How to Put On a Wetsuit Properly?

How to put on a wetsuit comfortably and without a lot of hassle

Oh, the struggles I have had with this. If I go back and think of my early paddling and surfing days, I’d say the hardest part wasn’t the falling off of my paddle board 100 times a day but the actual getting into my wetsuit.

It was indeed the most exhausting part of the paddling, but as time passed, I came to discover some of the ways that make squeezing into a wetsuit a breeze.

So, my fellow paddlers, read on and ease up this tiring part.

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How to Put On a Wetsuit?

Before I go on and tell you about my personal experience of making sliding into a wetsuit easy, let’s talk about some of the things that may contribute to your hard-to-put-on wetsuit. It may not always be the technique because sometimes it may happen that your wetsuit is simply too tight.

For instance, if you feel that your wetsuit restricts breathing or blood flow in some parts, then it is too small, and you need a larger size. Or, if it squeezes you uncomfortably around the neck, then it’s definitely too small and should not be used.

Don’t think that your wetsuit will conform in time. It is made NOT to adapt because it has to stay in the same shape from your first wear to the last. The neoprene rubber is made to be flexible but up to a point. So, if your suit is stretched so tightly that the material no longer conforms to your body, then you need to increase the size by one or two numbers.

The thing is, wetsuits are made to stop water from circulating to make you feel warm. So, if a wetsuit is stretched so tight, it no longer conforms to the small of your back and leaves a hollow. By doing so, it will allow water to circulate inside the suit and defeat the ability of the suit to keep you warm.

But how do you know if your wetsuit fits you well? Surely, putting it on can tell you if it’s too small or too large, but there are other nuances to pay attention to. And when shopping for a wetsuit, the fit is the one thing you want to get right without any compromises.

So, with that said, let’s talk about…

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How to Put On a Wetsuit: Wetsuit sizing and fit

Whenever you look for wetsuits, keep in mind is that sizing may vary from brand to brand. So, even though you could be looking at a size chart and reading it correctly, there still might be some room for error.

Let’s start with the basics first.

How to Read a Wetsuit Size Chart

First, you start with the two most important references. The height and the weight. Then you have the chest dimensions, which also need to be fitted correctly so that the wetsuit doesn’t press you or fits loosely too much.

If you get the chest size wrong, you might have a tough time getting into the wetsuit, or it could feel very constricting in the arms, which will not be ideal for paddling.

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So, How Should My Wetsuit Fit?

It can sometimes happen that you are outside of the size chart for a particular wetsuit, yet you find that it suits you well at first. However, I suggest finding one that falls within your measurements. This way, you are sure you are picking the right one for you.

That’s why when choosing a wetsuit, find one that fits snugly. Almost like a second skin. But your range of motion shouldn’t be limited so you can move easily in the water. Otherwise, you will get tired quickly.

The sleeves (if full-length) should fall at the wrist bone and the legs just above the ankle bone, and there should be no gaps, pockets, or rolls of neoprene. It is important to understand that after a wetsuit gets wet, it will loosen up and feel more comfortable. After a few sessions, neoprene will develop “memory” and conform to your body even better.

Don’t worry about the extra neoprene in the armpit of your wetsuit. Companies put extra material there to prevent fatigue and increase range of motion since 90% of surfing is paddling.

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How to Put On a Wetsuit: What If I Pick The Wrong Size?

If you have a poorly-fitted wetsuit and it is too small, you will find your movement restricted, and you will not be as comfortable as you should be.

In this case, if you are not wearing anything below your wetsuit, and here you can see why I recommend wearing undergarments (read my article “What to Wear Under a Wetsuit“), then a suit too small will start rubbing against your skin and chafing.

Plus, when you are putting on a wetsuit that’s too tight, then you are creating a lot of stress on the internal seams causing them to leak and break down faster and the neoprene to thin out.

On the other hand, if your wetsuit is too big, then you will have it easy when going in, but the whole water leakage system won’t work correctly. Instead of letting a little bit of water inside and not flushing it out in order to warm you up, it will constantly be flushing out the warm water and letting new cold water in. That would be as if you aren’t wearing any suit at all.

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How to Put On a Wetsuit: What If I am Between Sizes?

This is where some people get stuck and don’t know what to do.

The best thing to do in this situation is to try on both sizes and see which one gives you the most range of motion without being too loose. Go by height and weight as the most important measurements, and then see where you are with the chest measurements.

If you go with the looser one, keep in mind that wetsuits tend to loosen up a bit when in water, so make sure you aren’t going with one that’s too big because you’ll have the problem with the water I mentioned earlier.

And if you are going with the tighter wetsuit, then consider your weight fluctuations and that it will be quite challenging to get into, especially if you aren’t very flexible in the upper body or you have bad shoulders.

One other thing to mention before I tell you all about getting into your wetsuit easily is…

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How The Wetsuit Fit Affects Flexibility, Warmth, and Durability

Flexibility means a range of motion. So, when choosing a tighter one, your wetsuit will be shorter than it should be in the torso or uncomfortable in your chest and will have shorter sleeves so your arm movement will be significantly decreased.

The durability also depends on the right fit. For instance, if you pick your suit to be too snug, almost small when you are putting it on, you will stretch the seams and wear them off due to the extra stress.

The warmth of your wetsuit also matters when it comes to the right size and fit. If your wetsuit is too big, then you will be getting flushed with fresh water all the time, and it’s the last thing you want when paddling in cold waters.

A loose wetsuit will allow water in at the ankles, wrist, and around your neck, which could easily make you cold and force you to end your water activities too early.

With that said, if you are sure your suit fits perfectly, let me tell you all the ways in which I’ve made my suit be comfortable to put on.

A handy instruction video of how to put your wetsuit on

5 easy ways to put your wetsuit on

Read on, and thank me later!

  1. The inside-out trick: After you turn your wetsuit inside out wholly, start putting it on by putting one foot through the ankle. Then, roll the suit up your leg and then put on the other leg the same way. Continue on to the torso and the arms at last.
  2. Water the suit first: Go into the water with your suit and put it on there while allowing the water to get between your skin and the suit. This will allow for a more effortless slip-on.
  3. The plastic bag: This has to be my favorite one! Take a standard grocery bag and place it around your foot. Then slide it into your wetsuit and pull the bag out. Repeat with both legs and arms.
  4. Get some dive skin on: Well, if nothing helps getting some outside help isn’t wrong. A dive skin is great as an undergarment for the wetsuit because it won’t only make it easier for you to slip into your suit, but it also protects you from jellyfish and coral.
  5. Water-based lubricant to the rescue! Any water-based lubricant will help you slide into your wetsuit like a breeze. Use a lubricant on your tightest parts of your body when sliding into it.
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However, when speaking of lubricants, here’s something you should NEVER use:

  • Oil-based lubricants: Oil won’t only make it hard for you to slide into your wetsuit, but will also damage the neoprene material in time.
  • Soaps or shampoos: Soap, detergents, shampoos or conditioners as lubricants are one of the worst ideas you can think of.

    They will stay onto your skin and will irritate it while you are in the wetsuit. Plus, they will leak into the water, and surely you don’t want to pollute the water you are paddling or surfing in! So I strongly advise against the use of these!

    Conditioners and shampoos leave residue on the neoprene and damage it over time by making it too stiff and cracking.

    Only use special shampoo for washing your wetsuit. Read more on how to wash a wetsuit.

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Review written by: Tom

Hi! My name is Tom. During the year I try to be on a paddle board as much as possible. By reading this blog you'll stay updated on everything I test on the water :)