There are plenty of sports you can choose that will put you on, in and below the water. Whether you want to surf, dive or kayak, you’ll need the appropriate gear to enjoy the sport. One piece of gear that’s pretty common across all of these watersports is a good wetsuit. Depending on the water temperature fluctuations where you’ll be surfing/diving/kayaking, you may even need more than one wetsuit. Here’s a look at some of the top wetsuit brands and tips for buying and taking care of them.
Before you start looking at specific brands, there are a few things you should determine first. Ask yourself how often you plan to be in the water, how much you can afford and what the water temperature will be when you’re in the water. Some wetsuit construction (taped and stitched) is warmer than others, but they tend to break down more quickly, and they cost more. Keep in mind that chest zip suits are warmer than back zip suits but also cost more.
Now let’s look at some brands…
Xcel suits have a superb fit, and they’re very warm. These suits are taped, and they do tend to break down fairly quick–as do most taped suits. The best thing you can do is to make sure you’re rinsing your suit after any saltwater use. Check out the Xplorer model for an entry level suit, or the Infiniti Drylock if you’re looking for the top model.
O’Neill is one of the most recognized brands in the wetsuit business (it was also the first). They tend to lead the way in neoprene technology, and they offer a wide range of models for various temperatures. Check out the Hammer model for an entry level suit. If you’re looking for a really warm model for some serious low-temp use, check out the Psycho Freak.
Rip Curl suits dry very fast, and they’re extremely flexible. You’ll find a wide variety of models on the high end of the price spectrum, and you’ll also find brighter color options than most of the other brands. The Freelite is a good entry level choice, while the Flash Bomb is a good top-tier pick.
Ultra-popular with the surf crowd, Billabong wetsuits have plenty of models for each price range and skill level. On the low end, try the Absolute model. For a top product, look at the Furnace.
Patagonia builds wetsuits that leave incredibly low environmental footprints, something that isn’t all that easy when it comes to using neoprene. Aside from being eco-friendly, Patagonia suits are also extremely warm and durable. Check out the Yulex line of suits for the most bang for your buck.