The Beach Blog
by Bill Longenecker
Posted December 20, 2012
"Why am I so cold!?" It's a classic winter day and you are trying to enjoy clean 4 to 6 foot surf in 58 degree water. Surfers around you seem comfortable and are catching more waves.
That wet suit bought because the sign on the surf shop window said "Wetsuits $99.95!" may be your answer. That "bargain" bought with hard earned money is now making you pay with every shiver.
Since my first Sea Suit in 1963 (Yes, I am old!) wetsuits have been an important part of my life.
The $100 suit is well made and is easily good for water temps above 62 degrees. The stitching on the seams is the key. Wet suits selling for around $100 often have "flat-stitched" seams which are comfortable and strong. They leak from head to toe.
Stretch a flat-stitched suit in front of a bright light and you will see the tiny holes which leak. It is the least expensive way to make a suit.
Surfers seeking warmth will be far more comfortable with the suit with seams that are "glued and blind stitched." The O'Neil Epic sells for $145 and is much warmer than the bargain leaky suit. That warmth makes up for the slightly price.
Sealed seams are the key to warmth. A "welded" or "fluid" beaded seam is even better. Suit with "taped", glued, "blind-stitched," and welded seams cost more, but the seams do not leak.
My first welded seam suit was an O'Neal "Heat" about 8 years ago, It finally died last winter, but the seams were still water tight.
The zipper or "closure system" also determines warmth. Simple straight zippers leak. A gusset is a flap sown across the zipper opening like the O'Neil Zen Zip system. The gusset blocks water from the zipper. Off-set teeth on some zippers block water well as well.
Short chest zipper suits like the O'Neil Super Freak for $194 are even better. One climbs in through the top, pulls the flat over the head and the short chest zip keeps you warm and toasty.
The shop sales "kid" may not even know why some suits are warmer than others. Research before buying and be warm this winter.
Surfers often demand that suits be flexible and stretch easily. What good is a flexible suit if one is too numb and cold to surf well. Loss some flexibility and gain warmth. A typical surfer's suit is a "3/2", a three millimeter body with 2 mm arms and legs. A "4/3" is a good choice for the truly cold 55 degree water possible in North Florida. It has hit 42 degrees twice!
After you buy that more expensive suit, treat it well. After a surf session rinse it well in the shower and hang it on a wide suit hanger in a shaded spot. Direct sun is not good for the suit.
Use a washing machine "spin" cycle or a dryer with a "No heat" setting if you need to dry it more quickly.
A pure silicone spray once a week will help keep the suit from drying out. Do not use WD-40. It will eat the seam glue and weaken the neoprene.
Care for the suit you depend upon for your warmth and comfort and it should last at least four years.
You can reach Bill with your comments at (904) 246-0417 and email@example.com