What is a summer wetsuit?
We all know the best summer wetsuits are no wetsuits at all, and surfing your boardshorts. Unfortunately, we are not all lucky enough to live in Bali. Summer wetsuits are wetsuits used during summer. A wetsuit qualifies as a summer wetsuit when the neoprene thickness is 3mm or below. Ranging from a commonly used 3/2 mm full suit to a 2/2 shortarm, a 2/2 shorty and everything in between. The main goal of a summer wetsuit is to give you just enough thermal protection without overheating. A wetsuit’s goal is to be as thin and flexible as possible. It protects you against wind and harmful UV rays from the sun at the same time.
Summer wetsuit types
Full suit, shortarm, long john or shorty, what is your favourite summer wetsuit type? The difference between different summer wetsuits is huge. You should choose the right wetsuit style depending on the water and air temperatures you would like to surf in.
The warmest type you could go for is a 3/2 mm full suit with sealed outside and inside seams, single lined chest, and back for added windchill protection. Look for plush quickdry lining on the chest and back for extra insulation. Depending on your location, a wetsuit like this can be used when the water is still warming up. Perfect for late spring with water temperatures between 15~20°C, or in colder climates where the water doesn’t get much warmer than 15~20°C all summer. The warmer the climate, the less warm a wetsuit needs to be. So you can choose a double lined chest over a single lined chest, glued and blind stitched seams instead of sealed seams and a wetsuit without quickdry plush lining. Try to avoid flatlock seams in any fullsuit, as flatlock seams are not watertight and will make you get cold easily.
2/2mm full suit
A less common summer wetsuit type is a 2/2 mm full suit. This is the thinnest full suit available and mostly worn for sun protection rather than keeping you warm. They come in both glued and blind stitched (GBS) seams or non-waterproof flatlock seams.
Shortarm vs shorty-longleg wetsuits
When the water temperature rises to around 18~25°C in the European summer, you can start considering using a shortarm wetsuit or shorty with long arms. Both wetsuits types are often available in both GBS or flatlock seam constructions. A shortarm wetsuit works especially well when the water is still a bit cold, but the air temperature is warm. It will keep your legs warm while gaining extra mobility in the arms when paddling because of the short arm sleeves. A shorty-longarm does the opposite: It keeps your body and arms warm when the air is cold while the water is still warm by the end of summer. Both shortarm and longarm shorties mostly have 2 mm neoprene thickness in all panels.
Shorties are shortarm and short leg wetsuits. Shorties are mainly available in non-waterproof flatlock seam construction. Shorties are only worn when the water and air temperatures are above 20°C. They give a bit of protection against the cold, but don’t expect much as the seams are not watertight and the neoprene is only 2mm thin. Shorties are the most affordable wetsuit type available.
Other neoprene wetsuit items can be considered to use in summer such as a longjohn, a long leg wetsuit with no sleeves and a low collar, usually available with a shoulder closure instead of a zip. Longjohns are mainly used for stand up paddling and are hardly used for surfing. A 2mm neoprene top combined with boardshorts can be used to keep your core warm but keep that boardshorts feeling. If your main concern is UV protection and not warmth, you can consider using a rash vest or lycra top. They usually have a UPF 50+ rating to protect you from sunburn without using sunscreen on your body. Neoprene reef booties can be used to protect your feet when surfing on reefs or rocks. Reef boots protect your feet when paddling out or wiping out.
Warmth vs. stretch vs. UV protection
Summer wetsuits can be arranged in different categories: warmth, stretch, and UV protection. Most summer wetsuits have panels between 3 and 2mm neoprene thickness. If you go for a summer wetsuit that focuses on warmth, you can start wearing a summer wetsuit earlier in the season. This means a more flexible, high-performance wetsuit when the water is still a bit chilly. This will increase mobility while surfing without getting cold. A warm summer wetsuit usually features GBS and sealed seams, single lined chest and back and quickdry plush inside lining. Make sure you choose a high-end wetsuit with high-quality neoprene foam and lining to ensure a flexible unrestrictive wetsuit.
Double lined GBS flexibility
If you find flexibility, stretch and easy paddling more important than warmth because the water is warm enough anyway, you can consider a summer wetsuit that is made for flexibility. Make sure high-quality double lined neoprene foam and glued and blind stitched (GBS) seams are used. A wetsuit without quickdry lining could be slightly more flexible in these areas.
Flatlock stitched wetsuits don’t have waterproof seams and can only be used in warm water. Neoprene items or rash vests with flatlock seams are usually more affordable than glued and blind stitched wetsuits. Flatlock items are shorties or full suits without any high-end features or fancy seams. These suits are worn to protect you from the elements, but mainly from the sun, as they don’t provide much insulation. Note that any neoprene product has UV protection, so a full suit will protect you better against the sun than a shorty.