Wetsuits come in a variety of different sizes, shapes and materials. For the novice, selecting the right one can be a bit over whelming. This short "How-To" guide will help you select the wetsuit that is right for you.
The main function of the wetsuit is to obviously keep you warm. It accomplishes this by allowing a small amount of water in that your body heats up. That small amount of water is then trapped between the wetsuit and your body providing you with a layer of warms while in the coldest waters.
There is a wide variety of styles to choose from but the most common are the full and spring suits. These come in a few different thicknesses (discussed below).
The construction that goes into wetsuits tries to get the perfect blend of warmth and flexibility. Thicker materials add warmth but decrease flexibilty. Getting just the right balance of both has become both an art form and a science which even industry leaders are still working to master. New and improved inovations are being put out every year with ever evolving technology with the promise of the perfect blend.
Keeping your core warm is most important and there is the least amount of movement with this part of your body, compared to your legs and arms. This being said, the thicker materials are placed in the areas that cover your core while thinner material would be placed on the shoulders, arms and legs to maximize flexibility and movement. For example, if you were trying on a 3/2 wetsuit. The material around the core would be 3mm thick and the shoulders, arms and legs would have material that is only 2mm thick. The same can be said for all wetsuts. The range in thickness are usually 1-6mm. The different thicknesses are shown in the type of wetsuite, 5/4, 4/3, 3/2 and so on.
These diffent panels are held together through a variation of tape, glue and different stitching techniques that result in a powerful, water tight connection between all of the panels. The end result creates a very strong and watertight seal between the panels that both traps the warm water in and keeps the cold water out.
The wetsuit should fit snug against your body. If it is too loose than too much water will be allowed in and the warm water that your body heats up will escape leaving you frigged and miserable. If the suit is too tight, not enough water will be able to get in for your body to heat up and your flexibility will also decrease. The suit should fit snug against your entire body but still be flexable enough for you to be able to comfortably paddle, pop-up, and manuver on the board. As well as comfortably stransfer between those positions.
The charts below (Courtesy of Body Glove) will help you decide on the best wetsuit for you based on your size.