Wetsuit Guide: What type of wetsuit do I need?

We get this question from time to time so wanted to do a quick tutorial about what wetsuit thickness you need.

We are talking thicknesses here, which are 2mm, 3/2, 4/3, 5/4/3. Also the different types: spring, short arm full, full suit and hooded fullsuit. Any other suits that we may of left out are luxury suits really, like some farmer john style suits and other types of spring suits. Though if I may, they are luxury to someone like myself who surfs mostly in the Southern California and in New York.

The 3/2 Wetsuit:
If you’re going to buy one wetsuit and you will only have one wetsuit, I would say do a 3/2. This will allow you to surf almost every morning and evening throughout the entire year here in Southern California, though you’ll be limited to warmer mid-day sessions (maybe) in December, January and February. If you buy some boots, a hood and gloves, you can prolong the use of this suit in colder times. In the North East, you’ll be limited to May through October with the 3/2.

The 2mm & 4/3 Wetsuit Combo:
To me, the perfect, most budget friendly combination of wetsuits to own for the year-round Southern California surfer (south of Santa Barbara) is a Short-Arm Full 2mm wetsuit and a 4/3 wetsuit. If you’re only going to own two wetsuits, I would do these two, which I did all the way up until after college. If you invest in a great quality suit, clean it out with fresh water and hang it up to dry (out of the sun), your suit will last you for years. I have a 4/3 Body Glove and 2mm Short Arm Full Body Glove that I still use and have had for 5+ years. No holes, no rips, they are still in perfect condition and keep me as warm as when I bought them.  So in sum, invest in a nice wetsuit up front, you get what you pay for, even if you’re on a budget.  And, if you can only afford two wetsuits, buy a 2mm and a 4/3, this will allow you to surf year around in Southern California. If you’re heading up to Santa Barbara and below San Francisco, pick up a pair of booties and maybe a hood. This combo of a 2mm and a 4/3 will also allow you to surf in most of the North East sometimes up until early November (with booties, hood and gloves) and start-back up again in late March, not bad considering most people are not die hard enough to surf the North East November through March.

2mm, 3/2, 4/3:
The next step up is having three wetsuits, the 2mm, 3/2 and 4/3. This gives you the best tool for the job while have the most flexibility and keeping your energy levels up by having less resistance from the wetsuit.  As you know, the less neoprene you have on, the faster you paddle, the lighter you are and the more flexibility you have. That’s why having these three suits will allow you to have more fun and keep you out in the water longer. In addition, the suits will last longer since you’re using each one less. Depending on weather and referring to surfing south of Santa Barbara, you can use your 2mm from June/July through September/October, your 3/2 can be used from March/April-June and November, and your 4/3 in the months of November through March. If you’re heading up to Santa Barbara or North, throw on the booties, hood and gloves and you can surf most anywhere no problem with your 4/3, this goes for most of the east coast as well. Also to consider, the water on the North East gets super warm come summer time (warmer than the West Coast) so you can stop using a 2mm and switch to board shorts much quicker, unless you like to use your 2mm nearly all the time like I do.

2mm, 3/2, 4/3, 5/4/3:
The four-wetsuit combo would be a 2mm, 3/2, 4/3 and 5/4/3. Most everything applies to the paragraph above, though with the introduction of the hooded 5/4/3, you can surf in the snow. This give you access to the winter months on the East Coast and year around surf on the North West.

2mm, 3/2, 4/3, 5/4/3 & Spring:
The five-wetsuit combo is all of the above with the addition to the spring wetsuit, which can be a 2mm or a 2/1 with short legs and short arms. To me, once the water gets warm enough to warrant the use of this suit, you could be using your short-arm full or boardshorts. That’s just me. Though, sometimes these spring suits are good for when the water is warm and it’s a bit brisk in the air and a little windy. It really all comes down to personal preference, though I think that the spring suit is a luxury suit in your wetsuit arsenal.

Hopefully you found this post useful. Obviously, based on your location and weather patterns, some of the items above may not apply to you. I’m basing the information of this post on my experience from living and surfing in the South West and North East.

Happy Surfing,


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