Tailoring a wetsuit

-- Last Updated: Oct-10-06 9:18 AM EST --

Anyone have experience with, or can point me to information on, tailoring a wet suit. I’m not sure I’m going to do it, but want to get prepared ahead of time with the knowledge. I’m not too worried about the cutting it up part. My wife is a good clothes tailor and will advise me, and right now I just want to make the ankles and lower calf smaller. I should be able to just cut a long narrow V out, staring at the bottom and tapering up.

I’m more worried about the gluing and sewing (if sewing is appropriate). So far I’m thinking glue the seam with Aquaseal, a few inches at a time, and stitch with nylon thread. Then apply about a half-inch coating of glue on both sides of the seam to add strength and cover the stitching.

Details on the suit fit: I’m 6’ 2”, 265 lbs and losing weight, 44 waiste, 31 inseam, 50 chest, long torso. I have an NRS Grizzly John G2X. The suit fits well except it’s short in the torso (not trying to fix that, except to lose more weight. I could lengthen the shoulder straps.) and too large in the ankles and lower calf. When I swim, water surges up to the calf. I could zip the bootie over the pant leg, but then I would get a little more water in the booties. Normally the pant leg goes over the booties I think. The farmer Bill 4X is still pretty tight all around except too long in the legs, so can’t go to the Bill 4X yet. Are there other companies that make flexible wetsuits for kayaking that don’t run as slim?

Dry suit is definitely in the plans, but next year when I level out near 200 lb.

Paul S.

I don’t know about the sewing/glueing part, but I cut the legs off of my old farmer john to make it into a shorty. Just snipped it and didn’t do anything to close the seams, and looks like I didn’t need to.

There are many types …
…of neoprene and so on.

There are companies that make sweeeet freediving suits.

I get mine from Elios sub in Italy. There are also Marea sub / Diveskins and other places.

You send them your measurements and they tailor a suit for you.

I have three freediving suits. I use my SOT to dive from so often padddle in a wetsuit.

A tailored freediving suits will be warmer than pretty much anything off the peg. For example I was using a 5mm surfing suit and was lasting 45 mins in 12C water. Using a 3mm freediving suit I last about 2 hours 20 mins.

They are open cell inside and you slip them on they are like gloves. Also they are often cut with arms extended (as if diving to the bottom with arms over head) so are better for paddling.

The 3mm mid density Heiwa Elios suit I have is toasty warm and flexible as hell… very good for paddling :slight_smile:

Just my experience…


Other wetsuit manufacturers
Thanks Edward. Yeah, back in the day (1993 or so)I used a Henderson 4mm (I think) flexible wetsuit for free diving for abalone at Salt Point in Norther California, water temp about 55F. I never got cold. Probably in the water for 3 hrs max. That was boots, farmer john, full coat, hood, gloves, mask. I still have it, but not slim enough to get in it and see how it would feel paddling. My guess is doable but certainly more tension than a dry suit. Thanks for the leads though. I may persue one for just the long john.

Other wetsuit manufacturer options?

Still interested in info on binding the seams after do-it-yourself tailoring. In other words, you cut some material out, now how do you attach the new edges back together.

Paul S.

I did it
I have an old US Divers full wetsuit, pants and jacket. It is is made of thick black neoprene with a blue foam backing. The suit is VERY thick compared to modern day suits (3/8-1/2") ,it definitely isn’t 3-4mm stuff.

I used it for spelunking in the 70’s when I was younger, tougher, stupider…

This summer I paddled 100 miles on Lake Superior and wanted a wetsuit just in case of upset, Superior is COLD, but my old suit didn’t come close to fitting.

I cut the legs and arms off making shortie pants and top. Then used the cut off material to extend along the sides and shoulders of the jacket and the shorts.

I used regular contact cement to glue the edges together and then top stitched the blue foam together as it was originally.

Worked great with some fiddling to get a good fit. But after all that work I didn’t use it after all. Wound up stuffing the suit in the ends of my canoe for additional floatation.

Neoprene is pretty easy
to work with. I have made alterations to some of my neoprene wear and it has worked out great. Neoprene glue and seam tape is all should need. One tip I can give you is to taper a V cut to a long fine point or else it will make a bulge when it is glued back together. The glue is a contact cement which bonds the neoprene very well and the seam tape will help hold together any areas where there will be a lot of stress. Here is a link to some glue and tape. http://sweetcomposites.com/Minicel.html

I just made some alterations on my wetsuit about a week ago and besides the nervousness about cutting up a perfectly good wetsuit it was pretty easy. I cut out a long v, then hand sewed the two edges together. The thread only went half way through the neoprene. After that I folded the seam back to exposed the edges and filled the seam with neoprene glue, pressed the edges together, and wiped off the extra glue. I made some neoprene gloves like this last year and it seemed to work good.

What’s spelunking?
Hoping I won’t be sorry I asked ;-).

Nice lead on the glue and tape.
Thanks everyone. All the experiences are useful to me.

Paul S.

cave exploration
My home state, Indiana, has a big karst (cave) region in the south. I got involved in endurance spelunking, long, mixed trips (water, rocks, pits) following subterranean rivers and streams where we would often spend 14-24 hours underground.

custom wetsuits for paddling
I have had good luck with paddling wetsuits from liquidfit (liquidfit.com). Fyi, I have no relationship with the company besides being a satisfied customer since 2002. It was nice to be able to customize zipper locations, padding, etc. to my personal specs. They are a little pricey so I wouldn’t consider one until you had a consistent weight for awhile. They have also altered my suit a few times for little or no money. The only piece of paddling gear that I’m more satisfied with is my ONNO paddle, and that’s saying a lot if you knew how much I love my paddle.

yow! cool.