The point of entry in a wetsuit is known as the “entry system” and plays a large role in the overall function of the suit. Over the years, we have seen different entry systems come and go as wetsuit manufacturers search for the perfect balance of flexibility, ease of entry, and a watertight seal. In the end, the chest zip wetsuit has risen to the top as the most popular entry system for surfers, while the back zip holds a strong second place. Of course, all entry systems exist for a good reason, but after trying a few different entries, you may find you have a preference for one over another.

Zippers are an important part of an entry system. There are different quality zippers, and generally, when you pay more, you’ll get a long-lasting, stronger zipper that is easier and smoother to zip up. Wetsuit manufacturers generally add a thin layer of neoprene between the zipper and your skin to keep excess water from coming into direct contact with your skin.

A commonly overlooked but important part of all wetsuits is the drain hole. These drain holes are built to drain the excess water that can find its way through the entry system.

Types of Entry Systems

Chest Zip

Unzipped Chest Zip Wetsuit Entry

The chest zip is the most popular entry system among surfers. Although there are small variations on this entry, the traditional chest zip wetsuit features a short zipper that is either straight across your chest or slightly angled. On some entries, you have to pre-feed the zipper, which can make it a bit tricky to get in and out of, especially with cold hands, while other entries already have the zipper started or pre-fed, and you simply pull it across to zip the suit shut. A few other things you’ll find on this type of entry are ways to lock the zipper via a snap button and a cinch cord that will make the entry tighter and less prone to flushing.

Back Zip

Unzipped Back Zip Wetsuit Entry

Back zip wetsuits feature a longer zipper that starts in the lower back and zips up to the back of the neck, where an overlapping Velcro collar secures it. The zipper on this entry is always pre-fed and has a long pull tab that allows it to be reached easily by zipping up or down.

Zip Free

Zip Free or Zipperless Wetsuit Entry

Also referred to as zipperless, this entry is basically the same as the chest zip minus the zipper. Zip free suits are found in higher-end performance suits with ultra-stretchy neoprene, which tends to allow for a fairly easy entry even though the entry hole is smaller. Another nice benefit of zip free is you won’t ever have to deal with a zipper breaking.

Mutant Entry by O’Neill Wetsuits

O'Neill Mutant Entry System

This entry is similar to a chest zip; however, it has two zippers, one in front and one in back. This allows you to completely detach the closure to attach an optional hood or a collar piece to enable the suit to function and feel like a regular, non-hooded wetsuit.

How does a wetsuits entry system affect flexibility?

It may not be as big of a deal these days because wetsuits are getting so stretchy that it’s harder to tell, but we all can agree on the fact that zippers don’t stretch. That’s why you’ll find that a zip free wetsuit is the most flexible. Chest zips would be 2nd on that list because they have a shorter zipper that is placed in an area of the suit that doesn’t need to stretch as much, while back zippers are longer and hinder flexibility a bit more.

How does a wetsuits entry system affect warmth?

Chest zip and zip free entries are generally considered to be warmer than back zip due to being less prone to flushing. However, if you end up getting a back zip suit that fits really well, flushing can be a complete nonissue, and many companies like O’Neill have patented back zip entries designed to keep water out.

How does a wetsuits entry system affect durability?

Entry systems aren’t going to play a considerable role in durability; however, we have seen suits get roughed up by the Velcro, which is used in most back zip entry wetsuits. This can be avoided if you take care not to let the Velcro touch the neoprene. Another thing to think about is the quality of the zipper used (if there is one). Higher-end suits will have more durable zippers. Cheap zippers tend to break down, leaving you without a suit when you have to send the suit in for warranty.

How does a wetsuits entry system affect fit?

You aren’t going to experience a better or worse fit based on the type of entry you choose; however, some entry systems may be easier to get into than others. For instance, if you have a broad chest, you might find it impossible to get into certain chest zip or zip free wetsuits, which might lead you to think the suit doesn’t fit.