Posted by Richard Edy

- Words by Iain Evans & Mel Winter

Buying a wetsuit is no easy task these days. There are some obvious criteria, like do you live in Cape Town or Durban? Are you looking for a long arm and long leg or a shorty? Are you a girl or a boy?  Then there are some more subtle criteria, and this is where this article could help you. 

After establishing the basics (I’m in Durban, I want a short arm/ long leg wetsuit and I’m a boy), then you start to fine tune…and the good news straight off the bat is that wetsuit technology has evolved extremely rapidly over the last few years, suffice to say that there are really no bad wetsuits they’re all relatively good, but you need to find the suit that you’re most comfortable in for the conditions that you’re going to surf. 

  1. What is your budget?

This may sound like a Duh… kind of question, but your requirements will determine how much it is necessary to spend on your wetsuit solution. If you like the look of an Isurus, like the one Twiggy wears for 8 hours out at Dungeons and uses every second day, that’ll set you back in the region of R7 000 and if you’re a CT big wave charger it’ll be money well spent, but if you wear your wetsuit every Saturday and Sunday for maybe one to two hours, then you don't need to spend that kind of cash. You can get an entry level Quick Synchro for just under R4000 that will keep you toasty warm. Having said that, if you spend more, you get more. You get longevity, more flex, more comfort, less chafing and so on. 

Tip: Assess your needs and spend 20% more than you’d planned to. It’ll be worth it, as there’s nothing more frustrating than having to cut short a session because you’re cold or uncomfortable . Same goes for booties, gloves and a hoodie - more about that in an upcoming article. 

  1. What size are you? 

Different brands are made in different factories with different specifications. The basic sizes (S,M,L,XL)  come in in-between sizes with reputable brands, like if you’re a “Large”,  tee shirt size in a Quiksilver Tee then a Large Wetsuit size will fit you. Then wetsuit sub sizes are Large or Large Tall or Large Short etc. The basic sizes (S, M, L etc ) account for your body shape (neck, chest, belly and bum) and the Tall / Short etc are for your arms and legs. 

Tip: the numbers 2.2  ( or 2/2 or 222) and 3.2 (or 3/2 or 232) and 4.3 (or 4/3 or 343) sound like a bad maths lesson. What do these mean? It’s simply how many millimetres of rubber there are on the chest versus the arms and legs. There’s always more fitted around the vital organs on your torso than on the limbs. So a “3.2” means 3mm of wetsuit on your torso and 2mm on your arms and legs. These are also sometimes written as 3/2  (Higher number always for Torso) or even 2/3/2 (again higher number is torso and others are for arms and legs) or even 232 . Got it? Good!   

  1. How often are you surfing? 

If you are a surfer that’s surfing every day in a wetsuit, buy from a reputable brand and spend on the more expensive models. Wear and tear on a wetsuit is a real thing. They have a finite lifespan. The cheaper brands and products deteriorate quicker than the more expensive ones and you don't want to spend on more than one suit a season, per region. Spend a bit more and get a lot more value and usage. 

Tip: Immediately after surfing, rinse your wetsuit in fresh water, and hang it inside out in the shade to dry.


  1. How many suits will you need? 

If you travel to surf you will need more than one suit depending on the water temperature and wind factors. 

Here’s a rule of thumb: 

Durban in Summer: A 1mm longsleeve rashvest with boardies will suffice on windier days. Also helps with sunburn! 

Durban Winter: 2.2 short arm long leg. This suit keeps you warm from the land breeze and you can also use it in the E Cape on warmer water days. 

Transkei to EL and JBay: 3.2 long arm long leg and booties. 

Cape Town: 4.3 long arm long leg, booties, gloves and a hoodie (Ice cream headaches are not fun, protect your noggin).  


  1. Front zip or Back zip?  

Either - they don't effect your session - but it might affect your sense of humour before and after your session. Front zips are generally more user-friendly especially if this is your first suit, it takes a while to get used to grabbing the cord behind your back which is attached to the back zip, then pulling it up from behind.  There is also a little piece of velco that you need to stick down after pulling the cord up, to stop the cord and zip coming down while in the water. Good to know!