Summer time, one would think, would be a time to relish the warmer waters off our coast.
However, this is the time of year wetsuit companies begin to debut their winter suit line-up. Whether purchasing the latest or greatest in Neoprene fashion or looking for that “unbelievable” buy from last year’s models the Watermen and women of the ELA offer some words of wisdom.
The key is comfort, warmth, and flexibility. Wetsuit materials have come a long way, however, the way a wetsuit is supposed to work has not. A wetsuit needs to be tight and close to the skin. The suit allows a thin layer of water to form between the neoprene (rubber) and your skin. The heat from your body warms the water and in turn maintains a “more comfortable” body temperature. (The body loses heat 28% faster in cold water than in air.)
There are two types of rubber being used in wetsuits.
NEOPRENE or polychloroprene was invented by DuPont in the 1930’s and is a petroleum based product. It has great chemical stability and maintains flexibility regardless of temperature changes. There are varying qualities in Neoprene based on the amount of gas bubbles left in the rubber at the end of processing. The more air bubbles the less expensive, typically you suit will be.
An alternative to neoprene is GEOPRENE and is derived from limestone that is 99.7% pure and natural with each cell being closed and independent of the other suggesting it keeps you warmer and has a longer lifespan. To be green means you will pay more green for that suit.
Most of today’s wetsuits have an inner lining for your chest and belly. There are many types of fibers and styles to choose from. Again, comfort is key, however, comfort in your wallet is just as important as in the water.
You also want to look at the seams and how they are connected. Again, many different stitches, glues and tapes. The higher quality seams the better the warmth, but again it will be what fits your budget.
Lastly, fit is imperative. Too big and the suit won’t do what it is supposed to. Too small and you won’t be able to move. Just right keeps you snug and reduces rash. Take the time to look at sizing charts, do your research and try on everything. Talk to your local surf shops about what activities you plan to use the suit for and what your budget can handle.
Encinitas is fortunate to have great shops in Hansen’s Surfboards, Progression Surf and others who won’t oversell you and know if you are satisfied with your purchase you will come back.
Enjoy the warmer waters of summer and the ELA looks forward to seeing you extend your beach season for a few more months with a quality wetsuit.