Posted on 21 January, 2014 · Posted in Activities

Las Palmas Surf School presents you our Wetsuit Buyer´s guide so you´re well dressed in order to go out surfing

Wetsuits play an essential role in your surf vacation. They come in a variety of different cuts, thicknesses, material and colors. If you just started to learn to surf, this whole bunch of choices can be very confusing. Therefore, Las Palmas Surf School will cover In this guide, everything from how wetsuits work to the most common types of wetsuits, thickness recommendations as well as material information

You want to buy your own wet suit but you don’t know what to what to heed attention to? You rather would go to a mirror and first check how the wet suit accentuates your body or you want to buy a wet suit that fits loose because you want to wear it baggy style while surfing? You think any wet suit will keep you warm? Then you better read this article by surfcamp Las Palmas first, about what to keep in mind while buying your own wet suit.

Las Palmas Surf School welcomes you to the 5th edition of our “Big Surfing 101”, the SURFLINGO dictionary explaining everything you need to know for learning to surf. In order to be well prepared for your upcoming surf vacations, we will teach you all the important things you need to know about the exciting sport of surfing.
A wet suit usually is an expensive purchase nonetheless the neopren suit is in major cases essential when you want to surf most canaries surf spot. The surfcamp Las Palmas has a variety of wet suits you can try and use but it is always better you own yours that fits you best and you’re feeling comfortable with. But to get a nice wet suit you don’t just buy any expensive wet suit that maybe in the end doesn’t keep you warm or doesn’t fit right. For this reason we from surfcamp Las Palmas reveal to you the needful things you should keep in mind when you are buying a wet suit, so you buy the best fitting and most effective wet suit for yourself.
Before we start dealing with the ocean and its specific characteristics next week, we will use this episode to finish up with our material science by introducing you to the world of wetsuits. Setting of this week: the Surfshop.

A neopren suit is a suit made mostly of foam neopren which is used in most water sport activities. When you want to surf at spots like the canaries surf spots, the wet suit is among others an essential equipment. When you want to know more about what equipment is needed for your surf trip, read this article.
The neopren suit is important because it saves your body to become hypothermic caused by the cold water. A wet suit is composed of neopren which the thicker it is the more it insulates. A wet suit layer of neopren can have a 1mm thickness to over 10mm.
Furthermore the wet suits includes a lining, which is usually made out of nylon material, and consists of a small amount of rubber which is glued over the seam that holds the neopren parts and the lining of the suit together.
A wet suits is constructed to allow a little amount of water to leak through the suit but the body is able to heat up this water in seconds to body temperature.
There is a variety of neopren suits made for different weather- and water-conditions. So there are wet suits made more for surfing in tropical waters that protects you more from sunburns than from coldness of the water, but there are also suits for really cold waters in which you would get more than just a flew when surfing in this regions.
That’s why wet suits are not only used for surfing, but also for other activities like diving, like in very deep and cold water. So the kind of a wet suits depends on the temperature of the water and the deepness of region you are in. If you want to know more about how a wet suit works and how it prevents the body from becoming hypothermic, you can read more about it here.

Depending on your body shape and self-awareness, wearing a wetsuit let you either feel like a sausage or like a superhero- however, when you want to learn to surf you have no choice but to deal with wetsuits. Of course, board shorts are super cool and trendy but unfortunately, not all locations have the weather of Hawaii and somewhere along the way, you will end up making surf vacations where your small little neoprene-friend is unavoidable.

Above the function as unbeatable heat insulation, a wetsuit also gives you the advantage as a perfect lifting body, protects you against bumps and secure you from being burned by the sun that you will face in Las Palmas Surf School.

For reasons of hygiene, at first it is much more advisable to by an own wetsuit than an own surfboard. Even though we have a wide range of wetsuits in our Surf house for your surf vacations, we took this occasion to let you understand the world of wetsuits.  Las Palmas Surf School will attempt to present you with the most important aspects about buying your own superhero dress :-)

How Wetsuits Work

Your Las Palmas Surf School wetsuits are made of a flexible material called neoprene, which is a synthetic rubber that contains thousands of tiny air pockets that provide insulation against cold water. There’s a stubborn rumour going round that a wetsuit should keep you completely dry. Quite the contrary, wetsuits keep you warm by trapping a layer of water between the neoprene and your skin. This layer of water is warmed by your body heat, keeping you cozy while you learn to surf and allow you to stay in the water much, much longer than you would be able to without one.
More about the functionality you’ll find here.

