When it comes to duvets, winter coats and even slices of bread, we all know why thickness matters. With wetsuits on the other hand, it can be something of an afterthought.
Wetsuit thickness matters because it largely determines the temperature range at which you can use a wetsuit comfortably. It's about optimising warmth, flexibility, and performance according to the water temperature. Let's explore how the seasons influence the thickness of your wetsuit and which parts of the world to wear them in.
As the winter fades into memory, and as the weather gets brighter, anybody who enjoys spending time on the water starts getting excited for the adventures that await. But spring is a season of transition, with fluctuating temperatures above the surface and below it. It’s no surprise then that a wetsuit which strikes a balance is the perfect choice.
For most regions, a wetsuit thickness of 3/2mm is an excellent selection. A 3/2mm full suit, with a 3mm torso and 2mm arms/legs, can handle waters around 14-18°C, keeping you both warm and flexible.
Such a wetsuit thickness is well-suited for spring in countries like Australia, Southern France, and Portugal, where water temperatures gradually rise following the winter months. In the UK, a 3/2mm thickness is perfect for late spring/early summer when conditions (finally) start to warm up.
Summer is the season for getting onto and into the water. And while many will gladly dive in with nothing more than a pair of speedos, a wetsuit still offers great benefits even in the warmest of waters.
In some parts of the world, such as here in the UK, the water can still feel a little chilly on cooler summer days, and a wetsuit will help you stay comfortable for longer. A wetsuit will also protect you from sunburn, and keep your skin safe in the face of jellyfish or other undersea nasties. And last but not least, a wetsuit will also give you extra buoyancy when swimming.
Considering the warmer temperatures, in the summer, wetsuit thickness can be dropped to 2/1mm or even less. This ensures maximum mobility in warmer water conditions of 20-25°C. If you’re surfing in particularly hot locations, like Brazil, Indonesia, or parts of the USA, a thickness as low as 1.5mm is sensible. Some surfers even prefer a spring suit or a rashguard for tropical locations.
As the summer starts to wave farewell, and as the leaves start to fall, the ocean starts to cool down too. That means it’s time to don a thicker wetsuit.
You'll want to consider a 4/3mm full suit for autumn surf sessions. This thickness maintains flexibility while adding a layer of warmth for temperatures around 11-14°C. Autumn surfers will find this ideal in countries like the UK, Ireland, and Northern France where waters start to cool down, but the winter chill hasn't fully set in.
In the winter, the water becomes a much less hospitable place. Icy cold temperatures mean many hang up their wetsuits until the spring. But cold weather need not put an end to the fun. Wetsuits can keep you surfing and paddle boarding year-round.
Rock bottom temperatures mean it’s time to break out the heavy-duty gear. Choose a wetsuit that ranges from 5/3mm to 6/4mm for water temperatures below 10°C. Protect your entire body with the addition of wetsuit accessories like boots, hoods, and gloves. Thicknesses like these are a good choice in most Northern European countries, or anywhere that feels the true brunt of winter.
If you’re seeking true cold water adventures in countries such as Norway, Canada, and Finland, where winters can be exceptionally cold, these thicker suits are necessary for braving the icy waters while protecting your body from the risk of hypothermia and other harmful effects of freezing water.
Get Your Kit On
Understanding wetsuit thickness and its relevance to the season and location can make a big difference to your time spent on (and in) the water. As you move from refreshing spring waters to the invigorating chill of winter waves, the right wetsuit thickness is crucial for your comfort, performance, and most importantly, safety. Tailor your gear to match the conditions, and you'll be well on your way to enjoying the surf, no matter what the thermometer says.