in the zip itself.

Chest Zips

Chest zips have grown in popularity in recent years because of advances in wetsuit design, neoprene technology and fashion. The major advantage of a chest zip wetsuit is the better fit they can offer. By entering the wetsuit through a hole in the neck of the suit and pulling over the neck panel and zipping it across the chest of the wetsuit, it practically eliminates water flushing.

Rip Curl Wetsuits Flash Bomb Chest Zip

A chest zip is superior at keeping water from penetrating the wetsuit both through the seams and the neckline. The chest zip may also be a more comfortable fit, with its stretchy neoprene around the neck less likely to cause rashes. A zipperless back can offer a greater level of flexibility too.

Wetsuit boots, gloves and hoods

In water that is colder than 15°C, wetsuit accessories such as gloves, boots and hoods help you stay warm.

Types of Wetsuits

Full Wetsuits

Full wetsuits (aka full steamer wetsuit) cover the entire body including arms and legs up to wrists and ankles. The thickness of the wetsuit panels can vary depending on the water temperature.

The Shorty

Billabong Wetsuits Shorty

A neoprene suit made with short legs and arms. Primarily used in warmer water temperatures and offer additional freedom in movement.

Wetsuit Vest/Top/Pod

A thin neoprene top (typically made from 2mm thick neoprene or less) either with or without sleeves. Designed to keep your core body warm as well as reduce rubbing from your board.

Short John Wetsuit

A neoprene suit that is a mixture between a shorty suit and a vest top (sleeveless). Used in warmer water temperatures.

O'Neil Wetsuits Short John

Long John Wetsuit

Similar to a short john with a vest top but with long legs covering down to your ankles.

Rash vest

A rash vest (short or long sleeved) made out of Lycra and is used to protect against sun or eliminate rubs when worn under a wetsuit.

Wetsuit Fitting Guide

How should your wetsuit fit?

The fit of a wetsuit is one of the most important aspects when buying a wetsuit. If your wetsuit does not fit properly it will not be able to keep you warm or allow you the flexibility you need for your sport.

A wetsuit should feel like a second skin, it should be tight but not too tight so it is uncomfortable or restrictive. It needs to fit tightly to your body in order to keep a thin layer of water between you and the neoprene. If it is too loose, too much water will flush between your suit and your body, making the wetsuit ineffective in keeping you warm.  Pay extra attention to the fit around the neck, cuffs and joints of the wetsuit.

The sizing and fit of wetsuits varies between brands, make sure you try on a wetsuit before purchasing. You may also want to consider a custom made-to-measure wetsuit that will be made to your exact measurements.

Wetsuit Fit Checklist

Once your wetsuit is on there should be no excess material around the torso, crotch, shoulders or knees. The cuffs should match up nicely to your wrist and ankles and the wetsuit panels should all be in the correct place on the body. Check out our guide To Putting on & Removing a Wetsuit if you want more information on getting into a wetsuit correctly.

The wetsuit should be tight, but in a comfortable way. Move your arms and shoulders in a paddling motion and bend at the knees and waist. You should be able to squat down easily. This should feel natural and only very lightly restricting. If you feel a lot of pressure during these movements then the wetsuit is too small, try the next size up.