3/2 wetsuits

-- Last Updated: Oct-04-14 11:19 AM EST --

I'm going to purchase a 3/2 wetsuit for training on a surfski, NRS is now marketing one and I have been told O"Neil is pretty good. Does anyone have any experience with these brands or any other brand as to a 3/2 wetsuit.


Too general a question
There are lots of different kinds of neoprene, differing in stretchiness, among other things.

I don’t know how many grades of neoprene NRS uses, but other brands usually offer more than one kind. I’m not talking about thickness, but quality of neoprene, which is where the stretchiness comes in. To make things worse, the brands give the neoprene proprietary names in their suits. Price is not a bad indicator (within a brand), though–higher price for more stretch.

I have O’Neill’s Bahia Jane long-legged farmer jane and long-sleeve shirt and liked them enough to buy another set. Also their 1.5mm vest that’s been great (and bought for something like $10 at Sierra Trading Post in Cheyenne). But a lot depends on your fit to the specific item.

Lots to choose from ….

– Last Updated: Oct-04-14 12:36 PM EST –

You can spend very little or quite a lot on a wetsuit. The NRS wetsuits are fine but a good quality surfing suit will be more flexible in the arms and last longer.

Make sure the water temp is in line with what you will be using it for. For me if the water is colder than about 55-57 F a 3/2 suit is too cold. That is with fairly warm air temps. When the water gets below 57 I switch to a 4/3 suit. I have an Oneil 4/3, a Rip Curl 3/2 and a Oneil 2 mm top that I use about 6 months of the year when a 3/2 is too warm.

The major manufacturers have lots of different models, the low end suits from Xcel and Oneil are excellent ( some Oneil suits have zippers that are pretty stiff, my only complaint. For 3/2 suits I usually buy Rip-Curl brands in their medium price range, only because they fit me the best.

Try to try on the suit, it should fit very snugly and be a touch difficult to put on the first time, but not too tight; the suit sizes will run smaller than you expect and the sizes listed are for young athletic males… If you take a large shirt you may need an extra large or XXL wet suit.

NRS is hard to beat, call and ask

wetsuit opinions
I’ve owned 4 wetsuits, the first being an Oneill Farmer Jane. It was my least favorite – for one thing their sizes run small to begin with and they seem to be made for people with less than 10% body fat, very restricting. The zipper was stiff too. I like my 3/2 shortie springsuit but it’s from a company that no longer makes wetsuits. I have a Warmers 3 mm Farmer Jane now and like it a lot (don’t know if they are still in business either). But my favorite by far is a 3/4 Xcel surfer full suit. Very high quality construction and cut, sized for an adult body and super flexible. Zipper runs like silk. Even though it has the most coverage and thickest neo of all them, it is the most comfortable and least binding while paddling.

patagonia and xcel
a couple of fellow ski paddlers love their patagonia and xcel suits. The more expensive stretchy suits are the way to go.

I’m too tall for most one piece suits so I use 3mm rodeo pants and 1.5mm NRS top + 0.5mm vest. along with a shorty drytop and thin hat if its really cold.

For winter paddling I’ve found pogies to work much better than gloves on the ski. The Snapdragon neoprene are super warm even when it’s 40F and raining horizontally and the hand opening stays open so reentry is not a problem.

if you are not squeamish…
…there are great deals to be had on line on used wetsuits. it seems many people think they will get into a sport like surfing or diving and then freak out and never do it again after gearing up for it. I got my Xcel (a model that was almost $175 new) for $30 including shipping on Ebay. It looked like it had never been worn and fit perfectly. Washed it in wet suit wash anyway.

One of my friends was appalled that I would buy a used wet suit. “Don’t you know that people pee in their wetsuits?” he said. I pointed out that the lakes where he likes to paddle are full of fish, turtle and human pee.

a new looking suit has probably not been used much. I don’t think a lot of people pee in their suits as it leaves a smell that is really difficult to get rid of. Most wetsuits are worn “commando” so there may be other poor hygeine issues from previous owner.

Check it out in person
My first wetsuit, a shorty 2mm bought at Sierra Trading Post, was half price. I think it probably was a returned item but it was like new. Ditto for the $10 1.5mm O’Neill’s vest I bought.

If you can examine it in person, all fears of ickiness should be dispelled. Your nose will tell you, if not your eyes.

I don’t pee in my wetsuits, but I suspect that is about to change when I use the winter (full 5/4) suit. The step-in entry below the neck makes it much harder to don and doff. There’s no way I’ll do that just to pee…Got a bottle of wetsuit shampoo ready. I always wash them after each use anyway.

prompt washing
…is the secret to having non-stinky neoprene. I have one of those round plastic tubs with a pair of handles, about 8 gallon size, that I soak my neo gear in after every outing with a capful of wetsuit shampoo. Gloves, booties, wetsuit, hydroskins, etc. – anything that wouldn’t go in the regular laundry.

I’ve found white vinegar is also a good stink remover for various gear. The acidity breaks down the proteins in a lot of organic funk. I inadvertently left a pair of wetsuit booties in a plastic bag on my porch for two weeks, soaked with slimy lake water. They were pretty ripe, but an overnight soak in diluted vinegar knocked the stench out. It does leave a trace of pickled smell, but that fades.

Evaporative Cooling

– Last Updated: Oct-08-14 10:50 PM EST –

Both of the times that I've experienced hypothermia were due to evaporative cooling from the wind forcing evaporation of water off of my wet suit.

Once, I was on my surf ski which is highly exposed to say the least on a cloudy windy day for hours with a splash top, and the other time I neglected to bring my splash top while taking out my touring kayak on a supposed short trip.

Definitely make sure you have something over any neoprene to break the wind especially on a surf ski. Hypothermia comes on very quickly as in nearly instantaneously seemingly. It must be taken very seriously. I was near shore and in very controlled conditions so I really was not at much risk, but I learned a very valuable lesson.

However, I've also noticed that since I've lost almost all of my body fat over the past few years I've become way more susceptible to going hypo so I've migrated to a dry suit or dry top to compensate for the loss of my natural insulation.

Anyway, it's very good that you are using immersion gear as my 3/2 neoprene served me well for many a year. I shudder at the folks I see wearing street clothes paddling in cold water.

white vinegar works great
…and it doesn’t take a lot.

Thank you for feed back.
I got a deal on a Quicksilver 3/2 wetsuit from REI, the suit was delivered today and it fits well. It was 20% off and I had a gift certificate, the catch was they only had XXL and at 5"10" and 190 pounds I thought the suit would be way too big for me, but these thing ARE made for young athletic types. I still might get a 4/3 but I’m going to see how the 3/2 works out.

Thanks again!