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2011-2012 Wetsuit Buyer’s Guide

Oct 2011
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WINTER. Loosely translated, this means hot coffee, dawn patrol, offshore winds, and if you line up your stars, an empty lineup. For most of us, no matter where we surf in the next few months, we are going to need a fresh wetty. Below is a guide to help you choose the best suit for your winter session.

2011 Wetsuits Buyer's Guide

How does a WETSUIT keep me warm?

“A wetsuit creates a barrier against air and water by taking advantage of the insulating properties of closed cell neoprene. Neoprene traps water against your skin and body heat warms the water, which works to reduce heat loss from the body; this allows you to comfortably stay in colder water for a longer time. Neoprene can also be somewhat buoyant in the water.”

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  • Standard Neoprene– Least expensive neoprene that offers minimal stretch. More durable than Super Stretch. Used in less expensive suits.
  • Super Stretch Neoprene– most flexible neoprene available. Fits to each person’s body type and allows for minimal resistance while paddling. Top of the line wetsuits are 100% super stretch, whereas less expensive suits are anywhere from 10-40% Super Stretch (some are more).
  • “Smoothie”– Slick neoprene usually located on the middle of the chest and/or the back. Provides complete protection by repelling water and wind.
  • Air Neoprene– (different names by different brands) layered neoprene with a bunch of air pockets that allow air and water to be trapped against your body. The water and air heats up and helps to insulate your body. Most effective insulating neoprene on the market.
  • Yamamoto neoprene– (used in Isurus wetsuits) High quality closed-cell neoprene that is 98% hydrophobic. The closed cell structure of the Yamamoto material prevents the saltwater from penetrating the neoprene and weakening the cell structure.
Seams & Stitching:
  • Flat Lock Stitch– Most basic way to stitch seams. Stitching goes all the way through both sides of the neoprene meaning there are holes that allow water to come in, therefore not water tight. This is the least expensive way to stitch seams.
  • Glued & Blind Stitched Seams– Neoprene is glued together first. Then a curved needle is used to thread through the neoprene on the same side where it went in so it doesn’t go all the way through. This starts out as a watertight stitch but over time pin holes will appear from continual stretching.

  • Liquid Tape– Liquid rubber is used to seal the inside and/or outside of the stitches. 100% waterproof seams.

  • Neoprene Tape– Sometimes neoprene tape is used on the inside of the seams. This is the most flexible seam tape and is 100% waterproof.
  • Spot Tape– Neoprene tape used on the main stress points on the inside of the wetsuit for reinforcement.

Special Features:
  • Polypropylene– The insulating material (usually used on the inside of the “smoothie”) that wicks away water and increases warmth. Different brands have different names for this material and it is usually color coded.

  • Bat Wing/Bat Flap– An additional piece of thin neoprene under the zipper that prevents water that comes through the zipper from touching your skin and directs it to the drain holes.

  • Key Pocket– Small pocket (usually on the leg) attached to the wetsuit that allows for convenient, secure key storage while you surf.

  • YKK Zippers– The best zipper on the market. Big and durable.

  • Code Red zipper– (found in select O’neill wetsuits) An exclusive urethane coated webbing that reduces water entry through the zipper.
  • Flash Dry Lining– (found in Rip Curl F-bomb) Weave technology that is incredibly warm and touch dry in around 15 minutes from hanging it up.

  • Inflatable Air Bladder Air bladder incorporated into the back of the wetsuit, like an airplane vest, that inflates immediately and provides flotation when getting held under.


From the underwater deep sea diver, to the flexible young warm water aerialist, the wetsuit is made for all types of human body. It has evolved from the first vests made from raw sheets of rubber glued together and has morphed its way into fully ergonimic designs, capable of keeping you warm in the coldest of temperatures.




  • Chest Zip – Closure system with the zipper horizontally across the upper chest. Provides the freedom of a zipper free suit, but a little more difficult to get into. Design is slightly different between brands and models.

