2023s Best Wetsuits for Surfing: 6 Wetsuits Reviewed

Daniel Lofaso

Wetsuits have come a long way since their origins in the 1950s. Born from war-related developments in petrochemicals, neoprene became a framework for increasing our time riding waves in the ocean.

Initially, brands such as O’Neill and Rip Curl stole the show with significant innovations driving us into the 2020s, where now a huge number of brands have entered the market. What many people don’t realize is that most of these wetsuits, regardless of the brand, are actually all made in the same factory in Taiwan, by the Sheico Group. But what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t exactly mean that all brands are the same.

Why You Should Trust This Wetsuit Review

We’ve taken the findings of a very credible longform wetsuit review from surf journalist Kale Brock to provide this analysis. Kale received six top-of-the-line wetsuits to review, and we’ll use that research to take a deep dive into what each brand is doing, who’s innovating, who’s being sustainable and ask if this come at a performance cost, and finally, who’s making the best suit, in my opinion. None of the brands have paid any money to be involved in the series, nor have they offered any incentives to give a good review. The wetsuits were tested in Victoria, on the Surf Coast, and in Cheetina, South Australia, in water temperatures ranging from 53-55°F (12 to 13°C).

One thing to note here is that the wetsuits provided by the respective brands are not all the same thickness, so there are obviously going to be areas where the warmth factor of a 4/3 is superior to that of a 3/2.

Models
Cost
Warmth
Flex
Fit
E7 FlashBomb Heatseeker, 3/2 mm, RipCurl

$500

5/5

5/5

5/5

Liquid Taped Thermal Chest Zip, 4/3 mm, needessentials

$260

5/5

3/5

3/5

Hyperfreak, 4/3 mm, Oneill

$360

5/5

4/5

3/5

Advantage Plus, 4/3mm, Hurley

$200

5/5

4/5

3/5

Highline Chest Zip, 4/3 mm, Quicksilver

$248

4/5

5/5

5/5

Furnace Chest Zip, 3/2 mm, Billabong

$419

5/5

4/5

5/5

Best Wetsuits for Surfing

Our pick for

Best 4/3 & Best overall

From $247.46

From $220 for Springsuit

Highline Chest Zip, 4/3 mm, Quiksilver

Cost

Warmth

Flex

Fit

Pros

Super lightweight

Very flexible and stretchy

Feels like a 3/2

Cons

Doesn’t have ultra heat factor

Chest zip tricky to get on

Summary: The Highline 4/3 felt like a 3/2. It was that light, and it was the only suit that didn’t have any leaks whatsoever for the first 3 or 4 sessions. I can see how perhaps in frigid temperatures this suit wouldn’t quite cut it as it didn’t bring that ultra heat like the O’neill, needessentials or Rip Curl, but it was definitely more than enough in the 53-55°F (12 to 13°C) water that I surfed in.

Our pick for

Best 3/2 wetsuit

E7 FlashBomb Heatseeker, 3/2, RipCurl

Cost

Warmth

Flex

Fit

Pros

Easy to get on

Incredibly soft rubber

Most flexible wetsuit tested

Cons

Most expensive wetsuit tested

Poor customer service if you have an issue

Summary: My first surf in the E7 Flashbomb Heatseeker was as pleasant as they come. This is the Mercedes of wetsuits at a whopping $599, and as such, its features would want to be pretty tidy, and it seems to deliver.

Our pick for

Best budget wetsuit

From $199.95 for the 3/2

Advantage Plus, 4/3mm, Hurley

Cost

Warmth

Flex

Fit

Pros

Best value for the price

Innovative neoprene structure

Cons

Not completely water-tight

Customer complaints over return policy

Summary: A point of difference with the Hurley wetties is they’ve structured the neoprene thickness differently to others. Three-millimeter arms, four millimeters chest back and upper leg, and five millimeters in the lower leg. And this is a reflection of scientific research suggesting heat loss was highest in the lower extremities.

Our pick for

Best Stab 2023 wetsuit

Furnace Chest Zip, 3/2mm, Billabong

Cost

Warmth

Flex

Fit

Pros

Best technology for warmth, Graphene Plus

Feels like a waterproof sweater

Cons

Stretch technology used seems to fade quickly

Longevity of materials is questionnable

Summary: Billabong have exclusive wetsuit use of a tech called Graphene Plus, which is infused into their nylon linings and is intended to create great warmth. It’s touted as the most heat-conductive material on the planet without the extra weight. What really impressed me, though, was the comfort. Initially putting it on rivaled the Quiksilver Highline experience. It felt stretchy and comfortable. However, even after caring for the suit diligently, I did find that this stretch and comfort didn’t quite persist. This wetsuit won Stab’s 2023 best wetsuit review (note this content is for Premium members).

Our pick for

Best cold water wetsuit

Hyperfreak, 4/3, O’neill

Cost

Warmth

Flex

Fit

Pros

Held up great in sub-50°F (10°C) water

Best option for cold-water surfing

Cons

Firewall loop around neck was restrictive

A touch bulky

Summary: The Hyperfreak was something I was really looking forward to in this series, and it didn’t disappoint. For a 4/3, it’s super flexible and yet still carries that meat to keep your torso and legs warm throughout the session. They have a graphene-infused inner liner for extra warmth and I must say the inside of the suit is particularly comfortable. I first wore this suit in the freezing wave pool in the middle of winter at about nine degrees, and I was totally fine.

