What to Look for When Buying a Wetsuit

The summer has ended and we have moved into the colder months of San Diego. We are lucky that “colder months” for us usually means weather in the mid sixties. But the water temperature in the ocean does drop to a colder level. The past weeks the water temp has dropped into the low sixties. While this is still bearable, the dropping temperature has us thinking about the colder months to come. There is a lot you can do to stay warm in the water, but the first thing to make sure you have is a wetsuit that works for you. This may seem like an easy thing to shop for. But if you are new to surfing, there are a few things to consider to ensure that you are buying one that will keep you warm throughout the winter. So, in preparation for the winter waves we have made a list of things to look for when buying your wetsuit. 



The length of the wetsuit is the first thing to look for when shopping. There are a few different kinds of wetsuit lengths on the market. The main two are spring suits and fullsuits. These are well named descriptions so this may seem obvious. Spring suits are made for warmer water. There are long sleeve or short sleeve suits with either a shorts or a bikini cut on the legs. Fullsuits are wetsuits that are long sleeves with a long leg cut so it covers your entire body. Fullsuits are also thicker in material than spring suits (if that is confusing, don’t worry it will be explained below). Fullsuits are the suits to buy for the winter time in San Diego. 



The next thing to look for in a wetsuit is the thickness. For this, there are a few more options that may be less intuitive. As mentioned above, spring suits are the thinnest wetsuits. They are usually 2 millimeters and this is not enough wetsuit to keep you warm. Fullsuits come in different thickness levels.


 The thinnest fullsuit is usually a 3/2. All wetsuit thickness will come in millimeters. The “3” in means it is 3 millimeters in the area of the wetsuit that covers the core of your body. The “2” means the rest of the wetsuit (mainly the legs, arms and back). These wetsuits can get you by in the San Diego winter if you are brave and don’t mind being cold. They will make it so you are not freezing, but they aren’t really thick enough to make it so you’re warm in the water either. These are usually good for the months on the cusp of the winter. 


A 4/3 wetsuit is the next thickest. These are usually the wetsuits that most of the instructors here at the Surf School wear throughout the winter. You may be cold with these wetsuits when you get in the water or if you are sitting on the outside and not moving much. But they will usually keep you comfortable during a surfing sesh, especially if you pair it with some other surfing accessories.  


5/4 wetsuits are very thick and will definitely keep you warm. They might make you too warm. These wetsuits are designed for water temperatures north of San Diego. If you really hate being cold and want to be really safe you can buy this, but just expect to be a little too warm in the water. 



Wetsuits are not super cheap. And while we all love to save money, it is smart to just invest in a good wetsuit. This is because better made wetsuits are going to last longer. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to find the most expensive wetsuit. A safe thing to do is to buy a wetsuit from a popular surfing brand. Some of our favorite brands here at the Surf School are Ripcurl, O’neill, Vissla (men’s wetsuits only), and Sister Evolution (women’s wetsuits only). These wetsuit brands have been tried and tested by the surf instructors here and are known to last long, keep you warm, and have a reasonable warranty policy in the event that your wetsuit does give out.  


Chest Zip vs Back Zip 

If you do want to invest in a wetsuit with one of these brands but want to save a little money, you can look at back zip wetsuits. Back zip wetsuits are usually a little cheaper than chest zip wetsuits. They do not keep you quite as warm as chest zip wetsuits because they tend to let in a little more water, but they can still do the trick.  



The size wetsuit you get is one of the most important things to look for. Even if you consider everything above, too big or too small of a wetsuit will make you colder or uncomfortable. Size wetsuits usually correspond with the clothing size that you wear. But it is always a good idea to try them on before you buy one. 

The winter in San Diego is a great time to surf. And while the water temperature isn’t ideal, the waves make up for it. But if you really hate being cold and are still a little worried about the dropping temperatures, don’t worry! San Diego is hardly the coldest place that anyone has surfed so there are a lot of things you can invest in and tricks you can use to add to your wetsuit to help you fight the cold. Make sure to check here, to learn more about how you can stay warm in the water so you are fully prepared for the winter to come!