If you do a quick search online you can find countless articles on wetsuits and the different types that you can buy. While this information is useful and we would recommend giving them a read through; it can be overwhelming with the choices available.
To save you time we have condensed this information down to specific things you need to know about getting a wetsuit to surf in Scotland.
When To Buy a Wetsuit
In the consumer oriented world, surfing seems like a breakaway and a chance to get back to nature and escape the daily grind. It is therefore a tough pill to swallow to realise just how expensive a hobby it can become and how much money you need to have just to get started.
While it is true that surfing gear can be pricey, you absolutely do not need to be forking out hundreds of pounds straight out the gate. There are many surf schools all around the country that hire wetsuits all year round which are a great option for trying out surfing before committing to the big purchases.
Having said that, as your surfing journey continues the appeal of owning your own gear and having the freedom to head out at the drop of the hat means that you may justifiably want to buy your own wetsuit. Below is our handy guide of how to go about doing this.
Buying New vs. Buying Second Hand
You may have read a lot in the news about how much petrochemicals are used in the production of surfing gear and you may be conscious of not adding to the problem. The answer to this is to buy second hand if you can. Shops and surf schools will often announce second hand sales on their websites and social media so keep an eye out. Indeed Coast to Coast has two annual second hand sales – quality exhire wetsuits at a bargain price normally in June and September.
Even damaged wetsuits can get a second lease of life with repair kits available and handy tutorials online, so no need to be put off by a wetsuit with a few scrapes. Many wetsuits manufacturers also offer repair services for a fee meaning even serious repair work can be carried out to save an old suit.
There are also some great material alternatives in the market which are more sustainable that the current neoprene available and we will do future posts on the most environmentally friendly wetsuits. There are many resources out there available on looking into the pros and cons of these materials.
If you have not bought a wetsuit before we would strongly recommend trying on a wetsuit before purchasing. This can be a huge advantage of buying a wetsuit through a local surf school as they will have the best wetsuits for the area and usually facilities for you to try on.
Buying through a surf centre also means you can give the wetsuit a spin out in the water on a hire before committing to a purchase.
You may have seen a thickness rating on wetsuits as a series of numbers either written as two decreasing numbers (X/Ymm) or three decreasing numbers (X/Y/Zmm). These numbers denote the thickness of the wetsuit starting at the core and moving out to the extremities.
The thickness of your wetsuit depends on water temperature and personal choice. What you gain in thermal comfort you lose in flexibility and vice versa. Below is the wetsuit thickness guide and our recommendation for surfing off the coast of East Lothian.
Wetsuit Thickness Guide
1-2mm Shorty 3-2mm
Water temperatures in East Lothian change on average from a low of 6 degrees in February, to a high of 18 degrees in August. Meaning if you followed the charts you could end up buying 4 different wetsuits for each season.
Instead, this is what we would recommend:
- Spring/Summer/Autumn – A 5/4mm wetsuit. This will be slightly thicker than needed in the height of summer but not uncomfortable. This is the thickness of wetsuits we use at the school and it works well year round.
- Winter – A 6/5mm wetsuit. For an experienced surfer that is comfortable in the elements at its coldest.
This means you can buy one wetsuit for year round 5mm, or ideally two wetsuits for year round use locally. We would say there is a bit of trial and error in choosing a thickness, everyone has their own preference.
It’s worth also knowing that the best wetsuits are blind stitched, taped and glued and the super warm wetsuits have aerocore (insulation) inside the wetsuits and titanium paneling for warmth. Japanese rubber also tends to be the most flexible and there are genuine natural rubber choices for new wetsuits not far away from the general market. But this detail is best left for future posts….
If you are unsure and buying just now, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Coast to Coast for help.