Buying a new wetsuit every year will improve your surfing, honestly! You should also purchase the highest quality suit you can afford. I know, it sounds like the owner of the surf shop needs to sell more wetsuits, but it’s the truth. I was reminded of this the other day when I left home without my suit and had to borrow a friends.
I broke the golden rule of surfing. I was sure the surf wasn’t going to be good and left home without throwing my gear into the truck. As fate would have it, the wind stopped and the waves cleaned up. After a bunch of phone calls, my friends were nice enough to let me borrow some of their older equipment. A surfboard that was 3 litters smaller than anything I had ever ridden, a pair of booties that were a full size too small, and a two year old wetsuit that was full of holes. None of it mattered though, the surf had gotten that good and I needed to paddle out!
It sounds pretenicous, but I haven’t worn a wetsuit over a year old since we opened in 2010. One of the perks of being the owner of a surf shop I guess. So when I entered the water and could feel the cold Pacific pouring in through the holes in each knee, I knew I had really screwed it. Then as I stepped deep enough into the sea for the water to be at my waist, the holes in the crotch took my breath away. How can you surf if you are cold before you even paddle out? I am not someone who usually complains about our water temperature. I wear a hoodless 4/3 wetsuit all year and never use gloves. But in this two year old 5/4 suit I was freezing before I caught my first wave!
As I tried my best to stay positive, I watched my friends drop into fun wave after fun wave. I knew the more I paddled the warmer I would stay, but each time I duck dove I was flushed with a fresh batch of cold water. I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing. When I did catch a wave, my body was too cold to react properly. I was slow to my feet, wasn’t relaxed in my turns, and my muscles felt sluggish and stiff. I am in the middle of great surf, when I should be having fun, but instead I was sitting there pissed off and with a frozen crotch.
Surfing is hard enough, why make it more difficult by using old, inferior products? As much as you would like something you bought to last forever, the reality of wetsuits are they don’t last very long. If you surf with any regularity, getting one year out of a suit is about all you can realistically expect. Plus, technology is improving so fast, suits can change drastically from year to year. I wear a top of the line 4/3 and love the extra performance I get from a thinner, more flexible suit. I sacrifice a little warmth of a 5/4 for the performance of a thinner suit. On this day however, I was reminded that even when wearing a high to mid-range but older 5/4 wetsuit, you will get cold quick.
The difference between a brand new suit (left) and a heavily used one year old suit (right) is visibly noticeable.
Our water temperature makes wearing anything less than a high-end 4/3 difficult. It simply won’t keep you warm enough the vast majority of the year. An entry level to mid-range 5/4 is warm enough, but you sacrifice performance. So spend the money on a higher-end 5/4 or 4/3 to reduce weight and increase flexibility. Your surfing can’t help but improve and you will have a lot more fun!