Buying a new wetsuit can be quite an investment and the right choice is going to make all the difference when you’re in and on the water. Most people keep a wetsuit for a number of seasons, so it makes sense to get a good one that will last you a while.
Which is your main sport?
The first question to answer when you are buying a wetsuit is what you are getting it for. Whether you need it for swimming or surfing, windsurfing or kayaking, kitesurfing, paddleboarding or a combination of these will determine what type of wetsuit to go for. In general you would look for a lighter wetsuit for swimming than for the other sports to get the best flexibility.
Are you looking for a summer or winter wetsuit?
This is going to determine the thickness of your wetsuit. As a rule of thumb in Ireland you will need a 5/3 or 5/4 wetsuit if you want to be able to use it all year round for sports like surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. If you are looking for a wetsuit for swimming a 3/2 in the winter and a 2mm shorty in the summer would be what we would recommend.
What do different types of neoprene, seams and linings say about the quality of the wetsuit?
The lighter, warmer and stretchier your suit, the better. Therefore higher grade neoprene that is lighter and stretchier will be more expensive than basic neoprene. Wetsuits with flat lock stitched seams are usually cheaper than those that have welded seams/glued seams. That is because welded and/or glued seams let less water through. A lot of the brands now offer wetsuits with lining on the inside that will be quick dry and offers another layer of warmth.
Surfing / Windsurfing / Kitesurfing / Wakeboarding
Summer: A 3/2 or 4/3 full suit are perfect for summer in Ireland. If you are only getting one wetsuit for all year round, get a 5/4 though. There are very few days that you would be too warm surfing in a 5/4. If you’re feeling warm you might choose a wetsuit with short legs, if you are kitesurfing or wakeboarding or a wetsuit with short sleeves if you are windsurfing.
Winter: You need a 5/4 and if it’s within your budget to get a second wetsuit you might look towards a 6/5/4 for the deep winter. If you are doing a windsport, get a wetsuit that has a rubberised chest pad to offer more wind protection for your core.
A nice feature for kite- and windsurfing are velcro straps at the bottom of the leg to strap the wetsuit tightly close and stop water from gushing up your leg.
Paddleboarding / Kayaking
Summer: As you might stay dry for a lot of the time, a lighter wetsuit or one without sleeves will be great for summer. When paddleboarding or kayaking without being in the water much, you have to be careful not too overheat or dehydrate especially if you’re going long distance or on a warm day. A shorty, 3/2 or 4/3 are all fine depending on what exactly you do and how much you feel the cold (and how much of a workout you are going for!)
Winter: In winter in Ireland you will need a 5/4, much the same as for the other sports mentioned above.
If you are seriously into swimming and compete regularly in races (triathlons), you should consider buying a tri-suit. These will enhance your swimming and are great all year round.
If you swim just for fun or are not planning to compete in triathlons regularly, a 3/2 surf wetsuit will do the trick and will most likely only cost a fraction of a good tri-suit. Surf suits are also more durable and so you will cover a greater range of activities.
Summer: Shorty or 3/2 (or maybe no wetsuit if you are feeling brave and only go into the water for a dip :)
Winter: 3/2 unless you feel the cold a lot, then you might choose a thicker wetsuit but should pick one with very stretchy neoprene to get as much flexibility in the shoulders as you can.
How long can I expect my wetsuit to last?
This depends on the quality of the suit, but mostly on how often you use it and what you do with it. If you use your wetsuit every day, you should expect it to last you around two seasons. After that the material will have stretched and the suit will have lost some of it’s warmth. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it anymore, it just won’t keep you as warm.
If you use your wetsuit once a week or even less it should last you a few years. We often have customers coming into the shop looking to replace a suit they have had for the last 4/5/6 years – it is absolutely possible to keep a wetsuit that long if you take good care of it.
Most wetsuits will come with a 12 month warranty, so if anything goes wrong with the seams or the neoprene, go back to the shop where you bought it and send it in for warranty. This obviously does not cover damage on the suit that is from use for example when you get caught on rocks, there is no warranty for that.
Front Zip (Chest Zip) versus Back Zip
Wetsuits with front zip (or zipless suits but with the same closure system) are gaining in popularity. Some say that they are warmer than backzip suits, but is that really the case?
If done well a front zip suit can definitely have some advantages over a backzip, for example that there is nothing limiting the stretchiness of your suit on the back. You need to look out for drain holes, a zip you can easily close yourself (because who wants to ask strangers on the beach to help them get into their suit every time!) and a structure that lets water out rather than collects it under the material. Not all front zip closure systems are the same!
A backzip has advantages too though, most of all that it is much easier to get into the suits. Particularly in high end suits the manufacturers have put a lot of thought into the construction of the backzip and how to minimise water getting through and maximise the stretch on the back. A zip might be shorter and might sit on a second layer outside the actual wetsuit (like the O’Neill patented ZEN zip closure system).
Which size is right for me?
The best way to choose the right size would be to go to your local shop and try it on with the help of the expert sales assistants. People working in watersports shops are trained and will be able to tell you whether a suit is a good fit. Of course, all brands have size charts online and you can take your measurements as a good start. In general you want the wetsuit to be tight, tighter than you think it should be. Neoprene stretches and if you start too big, the wetsuit just isn’t going to do the job. If you haven’t worn a wetsuit before it might be difficult to decide whether a wetsuit fits you well or not, so buying online might create more hassle in the long run if you have to exchange it or worse wear it and find out that it doesn’t fit you right. If you know your size in a certain brand there’s nothing to be said against ordering online of course – you can find our range of wetsuits in our online shop.