How Tight Should a Wetsuit be?

Using a wetsuit for surfing is a common occurrence for a large number of surfers around the world.

Knowing the precise size of your wetsuit is a critical aspect when it comes to purchasing it. A large part of that is the tightness and overall fit. 

Neoprene wetsuits should be tight enough to prevent water from entering while still allowing you to move freely. Take into account the ankles and cuffs as well as the neckline. However, don’t make it too tight that it becomes unpleasant or restrictive for your breathing, as we’ll discuss below.

how tight should a wetsuit be

Surf Wetsuits Should be Snug

When you’re trying on a wetsuit, you should immediately get a sense for how it feels. If the garment feels in any way too constricting at any of the crucial points, especially around the neck, that’s an indication that it’s a poor fit.

This is something to be avoided. Increase the size and see how the suit feels. This is why we strongly encourage you to try on wetsuits in a bricks-and-mortar surf shop as opposed to buying one online.

Even if you have owned a wetsuit before and know your size, it’s important to remember that different brands offer different fits. A medium-tall in one brand might be a medium-large in another.

Trying a wetsuit on in-store gives you the option to try on many different sizes across different brands to find the best wetsuit for you. You’ll also be able to leverage the advice of a store employee.

In most cases they’ll be able to do the necessary checks around whether the suit is too tight or too loose or at worst refer to a wetsuit size guide.

If moving your arms up and down is making you feel anxious or restrictive other areas of your body, your surfing wetsuit is most likely too small.

Why a Looser Wetsuit is Preferable

I once recall purchasing a wetsuit from a surf store owner that was too small for me. I tried and tried to make it work but it was just far too tight.

It’s beneficial to have a wetsuit that is somewhat baggy rather than one that is too tight. A baggy one allows you to layer up beneath it and utilize thermal tops, rash vests, and so on to compensate for the extra space.

But a wetsuit that is too tight will not stretch enough to be comfortable in the long run. Don’t attempt it and, if you do, you’ll probably stretch it out of shape, making it unsuitable for you.

Wetsuits do loosen up over time, but not by a huge margin. This is due to their frequent reinforcements, which include some form of glue or taping to keep them tight.

fitting a wetsuit

Wetsuits that are Difficult to put on

If putting on your wetsuit is difficult and uncomfortable, and it just doesn’t feel right, you’ve most likely got a wetsuit that is too small. If it’s more of a pain than anything else, this is typical and probably what we all feel.

Equally, removing a wetsuit shouldn’t be too difficult either. You should be able to remove your wetsuit on your own or put it on by yourself.

As a result, the golden rule is that if you have trouble putting on or removing your wetsuit alone and require assistance, the suit is too tight.

Wetsuits have greatly improved in recent years and are considerably easier to put on and take off, but keep this in mind when selecting a wetsuit and it will assist you in determining which one to purchase.

If Your Wetsuit’s Cuffs, Ankles, or Neck are Loose, it’s too Big.

A wetsuit, on the other hand, is far too large to keep you warm if you can easily insert your little finger through the cuffs, ankles, or neck at any moment.

If you can easily slide your little finger through, the water will flow freely and quickly flush through your wetsuit, leaving you cold.

Except perhaps for at the rear of the neck on a back zip wetsuit, where a little gap is acceptable in less expensive suits, these parts of a wetsuit should not be flapping free.

There may be a tiny gap around the back of the neck, which is unavoidable. Don’t worry about it; especially when wearing a back-zip wetsuit.

This is one of the reasons I recommend chest zip wetsuits since they don’t have that same gap. If you can afford it, go for them, but a back zip wetsuit will be sufficient for most individuals while learning to swim.

Rather, the correct wetsuit should adhere to your skin all around without feeling like there’s any pressure or constriction.

walking to the surf

How to Break in a Wetsuit

The only way to properly break in a wetsuit is by swimming or surfing with it in the ocean.

Don’t treat a wetsuit like a swimsuit. This is because when you wear one, it takes on a lot of water and stretches somewhat, but feels quite different when used. There’s nothing you can really do to break in a wetsuit on land other than putting it on wet and moving about in it!

Keep in mind that once your wetsuit is wet, it is no longer admissible. Your consumer right to return the item for an exchange or refund is lost.

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