November 18th, 2011 | By | 3,154 Comments

How to Choose a Wetsuit – 2011 Wetsuit Buyer’s Guide

Shopping for a wetsuit is a lot like shopping for a car. Different cars will be best for different folks. So with that in mind, Like a car finding the “BEST” wetsuit is very subjective and ultimately up to you. Fortunately enough there are a lot of great wetsuits out there so it is hard to go wrong. Wetsuits have progressed a lot from their beaver tail days and finding the right suit is easier than you think.

Most companies come with three or four different levels of suits. You’ll get your high end or Ferrari-Lambo type suits, your midrange or SUV-luxury sedan type suits, and then your entry level or economy type wetsuits. Choosing the right one for you will depend on several factors, which I’ll try to explain below.

Entry level wetsuits: ($150 – $250)

New drivers might drive better (or faster) in a brand new luxury racecar, but it’s often best to start them off in an entry level vehicle. Much like cars, entry level wetsuits are better for those who are either new to the sport or looking for the most economic option. While these suits will not offer the same flexibility, comfort, or performance as the top of the line models, they will get the job done and give the user an idea of the fit and of the other features they’ll want in a future wetsuit.

Here are some examples of the entry level suits:

Billabong Foil Series:
For the price this wetsuit is a steal. Features super stretch throughout, glued and blind-stitched seams and comes in a chest zip option

Click Here To View Billabong’s Foil Line
Click Here to View All Billabong Wetsuits

Rip Curl Dawn Patrol Series:
Good entry level suits at a good price. Reliable and affordable.

Click Here To View Rip Curl’s Dawn Patrol Line
Click Here to View All Rip Curl Wetsuits

Quicksilver Synchro Series:
Good, solid suits. Durable and comfortable.

Click Here To View Quiksilvers’s Syncro Line
Click Here to View All Quiksilver Wetsuits

Xcel SLX Series:
XCEL is known for being extra stretchy. Their entry suits are no exception.

Click Here To View Xcel’s SLX Line
Click Here to View All Xcel Wetsuits


Mid-Range Suits: ($250- $350)

If you want to get a little more serious about surfing or just want a more comfortable option then go with a mid-range suit. A mid ranger will let you stay in the water longer and will offer solid performance session after session. These are still easy on the wallet and often offer some key features of the higher end models.

At the higher end of this spectrum you might notice “Comp” or “Pro” used in the suit’s name. This usually means the suit is geared towards higher performance over warmth. The upper body is often stretchier in these suits, which is great for performance surfing, but it will be slightly less warm for extended cold water sessions.

Here are some great mid-range options below:

Billabong SG5 Series:
The SUV of Wetsuits. It will perform well, keep you warm, and last for a long time.

Click Here To View Billabong’s SG5 Line
Click Here to View All Billabong Wetsuits

Billabong Revolution Series
Stretchier in the underarms, it’s a great performance suit at a reasonable price.

Click Here To View Billabong’s Revolution Line
Click Here to View All Billabong Wetsuits

Rip Curl E-bomb and E-Bomb Pro:
These are reliable suits that offer solid performance session after session. Great combo of stretch warmth and comfort.

Click Here To View Rip Curl’s E-Bomb Line
Click Here to View All Rip Curl Wetsuits

Quiksilver Ignite:
Another solid wetsuit at a great price point, the Ignite will get the job done without setting you back a ton.

Click Here To View Quiksilver’s Ignite Line
Click Here to View All Quiksilver Wetsuits

Xcel XZIP and XZIP2 Comp:
Soft, stretchy neoprene with solid performance and warmth. Always a great choice.

Click Here To View Xcel’s XZIP Line
Click Here to View All Xcel Wetsuits

Quiksilver Cypher:
This suit is on the higher end of the spectrum leaning towards the higher end models. Coming in Kelly’s signature colorway this suit is buttery soft and will offer exceptional performance, warmth and comfort.

Click Here To View Quiksilver’s Cypher Wetsuit
Click Here to View All Quiksilver Wetsuits

Top of the Line Suits: ($400+)

If you’ve been surfing for a while and haven’t tried out a top notch suit, then you’re blowing it. With the technology that’s out there, why not treat yourself to a premium suit that will keep you warm and deliver maximum performance and comfort. Even though the price tag might be intimidating, the satisfaction you’ll get from a good suit will be worth every penny.

Now which one should you get? Again, it’s really up to personal preference. After trying on all the suits this year, even our wetsuit model agreed that all of the top suits are super legit and comfortable. With that said, you can’t go wrong with any of the suits listed below:

Here are some of the top wetsuits:

Billabong SG Xero:
My personal favorite. It’s warm, super stretchy and insanely comfortable. The buttery soft neoprene makes wearing the wetsuit pleasant and enjoyable. This suit offers more warmth than the SGX, but is still plenty flexible and performance oriented.

