Wetsuits are a must for surfing in Britain. Made of neoprene rubber, there are three main types used in Britain: summer suits, winter suits and all year round suits.
The main differences between the suits are the thickness of the neoprene and the type of stitching used.
Summer suits are usually made from 2 or 3 mm neoprene and are overlock or flatlock stitched.
These two types of stitching are strong but allow water to flow through the seams, losing body heat to the sea. They can be used from about June to October.
All year suits have 3 to 4 mm neoprene and either taped flatlock or blind stitched seams, both waterproof types of seam. Blind stitching makes the warmest seams, as the stitching doesn't go through the full thickness of the rubber. All year round suits are just that - a little warm in summer and a little chilly (when used with neoprene boots, gloves and hood) in winter.
Winter suits are a combination of 3, 4, 5 or 6 mm neoprene, blind stitching, waterproof zips and high necks. They can be used from December 'til May and are very warm. Neoprene boots, gloves and hood are used as the water temperature drops.
Variations of wetsuits like shorties (short arms and legs), spring suits (short legs) and vests etc. can be found for surfing in warmer waters abroad.
When buying a wetsuit make sure it fits snugly - there should be no baggy areas, and the arms and legs the correct length. For unusually shaped people, custom suits are available. Do try on suits from different manufacturers as similarly labeled sizes actually differ - there isn't, as yet, any 'standard' sizing for wetsuits.
A special lycra vest called a 'rash vest' can be worn under any wetsuit, which stops the wetsuit rubbing the skin into a rash (a wetsuit rub), usually under the arms or around the neck.