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Choosing the Thickness of your Wetsuit

For those just getting started in the world of watersports, it can be hard to know which wetsuit thickness to get; too thin and you’ll be sat in the waves shivering, too thick and what was meant to be a relaxing day at the beach turns into a sweaty chore. So, to prevent any repeats of these unmitigated disasters in the future, we’ve compiled our very own wetsuit thickness guide, to ensure that you always have the best possible experience at the beach.

Image Map

3mm - 16.5 degrees celsius <

A 3mm wetsuit thickness is perfect for the end of the summer season and as we edge closer to autumn, with the water’s temperature slowly middling to around 15°C.

You won’t need a hood, gloves, or boots, but it’s wise to buy a suit that can generate as well as contain heat, as the weather during this season can transition surprisingly quickly. For this reason, it’s wise to purchase a suit of around 3mm thick.

The Rip Curl Heatseeker is perfect for these middling to cold waters and is one of the most technically advanced wetsuits to ever hit the market. Not as thick as solely winter focused suits, it generates heat while you move, acting as a second skin. So, when you start to feel the chill, begin to paddle and the suit will help you warm up and maintain heat and when you want to cool down, have a rest and the suit will return to your resting temperature. It achieves the revolutionary skin-like property thanks to a new type of neoprene which generates heat when it’s stretched, called Flex Energy lining.

4mm - 14.5 degrees celsius <

As we enter into the autumn section of our wetsuit thickness guide and temperatures fall to around 12°C, you should opt for a wetsuit thickness of 4mm.

Again, gloves and a hood aren’t a necessity in this temperature, but it would probably be beneficial to add some boots to your wetsuit, so your feet aren’t at risk of wind chill or chilblains - the C Skins Wired 4/3mm Mens Chest Zip Wetsuit is perfect for this.

As the temperatures begin to plummet, it’s important to protect yourself from wind-chill, and the new ‘Wired’ wetsuit does exactly that. Complete with an all new wrap-around mesh, it gives you complete protection against cold howling winds while you’re in the water. Plus, with thermally efficient dry knit lining, the suit dries immensely quickly, meaning your skin won’t be at risk from the chill. What’s more, the new air foam is lighter and warmer than previous derivatives due to it having air blown into it during the manufacturing process, which increases its thermal level.

4.5mm - 12 degrees celsius <

4.5mm thickness is perfect for the months at the start of winter and the end of autumn, where water temperatures in the UK tend to settle at an average of around 10.5°C.

As a result of this drop in temperature and clouds tending to cover the sun during this period of the year, we’d suggest that you buy a wetsuit with a hood, while also purchasing some gloves and boots for you to wear on the waters.

The former SIMA Wetsuit of the year, the new Xcel Comp 5.5/4.5mm Hooded Chest Zip winter wetsuit is perfect for temperatures at around 10°C. Designed for ultimate flexibility in extreme conditions, each of the Xcel Comp’s chest, back and knee panels allow for great maneuverability. A watertight zipper with magnetic closure and hood ensure that no heat escapes from the suit irrespective of how rough the waves are. Also, the addition of a glide skin collar and Nexskin Wrist & Ankle covers means that no water can enter the suit, reducing the chance of flushing.

5mm - 11 degrees celsius <

If temperatures drop below 10°C to around 9°C or 8°C then you’ll need to upgrade your wetsuit thickness to 5mm. This is to accommodate not only the drop in water temperatures, but also the cold weather when you’re out of the water and on the beach. Be sure to purchase any accessories that might aid you in keeping warm such as hoods, gloves or boots.

The first women’s suit to appear on our wetsuit thickness guide, the Billabong Salty Dayz 5/4mm may have a retro design, but its performance is truly modern. Decorated with 70’s inspired African kaleidoscope patterns in two separate bold colours, the Salty Dayz latest suit is also equipped with some of the most sophisticated wetsuit technology.

With hollow fiber thermal back and chest panels, it is able to retain your body’s heat, keeping you warm while you’re in the water and with the Billabong’s new 100% Superflex Jersey, the suit is also incredibly light, flexible and most importantly durable. What’s more, with the introduction of machine applied pressure in the construction process, the suit’s stretch tape is one of the strongest currently available on market.

5.5mm - 9 degrees celsius <

The ideal solution for any winter surfer, the 5.5mm thick Gul Response Chest Zip Streamer Women’s Wetsuit is perfect for when temperatures drop closer to 7°C.

With glued and blind stitched seams, the suit is designed to insulate heat and prevent any extra water from entering its confines. However, just because the suit is hardwearing, it doesn’t mean that its flexibility suffers. The wetsuit was steamed throughout its manufacturing to ensure it maintained its plasticity and flexibility. Plus, the Gul Response Chest Zip Steamer Women’s Wetsuit is made from a non-petroleum neoprene, meaning that it is environmentally friendly.

6mm - 6 degrees celsius <

6mm thick wetsuits should be used in the height of winter when water temperatures fall as low as 6°C. This will generally take place between November, December and January, and depending on how cold the year has been in general, it may even last as far as into February.

The C-Skins Hot Wired 6/5mm Hooded Chest Zip Winter Wetsuit is one of the warmest currently available and is suited for when the full force of winter hits.

Designed for the coldest of winter weather conditions, the Hot Wired wetsuit features innovations like wrap around mesh paneling for defense against cold winds, Dryknit lining to ensure it is fast drying and a Power Seam for improved strength against water entering the wetsuit’s confines. There is also a key pocket, where you can keep your valuables while you’re out on the water. Also with a 6mm measurement true to thickness, you can rest assured you’ll stay warm inside, no matter the temperature.

7mm - 5 degrees celsius >

For when the weather is at its most extreme, 7mm thick wetsuits should be used, particularly if there’s chronic rain or snow fall when you’re intending to go out on the waters.

Specifically when temperatures are close to freezing, i.e. 1°C, 2°C or 3°C it’s likely you’ll need a solely winter focused 7mm thick wetsuit.

The warmest wetsuit money can buy is the Billabong Hooded 7mm Furnace Carbon Winter Wetsuit, which is ideal for when temperatures fall close to zero. Heavily weighted towards warmth, the quality neoprene ensures that while the lining is thick that it still remains very flexible. With a dry stretch external jersey and Drymax Water tight entry system, you can rest assured that no sea water will enter the confines of your wetsuit.

We hope that this wetsuit thickness guide has helped you to understand which wetsuit thickness to get next time you’re hoping to venture out on to the waters. Remember to pay close attention to our temperature guides and you’re sure to have the best possible experience at the beach.