Click Here To View Billabong’s Xero Line
Click Here to View All Billabong Wetsuits

Billabong SGX:
If you are looking for performance above all else this is the suit. It will disappear and feel like a second skin. While not as warm as the SXG Xero this suit will offer great protection from the elements and deliver maximum performance to take your surfing to the next level.

Click Here To View Billabong’s SGX suit
Click Here to View All Billabong Wetsuits

XCEL Drylock:
The Drylock won the coveted wetsuit of the year award 3x (out of 4!) from the Surf Industry Manufacturer’s Association. This year it’s back with a newer more silky smooth neoprene blend. With that said, you can’t go wrong with this teched out suit. For more info check out this video highlighting all the features here: 

Click Here To View Xcel’s Drylock line
Click Here to View All Xcel Wetsuits

Matuse TUMO:
Matuse has gained a cult following for it’s luxurious, Geoprene based wetsuits. They are super lightweight, warm, and 98% water impermeable.  Wear a 4/3/2 as you would a 3/2 and get the same stretch but added warmth from the 4 mil chest plate. The suits boast superior insulation, flexibility, durability and comfort.

Click Here To View Matuse’s Tumo line
Click Here to View All Matuse Wetsuits

Rip Curl Flash Dry
This is the fastest drying wetsuit out there. Rip Curl took their legit and widely regarded F-Bomb series and added a Flash dry inner lining. The result is a super soft, extra flexible suit that will dry quicker than any suit you’ve ever owned. This suit is sick. For a closer look at this Flash dry suit check out the video here:

Click Here To View Rip Curl’s Flash Dry line
Click Here to View All Rip Curl Wetsuits

O’neill Psychofreak
Our guinness book record holder Bill Laity’s personal favorite, the Psychofreak is the only other winner of the SIMA wetsuit of the year award. If you are looking to battle the cold above all else this suit is it. Created in the frigid waters of Santa Cruz, this suit offers superior warmth and enhanced flexibility (200%+ stretch factor). “The warmest wetsuit I’ve ever worn!” – Jordy Smith.

Click Here To View O’Neill’s Psychofreak
Click Here to View All O’Neill Wetsuits


Key Features to Check:

Seams – Anywhere there’s a seam on a wetsuit there’s a potential place for cold water to get in. To maximize warmth w/o losing stretch, several innovations have been created to effectively lock out water at the seams. With so many new seam technologies out there, it’s hard to say which is the best, but the one type of seam construction you should always avoid is flatlock stitching. This is where two pieces of neoprene are straight sewn together.

You might hear that your seams are “Glued and blindstitched.” This is when the two pieces of neoprene are glued together and then sewn in a fashion that the needle only goes through the top layer of the materials. As opposed to flatlock sitched seams, GBS seams do not have the needle poke holes all the way through the neoprene and thus keeps water from seeping in. This feature is starting to become the standard even on entry level wetsuits. Additionally welded / sealed seams or seam taping are sometimes added to offer more durability and increased warmth.

Stitchless suits are starting to appear in the higher end models that use tough pressure bonded glue to hold the neoprene together. These are super stretchy and give you a suit w/o holes in the neoprene. Again it’s up to personal preference, but this is another solid option. If you are very hairy bloke, might want to go with taped seams as the glue can become a little sticky if you forget to rinse out your suit. This is minor, but something to keep in mind.

Back Zip vs. Front/Chest Zip – Most high-end suits are heading towards the chest zip for the obvious comfort enhancing reasons listed below. But that doesn’t mean back zips have disappeared entirely. There are still many die hard back zip traditionalists out there who continue to prefer this wetsuit design. Below are some pros and cons of each.

  • Back zip wetsuits: Pros: Very easy to get in and out. Traditional design familiar with an older crowd. Adjustability at the neck. Cons: Long zipper at back inhibits stretch and can let water pass through. Two overlapping pieces of neoprene at neck can often cause rashes. Velcro at neck can deteriorate and again cause rashes.
  • Chest Zip Wetsuits: Pros: Single piece of neoprene around neck means less rashes. Enhanced comfort down back and other key points of movement. Less flushing through a long zipper. Easy to unzip since zipper is in your line of sight. No reaching over your shoulder to unzip when arms are tired. Cons: Some can be difficult to take off solo. No extra adjustability at neck opening.

Got any other questions about wetsuits? Leave us a comment below and we’ll help you find the best suit for you.

Thank you for visiting the Swell blog. Visit us on for more exclusive fan offers, giveaways and more.
Posted by | See more posts from | About the author