Which wetsuit should I get?

What do most of you recommend wearing in the colder months? I’m in Southern California, so we’re not talking Minnesota winters here, but still the water is cold and the air even colder during winter months.

I’m thinking about a farmer john style wetsuit with booties and gloves. That should take care of about 95% of the situations I’m likely to encounter and I can always add a top if it gets super cold.


NEED a wind blocking layer
Unless you are talking one of the fancier surf suits, the typical paddling wet suit getting wet and a moderate temp day with even a small breeze is as fast trip to hypothermia. So if you take a swim and re-enter without a decent wind blocking layer on your torso, you are in trouble on most any winter day, even in southern California. And I am assuming you are talking about wearing a skirt. If not, you can have a similar effect with your legs exposed. Been there done that, luckily on shore and near the car when the shivering hit.

If you are talking about the basic paddling wetsuit, you can’t put off the top until later unless you stay off the water until summer.

No armpit protection?

– Last Updated: Dec-07-11 1:03 PM EST –

That water temp is only in the low 50s in winter. Add in some wind and clouds, and I doubt a Farmer John will be adequate. You're likely to need coverage for the armpit area, at least. Possibly a drytop over the FJ and a thin shirt, but *something.*

If it were me, I'd use a 3mm full wetsuit, at the least. But since everybody is different, you might be OK with less than that. Too many variables between people's bodies to say for sure.

Also, it depends on the kind of paddling you plan to do. High chance of immersion OR long swim to shore = need more protection.

Where are you paddling?
If you plan to go out on the ocean the farmer John is fine, I would look at a top to put over it like the NRS powerhouse - that has neoprene neck and wrist and waist band.

If you plan on doing surfing get a 3/2 surfing wetsuit.

Best time to buy is after christmas sales. If you are cold sensitive get a 4/3 for the wintermonths. I was just out this morning, coldest of the year so far in a 4/3 and I was hot.

For just paddling in fair weather in the winter I wear a hydroskin farmer john and top and some polar fleece if it’s cool under a paddling jacket.

Full surfing wetsuit
You can get an Xcel for about the same price as a farmer john and won’t need to buy a jacket of any kind. I have one and it works better than my farmer john combination and has plenty of flexibility. Check out the Oregon Surf Shop on the web.

I love my Level 6 Avenger.

But you will need at least a splash top to go along with it. Also, you may want to consider getting a separate top and bottom to have more versatility. Hope this helps.



farmer john
I wear a NRS farmer and either a long or short sleeve jacket in the summer here in the PNW. Polypro, thin wool or pile under the jacket.

Our summer is like your winter weather ;)50F water, 60F air

That’s how I do it. I also use a Neo
jacket and a hood. The jacket is great for those times when it’s too hot besides just being cool to wear. The hood is great when the snow is blowing in your ears, keeps your cheeks from getting red, too.

Thanks for all the ideas…
…I think, since the price is right, I’m going to go with the NRS Farmer Johns and just plan on wearing my splash jacket over that.

Very popular choice
Most folks start with the long john and then get the splash top, so you have made a very popular choice. If you are still cold I would add a hood and then maybe a top like this one:


Which wetsuit should I get?
Definitely get a full surfing wetsuit, either a 3/2 or 4/3. As others have posted if you shop wisely, you can a good one for the same price as a farmer john and drytop. A full suit is definitely warmer, safer and is actually low maintenance. Check out O’Neil, Xcel, Hotline, and RipCurl. The new Ripcurl F-Bomb dries in 15min, pretty cool. Choose whether you want a hood attached or not. I use a hooded neoprene vest on colder days. Flexibility is great in these newer suits, infact my roll improved when i switched to a wetsuit from a drysuit. cheers.