 

The right wet suit for the conditions at your surf spots

To surf at spots like most of canaries surf spots the water temperature is most important for buying the right wet suit.
If you want to take your canary islands surfing holidays in summer, a Shorty is mostly enough. This suit covers the whole torso, but only a little part of your legs and arms. Usually the Shorty’s neopren layer is very thin, between 1mm and usually 4mm and is therefore made for temperatures between 18 to 27 degree. At 18 degree you should get a wet Suit with 3mm or 4mm thickness, but at 21 degree a 1mm to 2mm thick suit is more than enough.
If you want surfing Gran Canaria in autumn or winter at better surfing conditions you should mind taking a so called three-quater or similar wet suit. This one covers like the shorty just parts of the arms, but covers the whole legs and torso. At 16 degrees coldest it should be a suit from 4mm to 5mm thickness and at 18 degree 3mm or 2mm thick neopren layers are fair enough.
A full suit, called steamer, is also perfect for winter. But also for surf spots with much colder water a steamer is the best choice. The full suit covers the whole body apart from head, hands and feet. At 10 to 16 degree a wet suit of this kind with 6mm to 7mm thickness fits best. At a temperature of under 10 degree you should think of choosing a suit that is over 7mm thick. Full suits have a big field of application and therefore can be bought in a thickness between 3mm to 7mm and even more. So it is suitable for cold and even warmer waters to surf at.
But if it is even colder than like 10 degree you should consider to buy accessories, like for the head or the feet, which will increase the insulation.

When buying a wetsuit for your surf vacations, you should focus on five primary factors:

1.) The type of wetsuits you like to have, 2.) The thickness of the material, 3.) The type of neoprene you choose as well as 4.) The seam seals and zipper technique and finally the 5.) The right fit. Now it is time to dress for the occasion, let us shop a wetsuit :-)

1. Wetsuit shapes

There are many different cuts a wetsuit can have, all of them available in Las Palmas Surf School. According to the air and water temperature during your surf vacations, you prefer either a long or a short suit or something in between.

Springsuits/ Shorties

Shorties are neoprene one-piece suit made with short legs and arms, which are primarily used when you learn to surf in warmer water temperatures 20-22 °C. They are generally not very thick (usually in the 2-4mm range), but provide you more   insulation than a vest or jacket and give you high mobility. They are great when the water or air during your surf vacationis just a little too cool to be comfortable in a bikini.
Full Wetsuits / Steamers 

Full Suits (sometimes called “steamers”) are the most common type of suit when you learn to surf in Las Palmas Surf School . They cover the entire body including arms and legs up to wrists and ankles and can be found in a variety of thicknesses made for different water temperatures.

Long john / Farmer John

This one-piece wetsuits have long legs and no sleeves, design for covering a surfer’s chest, trunk, and legs. You might want one of these for your surf vacation if the water is cool and the air is hot.

Short John Wetsuit

Short John wetsuits are a mixture between a shorty suit and a long john suit primarily used when you learn to surf in warmer water temperatures. 

 

2. Wetsuit Thickness:

One of the most important aspects when considering the wetsuit warmth is the thickness of its neoprene. It is important to research the water temperature (keeping in mind the different seasons) in the region where you will primarily do surf vacations. In addition to water temperature, consider also the air temperature, wind speed as well as your sensitivity to getting cold. When you start to learn to surf, you will quickly understand what that means. As a rule of thumb, thickness increases warmth but decreases flexibility in movement.

The suit thickness is measured in millimeters, represented by two numbers separated by a slash. The first number is the thickest neoprene that is used around your torso and upper legs. The second is a thinner grade neoprene representing the thickness around the arms and lower legs that allows you a bit more flexibility in paddling and riding.  For the European summer months with water temperatures between 16-20 °C, a 3/2 mm wetsuit should be sufficient. For surf vacations in Las Palmas Surf School you´re fine with this all year round. When you learn to surf elsewhere in spring, autumn and winter 4/3 and 5/3 are better choices.  The pain threshold for wearing wetsuit accessories such as gloves, boots and hoods is commonly reached between 10-15°C, so never when you learn to surf in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria :-)

3. Neoprene types

Wetsuits have undergone a long evolution. Today’s wetsuits are so warm and flexible it is a wonder that anyone was able learn to surf without them. Basically there are 3 types of neoprene wetsuits are made out of: Standard Neoprene, Super Stretch Neoprene and Super Stretch Water Repellant Neoprene.

To make your wetsuit as flexible as possible for your surf vacation,manufacturers use varying degrees of these neoprene types, displayed in percentage. Las Palmas Surf School wetsuits with 30% Super Stretch will cover the back, shoulders, and arms which is exactly where you need flexibility for paddling. The other 70% of the suit is made of Standard Neoprene. Learn to surf with a 60% Super Stretch wetsuit, the flexible points extend down to the knees, they are lighter and tend to fit better.

