Are you starting to get cold when you’re out on the water? Or looking for that extra layer of protection from the elements when you’re paddle boarding? It might be time for you to invest in a SUP wetsuit.
There are a variety of different wetsuits and a few different things you need to think about when you buy a wetsuit. Before you choose a wetsuit, make sure to think about the following:
- Where Will You Be Using Your Wetsuit?
- What Time of Year Will You Be Wearing Your Wetsuit?
- What is the Water Temperature Where You’ll be Paddling?
All of these considerations are meant to determine the water environment you’ll be paddling in. The water temperature, and outside air temperature are all going to influence the length, style, and thickness of the wetsuit you choose. The colder the conditions, the longer and thicker wetsuit you’ll want. If it’s really cold, you may even want some gloves, and booties. With warmer weather conditions, a thinner and even shorter wetsuit may be appropriate.
Don’t worry. I’ll walk you through each of these criteria, so you can find the best SUP wetsuit for you.
Types of Wetsuits for Paddle Boarding
Wetsuits come in many different sizes and lengths. You can buy a full wetsuit that covers your entire body from your neck to your toes, or you can get specific wetsuit articles like jackets, booties, and gloves. What you choose is going to be highly dependent on where and what time of year you’re using it. In colder temperatures you’ll probably want a full wetsuit with booties and gloves. But if you’re just looking for an extra layer of warmth during the spring or summer, a shorty will probably do the job.
The most common wetsuits are full-length suits and spring suits.
Full-Length SUP Wetsuits
If you can only afford one wetsuit, I recommend getting a full-length wet suit. This will reduce your chances of freezing your butt off.
Full-length wetsuits are ideal for cold water environments, and provide the most coverage. They cover your entire body from your neck to your toes. Sometimes they also include hoodies as well, or you can buy one separately. A full-length wetsuit won’t cover your feet or hands though, so if you’re in cold water, you might want to add some booties or gloves.
Some people might feel like a full-length wetsuit is too restricting, or just uncomfortable to paddle in. Since they provide the most coverage, they’re also the most restrictive. If you’re paddling in the summer, or warmer conditions, you’ll probably want a shorter, less restrictive wetsuit. But if you’re paddling in the winter, you’ll definitely want a full-length suit.
The other drawback to full-length wetsuits is that they’re the most expensive, because they have the most material. But, you’re better off spending the money, and being warm enough to paddle, in my opinion.
|Full-length||3/2 mm||O'Neill Men's Epic Wetsuit||3.7 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
|Full-length||4/3 mm||Quiksilver Mens Syncro Plus Wetsuit||5 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
|Full-length||3/2 mm||NeoSport Wetsuits Men's XSPAN Full Jumpsuit||4.3 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
Short Springsuit SUP Wetsuits
There are a variety of different lengthed short/spring wetsuits. But most of them are pretty similar.
Most short wetsuits cover your entire torso, and then leave your arms ,and legs, below the thigh uncovered. This allows the wetsuit to warm your core, but also gives you more freedom of movement. If you wear a wetsuit in the summer time, in most locations these are the preferred option.
These wetsuits will help take off a morning chill, but they won’t keep you warm on a winter eve.
|Short||2 mm||O'Neill Mens Reactor Spring Suit||4.5 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
|Short||2.5 mm||Phantom Aquatics Men's Marine Shorty||4.5 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
|Short||2.5 mm||Hyperflex Men's Access Spring Suit||4.1 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
SUP Wetsuit Jackets
A wetsuit jacket is made to cover your torso and arms, but nothing else. It’s what you’d end up with if you took a full-length wetsuit and cut it in half at the waist.
I like wetsuit jackets because they just add that extra layer of protection and warmth without being as cumbersome as a full-length wetsuit. They’re also more convenient to put on than a full-length or short wetsuit. Most wetsuit jackets just zip up the front, like any other jacket, so can be easily added or removed even when you’re on your paddle board.
