Spending hours out in the water dropping in on waves isn’t a bad way to spend a day. But spend too long out in the water, even relatively warm water, and your body temperature can drop, in some cases to hypothermic levels. If you don’t have the right equipment, you’ll have to cut short your day-long session, regardless of whether you’re paddling out in the Caribbean or catching waves in Calgary.
Wetsuits work by trapping a small amount of water between your skin and the suit, which better regulates the temperature inside the suit. With a good one, you can last the entire day out in the breakers and, even better, you can keep your search for the perfect wave going year round.
O’Neill Hammer Shorty
Best Summer Suit: For when the air is hot and the water is warm, the O’Neill Hammer Shorty keeps your core the temperature where it should be, without any overheating. The one-piece sleeveless/shorts design with 2/1mm thickness is perfect for the summer days when you don’t need to be sealed head to toe.
Best Autumn Suit: When suits start to get up to thicknesses of 4mm, that’s where movement and flexibility are compromised for vital warmth. But O’Neill’s lightweight neoprene and thinner seam welds afford a better range of movement than other cool-water suits of the same thickness.
Hyperflex Voodoo Hooded Front Zip
Best Winter Suit: If you can slip into hypothermia in even relatively warm waters, it goes without saying that warmth is paramount in the colder months. Hyperflex’s Voodoo Hooded Front Zip not only has the insulation form a maximum thickness of 6mm neoprene, but also a unique AQ6 thermal fabric lining. The fibrous fabric internally lines 90 percent of the suit, affording maximum heat retention and comfort, but still allowing for a generous range of motion.
Body Glove 3/2mm Vapor Slant
Best Spring Suit: In cool and mild waters, the Body Glove Vapor Slant Zip suit insulates your chest to hold your body heat. And, at 3mm, the Vapor Flex design won’t hold you back, even under hard paddling.
Billabong Foil 3/2 Flatlock Back Zip
Best All-Around: For surfers who aren’t diehard enough to drop in at the Bow River in Calgary, the Billabong Foil 3/2 fits the bill. At an affordable price point and a versatile thickness of 3/2mm, the Foil makes a great suit for the casual surfer while still providing warmth, performance and decent flexibility.
Patagonia R2 Yulex Nexkin
Best Overall: One of the most advanced wetsuits on the market, the Patagonia R2 goes above and beyond the industry-standard neoprene. In collaboration with Yulex, they developed a biorubber from gayule rubber, a renewable material that’s softer and has more elastic capabilities than any traditional wetsuit.