WYC Wetsuit Guide
- Wetsuits are required from November 1st to May 1st (during “Hazardous Weather” conditions).
- Wetsuits are required from September 15th through June 15th. These dates differ from the sailing wetsuit requirements as often you spend more time in the water while windsurfing!
Using a WYC Wetsuit
We recognize that buying a wetsuit may not be practical or feasible for folks — especially when first learning to sail. WYC has purchased wetsuits (in a variety of sizes) for members to use while sailing and windsurfing!
The club works to maintain these wetsuits to ensure this resource remains accessible for everyone. If you do use a WYC wetsuit (whether it be for a lesson or personal sail), please consider donating to the WYC Wetsuit Donation Fund. These donations will be used to repair and purchase additional wetsuits!
Buying a Wetsuit
When considering buying a wetsuit for sailing and/or windsurfing, there are a couple factors to consider when choosing the perfect wetsuit. For each factor, we have provided a short and long-form description of what to look for in a potential wetsuit.
Fit is the most important. There should be no airspace between your suit and your body, especially your torso, thighs, and shoulders.
A well-fitting suit should have no airspace between your body and the suit. However, you should not achieve this level of fit by buying a wetsuit that is too small for you. A suit that is too small will constrict your bloodflow and hamper your body’s ability to stay warm. A suit that is too large will allow cold water to enter and cool your body faster.
Ideally your suit should fit all over, however we’re all different shapes and sizes so the most important parts of your body to consider are:
- Torso and shoulders.
It is important for the suit to fit well in the torso, shoulders, and thighs because these areas of your body are responsible for warming your blood and keeping it warm. This means that a suit that fits excellently in the torso, shoulder, and thighs but too loosely in the calves is perfectly acceptable, though not ideal. More commonly you’ll find that it fits everywhere except your upper arms or forearms, which is okay.
It is normal for your wetsuit to be mildly difficult to enter. However if you cannot put it on without help from a friend or some lubricant, it is way too tight.
Thickness of the material, suit length (short, full, or bibs), and construction depends on the intended season of use and personal preference. Most common choices are:
- (Winter: November – May) Full-length, 5/3mm or 4/3mm with waterproof seams for the cold season
- (Fall & Spring: September-November and May to July) 3/2mm shortie, full or bibs with any seam type.
All of these factors depend on your intended season of use and your personal preference (as well as your tolerance to cold). First, here are some quick terms:
- 5/3mm means that the wetsuit is constructed with both 5mm and 3mm neoprene. The manufacturer puts the thicker material where less stretch and more warmth is needed, like the chest.
- Flatlock seams are not waterproof or as stretchy but quite durable and cheap.
- Glued and blindstitched (GBS) seams are waterproof and stretchy, but not as durable or cheap.
- Reinforced glued and blindstitched seams are waterproof, stretchy, durable, and more expensive.
- Fully glued seams (no stitching involved) are waterproof, super stretchy, durable, and really expensive.
Here’s the overview by season:
Winter (Nov 1 to May 1) wetsuits tend to be thicker, either 5/3 or 4/3mm in construction. They also tend to be full suits, meaning they cover everything except your head, neck, hands and feet. Some have built-in hoods. Some sailors like the combination of farmer johns/bibs with a spraytop (waterproof jacket with water-resistant or waterproof neck and wrist closures) instead of a full suit because they dislike how a full suit limits range of motion in the arms/shoulder. Farmer johns/bibs are sleeve-less full suits (they look like overalls). Any wetsuit with waterproof seams will be warmer than one without.
Fall/Spring (Sept 1 to Nov 1, May 1 to July 1) wetsuits tend to be thinner, either 3/2 or 2mm in construction. They also tend to be shorties, meaning no coverage on the calves or lower arms. Some sailors combine a neoprene top with waterproof pants instead of wearing a shortie. Some sailors with less cold tolerance combine a shortie with a spraytop for increased cold protection. Waterproof seams can increase comfort in shoulder season suits (especially if you have little tolerance for cold weather), but they are not usually necessary.
From this overview there are many options. Some sailors stick with the 5/3 suit from Sept 1 to July 1 and then cool off by capsizing. Many sailors who are quite cold tolerant find the spraytop combinations perfectly acceptable in winter. Some sailors think these people are nuts. Other sailors feel that drysuits are the only acceptable option in winter. The options are virtually limitless and we can’t possibly define all of them here, so talk to your fellow sailors to see what they use and enjoy.
Construction methods can greatly impact the effectiveness of a wetsuit. Wetsuits with waterproof seams (GBS, reinforced GBS, fully glued) will always be warmer than their flatlock seamed equivalents. Wetsuits with a minimal number of seams will always be stretchier than their many-seamed equivalents. However, reducing the number of seams also affects the shape of the wetsuit, and this could result in a poorly-fitting suit.
Durability and price. Sailing is hard on wetsuits and even a well-cared for wetsuit will suffer tears from deck hardware. Avoid ‘smoothskin’ neoprene in the lower body and look for reinforced knees, butt, and groin panels. Wear a windbreaker and some board shorts to increase warmth and protect your wetsuit. Neoprene cement can repair tears to a limited degree.
Expect to pay in the range of $200 – $300 for a well-made wetsuit, however you can typically find pretty good wetsuit discounts in August-October from major retailers. Price depends heavily on its thickness, length, and construction.
Features like pee zippers and entry gaskets should be considered last as they add to the price but not necessarily to the functionality.
Some wetsuits will tout features like built-in hoods, ‘waterproof’ or ‘semi-dry’ entry/exit closures, and pee zippers. While these are nice to have, they’re not absolutely necessary. If you’re buying on a budget or buying your first wetsuit, avoid expensive features–you’re only going to trash this one anyway.
Caring for your wetsuit is important if you want it to last:
- Rinse with cool water in the shower inside and out after each use.
- Hang to dry away from the sun on a thick clothes hanger (triple-up the cheapo ones if you can’t find a thick one).
- Store hung up in a cool, dry place. Avoid folding your wetsuit for storage.
- Clean every once and a while (or whenever it smells funky) with a wetsuit-specific cleaner like McNett Wetsuit Shampoo and Mirazyme.
- Repair tears or snags before your next session to avoid further damage.
- Swim in the pool with it; chlorine destroys wetsuits.
- Leave the wetsuit out in the sun on the beach.
Accessories such as booties, hoods, and gloves can boost warmth. Make sure to have these available if you plan to sail and/or windsurf during the winter!
Most people prefer to wear some kind of underwear to keep their suit a little cleaner. “Jammies” (Lycra shorts used for swimming) are nice for this because they don’t ride up or chafe. And yes, everyone pees in their wetsuit, unless it has a fly. While some manufacturers say it’s bad for your suit, when you gotta go, you gotta go.