  • Back Zip– Closure system with the zipper vertically down the center of the back. This is the most convenient way to get in and out of your suit, but slightly more restrictive compared to a chest zip.


Available Sizes: XS, Small, small tall, medium short, Medium, Medium Tall, Large Short, Large, Large Tall, XLarge short, XLarge, XLarge Tall, XXLarge, XXXL

One of the most important (if not the most) factors in buying a wetsuit is the fit. If a wetsuit does not fit right, it will defeat the purpose of keeping you warm; it should be comfortably tight all over. If it is too loose, the cold water can come in and you will not stay warm. A wetsuit that is too big or too small can cause rashes or make it very difficult to paddle. Fit differs between brands, so we suggest trying on a few different suits if possible. If you are unable to try on wetsuits as suggested, view the size charts for each of the brands below and find the best size based on your height and weight. If in between sizes, go up a size.

Click To View Size Chart For Each Brand

O'Neill Size Chart

Rip Curl Size Chart

Billabong Size Chart

Quiksilver Size Chart

Roxy Size Chart

XCEL Size Chart

Isurus Size Chart

XCEL Size Chart

Temperature Rating And Thickness In MM

The warmer the water, the less protection you need; the colder the water, the more protection you want. If that’s not good enough, check this:

  • >77 F – No need for wetsuits. Rashguards and surf shirts are a good idea for sun protection.
  • 72F–77F – Wetsuit top when it’s colder outside (morning, evening or if it’s windy). If it’s warm out, you still don’t need a wetsuit. Rashguards and surf shirts are still a good idea for sun protection.
  • 68F–72F – This is probably the chilliest you can get away with wearing a wetsuit top. A spring suit or 3/2mm fullsuit is better when it’s cold and windy.
  • 64F–68F – Spring suit or 3/2mm fullsuit. If you only have a 4/3mm, you can use it but you might get toasty when it’s warm out.
  • 59F–64F – A good 3/2mm fullsuit is still alright; if you get cold, wear booties. Otherwise wear a 4/3 wetsuit and you will be comfortable in any weather.
  • 52F–59F – At this water temperature booties might be necessary. A 4/3mm wetsuit is OK, but if you will do a lot of surfing in water at the bottom of this temperature range, you should probably get a 5/4mm.
  • <52F – 5/4mm wetsuit with good booties, hood and gloves. Hood depends on other conditions like wind etc. 6/5mm is probably needed for some conditions.


How To Care For Your Wetsuit

Take extra care when getting in and out of your wetsuit, finger and toe nails can easily rip the materials. After each use rinse your suit with clean cool fresh water. Do not put in the washer or dryer. Hang dry your suit in a cool dry place. Avoid direct sunlight. Use a wide plastic or wooden hanger. If wetsuit begins to smell, hand wash it using wetsuit shampoo.

Warranty And Repair Policies

All of the wetsuit brands that we carry have their own individual warranty and repair policies. At Surf Ride, we stand behind our products and therefore facilitate in the warranty/repair process. Simply bring in your clean, dry wetsuit to either shop along with your proof of purchase (receipt) within the warranty period and we will send your wetsuit in to be repaired (sometimes replaced). Repairs can take between 3-6 weeks. The warranties are void if repairs or alterations have been done by anyone besides the brand. Warranty does not cover wetsuits that no longer fit, have damage from sunlight or have been improperly used or cared for. See individual warranty policies here:

  • Limited 1-year warranty (from date of original purchase) on workmanship and materials.
  • Limited 90-day (from original date of purchase) warranty on accessories workmanship and materials.
Rip Curl
  • 3 year warranty on all stitching
  • 12 month warranty on materials
  • 3 month warranty on wetsuit accessories (boots, gloves, hoods)
  • 12 month warranty on taped seams
  • *Valid from date of purchase
  • Limited 12 month warranty (with original receipt) on wetsuit materials and workmanship.
  • All flat stitched styles carry a limited lifetime warranty on workmanship and a limited 1 year warranty on materials.
  • All glued and blind stitched suits carry a limited 1 year warranty on workmanship and materials.
  • Wetsuits: 1 YEAR on all seams and neoprene/
  • Accessories (Boots, Gloves, Hoods/Caps/Vests): 3 MONTHS
  • One-year warranty for the original purchaser from the date of purchase on manufacturing defects.