They’re also nice because they help keep your core warm. Sometimes I like to take a dip in the water during the summer, but want a little extra layer of warmth. As long as my torso is warm, I’m usually pretty comfortable in the water.
|Half||2 mm||O'Neill Mens Superlite Jacket||4.1 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
|Half||2/1 mm||O'Neill Mens O'Riginal Jacket||4.1 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
|Half||3 mm||NeoSport XSPAN Jacket||4.3 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
SUP Wetsuit Booties
Wetsuit booties are excellent for toe numbing conditions, but they also provide some extra protection from rocks, barnacles, and can give you some added traction. They typically come in two different toe box styles:
- Round Toe
- Split Toe
Round toe booties are the most common and least expensive. However, most people prefer split toe booties because they perform better. This is because you’re feet are less likely to slide around inside the bootie. Instead, your foot movement gets transferred from your feet to the booty, to the board. Most split toe booties separate the big toe from the rest of your toes with a seam, that’s inside the booty. So, your toes are separated inside the boot.
|Rounded Toe||3 mm||NeoSport Premium Neoprene Hi Top Zipper Boot||4.4 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
|Split Toe||3 mm||O'Neill Heat Split Toe Boot||4.7 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
|Rounded Toe||2 mm||O'Neill Superfreak Tropical Boot||4.4 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
SUP Wetsuit Gloves
Just like wetsuit booties, gloves can add an extra layer of warmth for those balmy days. Plus, they’ll give you some extra paddle grip.
|3 mm||NeosportNeoprene Glove||4.3 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
|1.5 mm||NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3/4 Finger Glove||4.1 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
|3 mm||O'Neill Psycho Double Lined Glove||4.2 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
SUP Wetsuit Hoods
We lose a lot of heat from our heads. That’s why we throw on a knit cap when the temps drop. The same applies when you’re out on the water. You actually can lose heat 10% faster from your head. So, put a hood on it. Here are a few of the best options.
|2.5 mm||NeoSport Premium Sport Cap||4.3 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
|2 mm||O'Neill Neoprene Beanie||4.5 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
|2 mm||O'Neil Sport Cap||4.2 out of 5||View on Amazon.com|
Choosing the Right Wetsuit Thickness
The thickness of your wetsuit refers to the the thickness of the neoprene material that’s used. The thicker your wetsuit the warmer it’s going to be.
So, when you’re choosing the thickness, you need to consider the time of year that you’ll be using your wetsuit, and you need to consider the temperature of the water.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, like I do, the water’s colder year round than somewhere like southern California, or Florida. So, you’ll want a thicker wetsuit, especially if you’re planning to paddle board in the winter. If you live in Alaska, you’re crazy, and you’ll probably want the thickest wetsuit you can find.
Wetsuits come in a variety of different grades of thickness. However, most wetsuits have two or three different grades of thickness. This allows for greater flexibility, or greater insulation over certain parts of your body.
For instance, wetsuits are typically thicker over your torso, to help maintain your core temperature. The wetsuit material is then thinner over your arms and legs to allow for more comfortable and unrestricted movement.
How to Read the Thickness of a Wetsuit
If you look at the tag of a wetsuit it will have the thickness listed as two numbers (in mm), separated with a slash. The first number, or larger number represents the thickness of the wetsuit over your torso. The second number represents the thickness of the material over your arms and legs.
For example, a common wetsuit thickness for paddle boarders is a 3/2. In this case, the torso material is 3 mm thick, and the limb material is 2 mm thick.
So, let’s take a look at the different thickness options you can choose from.
Very Cold Water SUP Wetsuits (6/5 mm – 6/5/4 mm)
This is probably the thickest wetsuit you’re going to want for paddle boarding, and unless you’re in very cold conditions, it’s probably going to be warmer than what you need. This thickness is usually used for water temperature below 43 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re paddling in these kinds of conditions you’re also going to want to combine your full-suit with booties, gloves, and a hoodie.
