If you live and surf in the UK or Ireland and you’re worried about being too warm in the water please don’t fret - our magical isles have a way of ensuring it’s rarely an issue. None the less choosing which wetsuit to buy and which to wear on any given day takes a bit of thought.
Your wetsuit keeps you warm by trapping water against your skin, if this water can flush in and out you don’t stay warm, you get cold.
Neoprene is naturally stretchy, which is good. It means that an off the peg wetsuit will give a perfect skin tight fit for all but a few of us. It also means that the body can move, shoulders can paddle, legs can turn and surfing is easy and fluid. Some things increase stretch, the first is the quality of the neoprene.
You won’t be surprised how often we hear this, but guess what - we ALL really feel the cold! Paddle out in boardies mid winter and see how long you last. Sure different builds and body weights respond slightly differently, but the reason you’re wearing gloves in summer and other surfers aren’t wearing them mid winter isn’t because you’re some sort of biological anomaly, it’s because they’re wearing a better quality and better fitting wetsuit.
You don’t always get what you pay for in life, but the wetsuit market is very competitive and price is generally a good guide to performance. If you’re thinking about surfing in winter in most of Europe forget anything that claims to be a winter suit below about £130.
“My hands and feet get really cold, I’ll save a few quid on my suit and spend it on some decent gloves” - It makes sense at a glance, but it’s left far too many surfers suffering. The science is simple, your body prioritises keeping your brain and vital organs warm. If it detects that you’re losing this ‘core’ heat it’s first response is to shut off circulation to your hands and feet.