History of The Wetsuit


Sometime around 1952, Jack O’Neill opened the first surf shop in a garage. He shaped a few balsa surfboards and sold accessories like paraffin wax and a few vests he started gluing together from neoprene. When the vests started selling, Jack decided to go into the wetsuit business. Jack developed designs for a shorty and a long john, and eventual a long-sleeved beaver-tail jacket. Soon surfers were riding more waves, and riding them better, in large measure because they could now enjoy longer sessions in cold water. As Jack improved his wetsuits, new styles, features, accessories, etc., surfer’s territories expanded.


By 1980, Jack O’Neill’s surf shop had morphed into a thriving international company, dominating the world’s wetsuit market.

Rip Curl

In 1970, Rip Curl (Warbrick and Singer), then a surfboard company, looked at the essential needs of their fellow surfers in cold-water Victoria, they saw that one – a board to ride – is being serviced by too many companies, while the other – a wetsuit to keep out the cold – was being serviced by only two, one of whom makes wetsuits for divers and has only a marginal commercial interest in surfing.

Rip Curl took over an old house in Torquay and the partners made a small investment in a pre-World War II sewing machine. They put together a crew of locals and went into production, cutting out the rubber on the floor and handing the pieces to an over-worked and underpaid machinist.

By today’s standards, the prototype Rip Curl wetsuits were primitive, but they differed from others on the market in that they evolved through interaction with surfers.

The people who ran the company were – and still are – the test pilots. There can be no more direct line of communication.


Sydney born surfer, Gordon and Merchant were looking for solid waves. They found their own piece of surfing Utopia, a 20 mile stretch of golden beach and perfect point breaks.

As far as Gordon was concerned, this was his Meca – averaging 300 days per year of good quality surf, where one could wear boardshorts or baggies for 9 months of the year. he settled quickly and it was not long before Gordon was making a significant contribution to the Gold Coast’s infant surfing industry.

As a shaper, Gordong made a huge breakthrough when he introduced a surfboard with a tucked-under edge, a development that aided top shredders Michael Petersen and Rabbit Bartholomew in their ascension to the top of world surfing.

As a surfer, Gordon saved many a wiped-out surfer from grief when he developed the first leg-rope. Sure it was a primitive device by today’s standards, but anybody who has had to scramble over the rocks at Burleigh Heads on a bid day owes Gordon a schooner.

In 1973 Gorden and Merchant began producing handmade boardshorts under their flat, overlooking his beloved Burleigh. They were tough as teak, able to withstand not only the elements, but also able to absorb the sort of punishment that the locals like Rabbit would put their trunks through.

From these humble beginnings, Billabong was born.

Gordon buried himself in his North Burleigh factory for the next few years and Billabong gradually made ground on the more established labels. His no frills, practical approach to boardshorts manufacturing paid dividends, as Billabong grew steadily until his little homespun factory literally burst at the seams.


Ed D’Ascoli founded Xcel in 1982, working from the bedroom of his Sunset Beach house. D’Ascoli found no shortage of inspiration from the world-class performances on display at his doorstep; and the opportunity to create and to connect high-performance products with the athletes who demanded them was irresistible. Xcel’s passionate focus on product development would become the defining characteristic of the brand.

Ed D’Ascoli founded Xcel in 1982, working from the bedroom of his Sunset Beach house. D’Ascoli found no shortage of inspiration from the world-class performances on display at his doorstep; and the opportunity to create and to connect high-performance products with the athletes who demanded them was irresistible. Xcel’s passionate focus on product development would become the defining characteristic of the brand.

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