Wet suits are generally made of neoprene and come in a variety of styles. Here are some of the most common.
Rash Guards and ‘Shirts’ – The purpose of rash guards is to keep your wetsuit from giving you a rash! They are made of two sheets of spandex like material so that the material slides easily against itself, and not your skin. Rash guards are also often used by themselves for wind protection. There are similar products made of neoprene and combinations of neoprene and rash guard material that do a good job of protecting you from the wind.
Farmer John – These wetsuits consist of short legs and a ‘tank top’ upper portion. They protect you from cold water a little but are not made to protect you from very cold water or air conditions. They are the most comfortable of all the wetsuit options (except for a basic rash guard or shirt).
Spring Suit – These are exactly like the Farmer Johns except they have short sleeves and hence keep you a little warmer. These are very common with skimboarders because they provide a maximum amount of protection while keeping you agile.
Full Suit – These are generally not used in skimboarding due to the fact that they are very constraining. They are full body (long legs and full sleeves) and come in a variety of styles and thicknesses. Full suits are only used in skimboarding when it is really cold.
Other Things You Should Know
1. Due to the fact that skimboarding takes place near the sand, a lot of sand gets caught inside the wetsuit. This makes wetsuits very uncomfortable for skimboarding so generally people only use them when they have to.
2. Newer wetsuits have zipper-less entry systems. Because there is no zipper in the back, the wetsuit is more flexible and hence more comfortable. Unfortunately these wetsuits are also more expensive and due to the fact that more flexible neoprene is needed for these types of wetsuits, they do not last as long.
3. Thickness matters. Thickness is generally measured in millimeters. For a full suit, 3/2 is common. This means it is 3mm thick in the body and 2mm in the arms and legs. For spring suits 2mm is pretty standard. Just keep in mind that thicker is warmer, but also less flexible and more uncomfortable.
Where do I get one? – I recommend going to your local surf shop. The sales representatives can help you pick out a suit that is best suited to the conditions you will be subjected to. Some reputable manufacturers are Billabong, O’Neill and Ripcurl, although other brands may be just as good, for a lower price. then again, they may not.