wetsuit fit

I am in the process of buying a wetsuit. Looking for advice about fit. How snug should it be? Better to be a little on the snug side or loose?

It should fit like a second skin. It acts as an insulator and any looseness will not insulate properly.

Look at surfing suppliers and suits. They tend to use newer technology, and are more flexible and comfortable than some of the wetsuits sold for paddlesports.

Very snug
It will stretch and conform with time.

When you put it on it likely will pull on your arms a bit. You need to work the sleeves up. When wet they loosen up.

Look for brands like Oneil, Excel … very good quality. Ripcurl makes good value suits.

Hansens Surf Shop in Encinitas is a good place to buy online. Also Murrays in Capentaria sells Gull suits and gives good service.

There are two things that can make a
wetsuit feel looser after you get it on. First, your body warmth may expand the bubbles and make the neoprene matrix itself expand and become looser. Second, moistening the Nylon facing will cause the facing to relax a bit.

For paddling purposes, I recommend that the wetsuit not have space under it, but that it should not quite be “tight” either. In my experience, wetsuit material does not “stretch” with use, and in fact over a number of years, it will shrink because of slow loss of nitrogen from the bubble chambers. The only stretching or relaxation you are likely to experience is due to warming from your body and to wetting of the Nylon face fabric.

For swimming and surfing …
get a stretchy modern suit of the thickness needed for water temp. you can stay submerged for a few hours. very uncomfortable to tour paddle in though. if you can’t afford a dry suit then you best bet may be to go with a farmmer jane/john and layer with neoprene shirts ala nrs.com

I will say Looser is better if…

– Last Updated: May-31-08 3:31 PM EST –

I understand those who say snugger is better. This is certainly true if you plan on the possibility of being submerged for long periods of time.

However, if you are an active paddler that is only concerned about being submerged for short periods then I would say a looser fit will be better for the majority of time you are in the boat paddling. Plus getting in and out of the suit will be much easier, meaning you are more likely to wear it on thise marginal days. However it should not be so loose that it bunches or wrinkles in places.

My current farmer john is no fun to wear paddling because the top half is too snug. I now wear it unzipped while paddling. If I happenned to fall in for an extended period (unlikely) I would zip it up underwater.

I prefer farmer john style suits. These are full suits but without any arms. This provides better freedom of movement. If you do end up in the water your arms will be out of the water as you hang on to the kayak anyway. For that temporary swim while doing a self rescue, a 3 - 3.5 mm suit should be fine.

NRS makes some great paddling oriented wetsuits of varying weights and cuts. LL Bean sells the NRS suits and has excellent customer service. If you ever have a problem they will replace or repair it for free. I had the pull tab of a zipper break off on an old farmer john. I sent it back expecting a repair. I was surprised to get a brand new suit, although the size is a little off as mentioned above.

Trying a suit on before purchasing is a good idea. If they are cut right for your body shape, then you will be able to go snugger without much loss of comfort or movement.

You’re right about the no arms part.
The worst part of a full wet suit is the arms. A farmer john with real big arm holes goes a long way toward making a wet suit practical for paddling. Getting rid of the arms also makes the torso part more flexible.

Dated Info
A modern full surfing wetsuit that is stretchy and flexible is fine for paddling. The farmer johns are kind of an anachronism. Too heavy for how warm they keep you in the water with the open arm holes that flush the suit. Better to get a 1 mm or 2 mm top with arms. You will stay warmer. All of this discussion is relavent to where you paddle. South east coast would be too hot for a full suit for me.

The staying warm part would be from
putting a breathing paddle jacket over the farmer john. Sorry, I can’t contemplate having even 1mm neoprene arms on when I am paddling. I have made the drysuit switch.

Loose means water flushes through any gaps.

I’ve had mixed results re: stretching. One suit feels like it has slightly stretched. The other still feels very snug. Possibly they use different types of neoprene (besides the fact that they have different thicknesses). Both are made by BodyGlove, which I’ve never seen in a paddle shop.