4. Wetsuit Seam Seals and Zipper techniques

In recent years, remarkable progresses were archived in view of seam seals and zipper types to improve your time in the water in your surf vacation. First, we will look at the different types of stitching techniques a wetsuit in Las Palmas Surf School can have.

Sealed and Taped (Glued, Blindstitched and 100% Taped)

When a wetsuit in Las Palmas Surf School description lists “taped seams,” it means that a nylon tape has been glued over the seams, covering up the stitching. The interior taping will add durability, and prevent any water from seeping through while you lean to surf.  This stitch is recommended for surf vacation where you have water of 13°C and below.

Sealed (Glued and Blindstitched) 

When you lean to surf with a blind stitched wetsuit, it means that the panels are glued and then blind stitched. This prevents cold water from seeping through the tiny stitching holes and into the suit. However, it is also less durable than other types of stitching. Double blindstitching involves stitching both sides of the fabric for added strength. This technique appears mainly in high-end wetsuits and semi-dry suits in water that is 13° and higher.

Flatlock Stitching

Flatlock stitching is primarily for warm-water wetsuits, used for surf vacations with water above 17°C. This technique provides excellent flexibility and strength when you learn to surf. Because of the flat laying stitches, it will not cause discomfort in your surf vacation.  However, this type of seam may let water through.Concerning the Zipper system, there is more to getting into your suit than you may think. There are essentially two different types of zippers you will find on Las Palmas Surf School wetsuits:  back and chest zippers

Back Zippers

This is the classic solution of Las Palmas Surf School wetsuits, with the zipper going down the length of the spine with a long cord attached so you can zip yourself in and out. The advantage of a back zip is that is typically the easiest to enter and exit, however, water can get through while you lean to surf.

 Chest Zippers

When you use a Chest zip wetsuit on your surf vacation, you enter through a zippered cutout around the neck, then pull the neck cut over your head and close the horizontal chest zipper. Chest zips are trickier to enter and exit when you are wet, but is they are superior at keeping water from entering in. When you lean to surf which such a wetsuit it will also give you a more comfortable fit with a snug neck that is less likely to cause rashes.

5. How a wetsuit should fit

Trying on a wetsuit before your next surf vacation is an important step in the buying process. Each brand has a slightly different cut that may or may not be good for your body type and your progression in learning to surf. If your wetsuit does not fit properly, it will not be able to keep you warm or allow you the flexibility you need in order to learn to surf. If it is too loose, too much water will flush between your suit and your body, and it won’t insulate you well. On the other hand, suits that are too tight will be uncomfortable and restricting so you won’t be able to move (which is an essential part when learn to surf!)  So, when buying a wetsuit, it is important that the suit be snug—not too tight, not too loose.

Ask our staff at Las Palmas Surf School and they will help you to choose the right size for you. Generally, it should fit like a second skin with no bunching in the arms or legs. Make sure that the suit does not have any glaring rough spots that might give you a rash on your surf vacation.  As a rule of thumb, when lifting your arms over your head, stretched out to your shoulders, you should only feel slightly restricted. If you feel a lot of pressure during this movement then the suit is too small. You should be able to squat down and move your arms easily.


Find the wet suit that fits you best

From the information so far, you hopefully can imaging what kind of wet suit you need. Depending on your type of surfer, if you are a surfer who surfs in tropic regions or you would rather surf at the north pole if possible, you can decide the important decision about the style of wet suit.
Another important topic is the choice of size that fits you best. This decision is important because with the wrong size the wt suit will loose its warming and insulating qualities. A wet suit has to fit tight to your skin, so it doesn’t pucker and no hollows will emerge. When a suit doesn’t fit tight enough, water will amass in greater amounts and the body won’t be able to heat it up fast enough so the wet suit looses his warming and insulating effect.
Your suit shouldn’t fit too tight ether, because you need free movement in your arms and legs. If your suit is too tense, especially your arms won’t be free to paddle while surfing. You should be able to touch your feed with your hands while standing with the wet suit on. So a wet suit should fit tight enough that no hollows will emerge but not so tight, you can’t move your arms in it well.
You can orientate yourself by the size of the label but you better not depend on the accordance to your size of your cloths. Often you have to take a suit one or two sizes smaller than the size you normally wear.
Apart from that principles the best to recommend is for you to go to your favorite surf shop and try on further suits with the same style to find the suit that meets criteria and is the best for you. Furthermore you should take an advise by the salesman and take the suit you feel most comfortable with. There is not that one rule of thumb for the one individual perfect fitting wet suit because of to many differences between companies and their brands of suits and the differences of physical appearance between all human. Keep in mind that you won’t fit in any wet suit just because the material is very flexible. You will notice that already when you close the fastener of the wet suit for your neck. Because even though they have the same size, the suits are all different there. One can throttle your neck and the other surprisingly fits perfect on it. Curiosity and patience are most important when you are on a search for the suit that fits you best individually. Try more than one wet suit and don’t take the first that catches your eye. The size of your neopren suit is the most difficult diszplin when you want to buy your perfect fitting wet suit. It decides of the efficiency of the wet suit and how you feel in it.