Cold Water SUP Wetsuits (4/3 mm – 5/4 mm)
If you’re paddling in cold water conditions between 43 – 58 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll want a cold water wetsuit that’s between 4/3 – 5/4 mm thick. A 5/4 wetsuit will be better for temps near 43 F, and a 4/3 will be better for warmer temps near 58 F. A 5/3mm wetsuit is a common winter wetsuit, that’s used for surfing. Like the very cold water wetsuits, you’ll probably want to combine your cold water wetsuit with booties, gloves, and a hoodie.
Cool Water SUP Wetsuits (3/2 mm – 4/3 mm)
Wetsuits that are between 3/2 mm – 4/3 mm are usually considered spring or summer wetsuits, and there are usually rated for temperatures between 58 – 63 degrees F. For paddle boarding, I typically consider a 3/2 mm wetsuit ideal for spring, as it’s slightly warm for most summer conditions. However, that’s just my preference.
Most SUP Wetsuits (2 mm – 3/2 mm)
Most SUP wetsuits are in the 2 mm – 3/2 mm range. These suits are significantly thinner than a cold water wetsuit, and they typically are rated for temperatures between 62 – 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Since these wetsuits are so thin, you’ll often see them as short suits.
Keep in mind that most wetsuit manufacturers will have their own temperature charts and recommendations.
Regardless of the water temperature and the manufacturers suggestion, you should also consider the wind speed and your own sensitivity to cold weather. A 3/2 might be fine for one person, but someone who’s more sensitive to cold might require a 4/3. You know yourself best, and should always take that into consideration.
Fitting Your SUP Wetsuit
A thick website will be no good if it doesn’t fit you right. If a wetsuit is too big, it’ll allow water to rush in and out, chilling you to the bone. So, it’s important to fit your wetsuit appropriately.
A properly fitted wetsuit will fit snug, but it shouldn’t interfere with movement or cut off your circulation. The wetsuit should be a skin-tight fit. You want most of the water to enter through the neoprene material, but not through the neack, arm or leg openings. If there wetsuit is too loose, warm water will escape and cold water will rush in at the openings.
You’ll want to test out your wetsuits flexibility before you get in the water. Try squatting down and then try reaching your arms over your head. You should be able to do all of these movements without an restriction. Also, make sure to test out the paddling motion to make sure there’s no restriction or discomfort.
The sign of a good fit is when you can easily squat down and freely move arms, legs, and body without pull, resistance, or restriction.
Since most manufacturers have slightly different sizing, or “cuts”, it’s a good idea to try on your wetsuit before you buy. At the minimum, you need to know your height, and hip, chest and waist measurements, and cross-check those measurements with the manufacturers sizing chart.
How to Care for Your SUP Wetsuit
Wetsuits aren’t cheap, but if you take proper care of them, they can last you several years. Here are a few tips to get the most use out of your wetsuit:
- Rinse Your Wetsuit with Fresh Water After Each Use
- Air Dry Your Wetsuit After Rinsing
- Store Your Wetsuit on a Slide Hanger
- Avoid UV or Heat Exposure
You need to rinse your wetsuit with cool, fresh water, after each use. Salt water, and sand can be especially harsh on a wetsuit, so you want to thoroughly rinse the inside and outside of your wetsuit. Don’t wash your wetsuit in a washing machine, and never use laundry detergents, or cleaning products. These will hurt your wetsuit. If your wetsuit is starting to smell funky, and you insist on washing it, wash it by hand using a specially designed wetsuit cleaner, or you can also use a little bit of baby shampoo. When your done washing your wetsuit, thoroughly rinse it, and air dry.
You should never put your wetsuit in a dryer. Instead, hang your wetsuit on a Slide Hanger, and allow it to air dry in the shade. When the outside dries, turn the wetsuit inside out and let the inside dry. You want to avoid sunlight as much as possible, because it can damage the neoprene material.
When you store your wetsuit, you want to avoid folding it, as it can create creases, and damage the neoprene material. The best way to store a wetsuit is with the Slide Hanger you used to air dry it. Again, make sure to store your wetsuit out direct sunlight, or heat. Heath and UV rays will rapidly decrease the lifespan of your wetsuit.
Follow these guidelines and you should get a long life out of your SUP wetsuit.