How to Read a Wetsuit Size Chart
Determining your wetsuit size based on a size chart can be tricky. The two most important factors to consider are height and weight. After that, the chest measurement is another important thing to consider. If you are over the chest measurement you might have a really hard time getting into the wetsuit, or it could feel very constricting in the arms, which will not be ideal for paddling. Sometimes you can be outside of the measurements and the suit will still fit, but if you can find a suit where you fall within the measurements that will most likely be the wetsuit for you.
How Should a Wetsuit Fit?
In general, a wetsuit should fit snugly, like a second skin but not so tight that your range of motion is limited. The sleeves (if full-length) should fall at the wrist bone and the legs just above the ankle bone, and there should be no gaps, pockets, or rolls of neoprene. It is important to understand that after a wetsuit gets wet it will loosen up and feel more comfortable. After a few sessions neoprene will develop “memory” and conform to your body even better. One thing that you may find unusual is the extra neoprene in the armpit of a wetsuit. This is a raglan gusset and you’ll find it in every wetsuit out there. Since 90% of surfing is paddling, wetsuit manufacturers use this gusset to prevent fatigue and increase range of motion.
What Happens When You Have a Poorly-Fitted Wetsuit?
If the suit is too tight you will be warm, but your movement will be restricted and you will not be as comfortable as you should be. In some cases it could result in irritation where the seams rub against your skin. Also, a fit that is too tight will put a lot of stress on the wetsuit, causing the neoprene to thin out and the seams to leak and break down faster. If the suit is too big, it might be easy to get into, but in the water it’s not going to function properly. All the gaps and extra material will allow more water into the suit, making your body work much harder to stay warm.
What If I Am In Between Sizes?
If you are in between sizes the best thing to do is try on both sizes, or if you are ordering online you can consult a wetsuit expert. Generally, height and weight are the most important measurements, however getting specific measurements for your waist and chest will help narrow it down when you are between sizes. Other factors to consider are weight fluctuations and your personal preference for how snug you want the suit to fit. A tighter wetsuit will be hard to get in and out of, especially if you aren’t very flexible in the upper body or you have bad shoulders.
How Fit Affects Flexibility, Warmth, and Durability
The size of a wetsuit can play a large role in the perceived flexibility of a wetsuit. If your suit doesn’t fit right you can have a diminished range of motion. For instance, if the suit is short in the torso or tight in the chest it can restrict the movement of your arms.
If a wetsuit is too snug you will wear it out sooner. Technically, you could get into a wetsuit two sizes too small but it would bust at the seams pretty quickly due to the extra stress.
One of the worst things that can happen while surfing is getting flushed. If your wetsuit fits properly you will have very minimal flushing. A loose wetsuit will allow water in at the ankles, wrist, and around your neck, which could easily make you cold and force you to end your session early.