Our pick for

Best cheap wetsuit

Liquid Taped Thermal Chest Zip, 4/3, needessentials

Cost

Warmth

Flex

Fit

Pros

Easily $200-$300 less than competitors

Quality product for the money

Exceptional warmth

Cons

Difficult to put on and remove

Stiffer than other wetsuits tested

Summary: The needessentials feels like a working man’s suit. It definitely brings a bit more weight to the table being a 4/3, but once on it fits really snugly and it doesn’t feel heavy at all. There’s really nothing to complain about with the suit. Warm, stretchy, as far as a 4/3 goes, and with all the regular bells and whistles. Interestingly, this is the only wet suit that I’ve ever worn as a large. So, make sure you do your sizing research when you’re buying one

What to look for when buying a new wetsuit for surfing.

Shopping for a new wetsuit to surf in can be an intimidating, yet fun, experience. Intimidating because there are lots of options, brands, and price points to consider. The fun part is getting the rubber in your hands, enjoying that new wetsuit smell (if you have a used wetsuit, you know what I’m talking about), and enjoying the warmth and flexibility of some neoprene.

That said, some of the most important factors surrounding a new wetsuit purchase are around cost, flexibility and warmth. These days, most wetsuits you purchase from major brands like the ones featured here will keep you warm. All of these wetsuits are flexible in their own right, it’s really only when you do a side-by-side comparison that you see the differences. For the common person though, you’ll be happy with any of the wetsuits recommended on this list. In terms of cost, everyone has a budget and there are wetsuit options for everyone at any price point.

Wetsuit brands on sustainability and durability

Neoprene has typically been pretty awful for the environment, but the industry is changing. In the last decade or so, most brands have shifted from petrochemical-based neoprene and foams to limestone neoprene.

A step up from limestone neoprene in an environmental sense would be Yulex, who famously teamed up with Patagonia (not tested) to pioneer the widespread use of natural rubber from rubber trees. Utilizing FSC certified processes, they produce a material that is close to matching the more traditional neoprene in terms of quality and performance.

Out of all the wetsuits tested in this project, needessentials are the only brand who offer a Yulex range. But every brand involved in this test emphasized how much of an important issue sustainability has become when it comes to producing suits, and all are taking advantage of improved sustainability practices, either in-house or at Sheico.

Recycled rubber, water-based glues, better dyeing techniques, and more, these are all consumer-demanded innovations that each brand has adopted in 2022, and I’m sure there’s going to be more improvements in this space into the future. But it may not just be about better raw materials. And some believe the most eco wetsuit you can develop is the one that lasts the longest.

Wetsuit brand representatives on wetsuit sustainability and durability:

Cameron Lamperd, Product development; O’neill: “We talked about the performance side to it and the amount of stretch and improvements that have happened there. You know, in many ways some of that has come at the cost of durability. So I’d like to think, you know, in the future we can improve the environmental effects of the wetsuit by increasing the actual durability of the suits as well.”

Adam Brissenden, Wetsuit Overload, Rip Curl: “I mean, realistically, we could make a wetsuit that stretched and was way lighter than what we’ve got in the market currently. That would feel amazing, awesome to wear and feel like you’re wearing nothing, but that would not last. Durability is a key, a key thing, a filter for us to do when we’re considering making a product and taking it to market. Ideally, our entire range of wetsuits would be made from sustainable materials or made with sustainability in mind and be even better than what they are now. That to me is my ultimate goal for wetsuits.”

Wetsuit buying FAQ

What thickness wetsuit is best for surfing?

The thickness of your surfing wetsuit depends on the temperate of the water you are surfing in and your inherent tolerance for cold. As a general rule of thumb, a 3/2mm wetsuit (full suit) is suitable for water temperatures 60°F-65°F, while a 4/3mm wetsuit may be more appropriate for water temperatures in the 55°F-60°F range.

What is the easiest surf wetsuit to get on and off?

According to our surfing wetsuits review, the easiest wetsuit to get on and off is the E7 FlashBomb Heatseeker by RipCurl.


Should I get a 3/2 or 4/3 wetsuit for Southern California?

Most surfers in Southern California wear 3/2 mm wetsuits year round. However, during exceptionally cold snaps the water temps can veer below 60°F, making the case for a 4/3 mm wetsuit. Avid surfers will have multiple wetsuits in their collection to prepare for different seasons and therefore changing water temperatures.

What’s the difference between a scuba wetsuit and surf wetsuit?

Diving wetsuits utilize compression-resistant neoprene that maintains its warmth when diving. Surfing wetsuits do not feature this technology and therefore will compress during dives, resulting in a thinner wetsuit underwater and thus, less protection from the cold. In short, surfing wetsuits are not recommended for diving because they are not designed to keep the body warm the same wave a diving wetsuit is. At the same time, a diving wetsuit is not recommended for surfing because diving wetsuits do not feature the flexibility components of a surfing wetsuit.

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