I have been meaning to write this post for a while now, when my landlocked surf friend originally asked me for some tips on buying her first wetsuit. I never got round to it, but after my husband made yet another expensive mistake with a wetsuit recently, he kindly offered to share his experiences to help save others from burning a massive hole in their wallet.
So, as guest blogger and in his own words….Landlocked surfguy:
Buying a wetsuit should be simple...it seemed so simple…
I should know, I’ve bought lots of them. And that’s the problem, I didn’t need to. I live 200 miles away from the sea and surf a handful of times a year. In reality, I should have a summer and winter suit, which with lack of use, should last me about 5 years before falling apart.
However, I’m an idiot when it comes to buying wetsuits. I don’t mind admitting it now, because I’ve done it so many times (and have the credit card bill to prove it) that I feel well within my ‘kookish’ rights to provide some heartfelt advice. So here goes…
In my opinion, Summer suits aren’t the problem. I have an O’Neill 4/3 Superfreak which leaks a little where the glue hasn’t quite done its job, and a funky coloured 3/2 Billabong which is comfortable and makes me feel like I know what I’m doing (I’ve coined this the ‘Slater Syndrome’). Both are great in the warmer months, but I NEED to surf all year round to stay sane, so I bought my first winter suit.
I was a little caught up with how it looked (trying to make up for my lack of surfing prowess maybe!) and of cause, I was a medium. The stats on the label said I was a medium. My O’Neill was a medium and I felt like a medium, so surely I was a medium. So without a second thought I spend £300 on a top of the range C-Skins winter suit (in a medium) – ACE!
Well actually not so ace. It flushed like no one’s business and therefore the fancy £300 thermal quick dry technology with ‘oxygen bubbles’ and super stretch intelligent massaging neoprene was rendered utterly useless. So I Ebay’d it for half the price after one wear and bought an O’Neill Mutant…… in a medium.
Second time lucky…?
I got it from a well-known online shop. It arrived promptly and I slipped it on. Wow! This was it! Problem solved! Soooo comfortable and this one was an even better fit on paper than the C-Skins. Medium, most definitely. Flush round the neck and wrists and it felt more like my 3/2 suit!
So, half term arrives and we head to Croyde. Bring it on – warm comfortable and epic surfing at Saunton was on my (deluded) mind. We paddle out. A medium size wave hits me and goes straight up the arms and down the side of the suit. Um, something not right – if this was the dead of winter I would be in trouble. Déjà vu moment …. so I Ebay’d it for half the price after one wear!
After much shivering and an occasional rude word I concluded that I know absolutely nothing about wetsuits and headed to Second Skin in Braunton for a little advice on the errors of my way.
One size does not fit all
Funny thing (and in hind sight not so surprising) is that actually I am not a medium at all – I’m a small tall. Turns out that comfortable in shop does not = comfort in the water. As wetsuits absorb water, they stretch. I am no expert though I have heard the value 10% banded about. So in the water, a suit which was comfortable and just right in the shop turns into a clown suit, which in freezing conditions is a bit of an issue.
I have ended up trying on so many brands, from Xcel to Billabong, C-skins to O’ Neill. I’ve considered Nineplus and Snugg, Alder and Ripcurl. All have different shapes and feel. You really need to experiment to find the one which is just right for you.
As it happens, Xcel is right for me and I now have a super snug, perfectly fitting suit, ready to tackle the Winter months.
The bottom line
I have ended up spending a large amount of money on getting a suit that fits me for the depths of winter. The money I wasted is actually enough for another board (I try not to think about that too much ), but it’s in the past. I really would hate others to make the same mistake as me so I have concluded that the following rules should be followed to avoid winter tears…
- It should be almost too tight on dry land
- You are not a medium just because you know you are a medium….
- Buy from a local shop, not an online store and listen to the advice. They are the experts and they know best…period! They will also check that the suit fits as it should
- Choose a manufacturer whose fit works for you…not cos it works for your mate or because Kelly Slater wears that brand
- You get what you pay for… don’t scrimp on a winter suit. You can get away with it in summer, but in the darker months you will wish you had been a little more exuberant with the wallet
- Not that I bought one, but if nothing seems to fit right, Snugg will make you a custom suit that fits just right
- Go faster stripes don’t improve your surfing
At the end of the day surfing is all about having fun, whatever your level of ability. Come the winter it may be a little bit harder to make a 400 mile round trip, but with a cosy suit, it’s most definitely worth the effort…