The possible differences you should keep in mind between different brands

When you buy a wet suit you should not build on the labels so much. Especially the label for thickness can mean different things. If you see a wet suit for example labeled with a thickness of 3/2, it could mean the thickness of the neopren layer only but the one number also could stand for the layer of neopren and the other number for the lining of the wet suit. The first option is the generally accepted one but it is different between the different brands because there are no standards in designing and labeling a wet suit. So a company can use a label that sounds good for the costumer but means different things.
There is also no standard for the size of the surface. So the 3mm could mean the neopren layer but the size of it is just a little badge and the rest of the layer consists of 2mm. And in the end you are surfing with just a warm little part of your belly and the rest of your body is freezing.
Same with the labeling for the lining of the wet suit. This presents information about the material the lining is made of but not about the size of the surface of it as well. So it can cover the whole inside of the neopren suit or just a part of it. The best thing to do is to go in the surf shop you want to buy your wet suit and ask for information or look at the wet suit yourself and check the inner lining.

The different extras, features and accessories to improve your wet suit and increase insulation

To furthermore prevent that any water leaks through the openings in your wet suit and it is cuddly even though it’s under 10 degree you should check out the so called Gaskets. These are seals for wrists, ankles and neck.
Nonetheless there are touch-fasten neck seals that increase the insulation of the wet suits zipper and prevent that the zipper open itself.
Floodgates are lashes that equally prevent that water leaks through the zipper.
Extended Zipper Pulls are ribbons make it easier pulling up the zipper when it is like on most of the suits at the back side.
The so called knee pads increases the durability of the parts of the knees where the neopren suit can rip quickly and Flex Zones improve the flexibility of the wet suit for the limbs.
To increase the heating of the body temperature there are titanium linings that reflect the body temperature and in this way helps to warm up the water.
For further improvement of the insulation you can buy Hoods that insulate the neck, head and combined with a facemask, also the face.
To be protected from the cold water even better, you can get gloves that protect your hands and neopren boots again protect the legs against water. There are boots exclusively made for surfers.
If your skin gets rubbed by the neopren you can buy Neopren or Lycra vests which prevent that when you are wearing them under your wet suit. You also can wear those kind of vests while surfing at very warm spots instead of a neopren suit to prevent your body against sunburns.

To sum up the most important steps and things to keep in mind you have to consider three things. The right kind of suit like the right coverage, the right thickness of neopren and the right size of the wet suit.
Are you more like the surfer at tropical spot conditions then a shorty or Three-Quater with up to 3mm thickness is alright.
Do you want to surf canaries surf spots with different but not extreme temperatures a Three-Quater or steamer 3mm to 5mm thick is usually enough. Do you want to surf very cold spots a steamer should be it with a thickness of 5mm to 7mm. If you want to surf at the nord pole when it would be possible you need even more thickness and may think about buying special accessories.
So that your wet suit fits you perfect and you are able to move in it free, you have to do it the old school way and go to a surf shop get a selection of your favorite wet suits to try them on with your bare hands. This is the best way to make a good, well conceived decision to buy the perfect wet suit for you. With a well cared wet suit, more to care of wet suits here, you can surf for a long time undisturbed of the surf spots conditions your favorite Gran Canaria surf spots.


Final remarks

  • When having trouble getting your feet in the suit, put plastic supermarket bags on your feet so they slide in easier
  • Think about getting a wetsuit bag to carry the wet wetsuit free from gravel/cement/rocks back to Las Palmas Surf School  
  • Have a plastic bin or bucket in your car or truck to put your dripping wetsuit in after your session in your surf vacation
  • For change in public, take towel big enough to hide inside
  • You can also buy a  special changing robes to eliminate the towel-dance
  • Consider getting is a rashguard (Lycra shirt), that prevents rashes in the armpit and neck areas while you learn to surf
  • For tips and tricks how to take well care of your wetsuit, check out this page´
Don’t let cold water stop you from surfing :-)  
Stay salty, Hang loose and check out next edition “SURFING 101 Part 6”
Surf Camp Las Palmas, Kelly