Getting in and out of wetsuits is never a particularly fun exercise for scuba divers. Finding the right wetsuit can be time consuming at the least and dive boats are regularly filled with divers wiggling around in an unflattering dance to try stretch their suit over every limb. So how should a wetsuit fit?
If a wetsuit is too tight, it can make for an uncomfortable experience underwater, preventing you from enjoying your dive and may even make you panic. But if it’s too big with gaping areas across the body, it will leak during your dive and won’t trap a warm layer against your skin, potentially making you cold underwater.
We’ve taken the guess work out of the process to bring you this guide on how a wetsuit should fit.
HOW SHOULD A WETSUIT FIT?
One big advantage of owning your own wetsuit is that it will fit you perfectly. Your wetsuit needs to be snug. The whole concept of a wetsuit is to trap a layer of water against your skin to heat up and therefore keep your body warm. The size and fit of your wetsuit are crucial for it to serve its purpose of insulation and protection from the elements.
The wetsuit needs to be snug across your body but you should still be able to move. If the neckline is too tight, it will make it harder to breath and you will be uncomfortable underwater, which may make you stressed during your dive. If you feel hunched over in your wetsuit, chances are it is too small and will restrict your movement.
If your wetsuit slouches and sags around your knees, chest and back, then it’s too big. A wetsuit that is too big won’t trap the water close to your skin and cold water will flush through your suit.
- Try to bend your knees or crouch down when trying on a wetsuit. If it is too uncomfortable or your wetsuit is restricting your movement significantly then you might need a bigger size.
- Pinch the wetsuit away from your body to check for excess space. If it pulls away from your skin too easily and creates a large air pocket then your wetsuit is too big.
Keep in mind that a wetsuit will feel tighter on dry land than what it will be like in the water.
John Francis of ScubaDiving.com explains the best fitting wetsuit should move when you move. When you get air pockets, it acts as a pump and sucks in water from the outside and reduces your body heat.
Getting the right length wetsuit is another important factor in protecting your joints from the elements. You might have the right fit through your body, but if you have long arms and legs, the wetsuit might stop a bit too short, exposing your wrists and ankles.
On the other hand, if the wetsuit arms and legs are too long, it won’t create a proper seal at the joints and water may flush up through the sleeves or legs. Again, this steals body heat as it allows cold water from the outside to get into your suit – defeating its purpose of trapping a layer of water against your skin as insulation.
VIDEO: KNOW WHAT A WELL-FITTING WETSUIT SHOULD LOOK LIKE
FITTING A TWO-PIECE WETSUIT
Some scuba divers prefer a two-piece wetsuit while others prefer a one piece. A two piece suit comprising of an overalls-style bottom layer and pullover top can offer more mobility, if you find a one-piece too restrictive. Both pieces should still fit snugly against your body. Two piece wetsuits, also known as “Farmer John” suits, are more common among spearfishermen due to the increased mobility of a separate top and bottom.
The two piece is a bulkier option but can provide more warmth around your core. They usually have a hood attached to the top, so be sure to check that the hood fits over your head comfortably, while still creating a tight seal around the face.
If the hood is too tight, you might find yourself with neck strain and headaches, so don’t forget this crucial step in wetsuit sizing.
TIPS FOR GETTING A WETSUIT ON WITH EASE
If your wetsuit fits nice and snug, then expect to find it a bit challenging getting into it when dry. You can roll up the legs and arms into a doughnut first, or you could try one of these two common tricks used among scuba divers to ease into your wetsuit without requiring an army of assistance to pull you through.
1. THE PLASTIC BAG TRICK
All you need for the plastic bag trick is…a plastic bag! Put the plastic bag over your foot or hand, then simply push through your wetsuit. The plastic bag helps glide your limbs into place. You’ll still need to wiggle around to ensure the suit fits snugly across your core and isn’t sagging around the waist or crotch area.
2. THE SHAMPOO TRICK
Keep a bottle of water with a little shampoo in it with your dive kit. Before you put your suit on, pour and swish the soapy water around the inside of your wetsuit and slather a little onto your skin. This acts as a lubricant and will make even the tightest wetsuit slip on like a silk shirt.
Photo provided by Aqua Lung
CARING FOR YOUR WETSUIT
Diving gear is an investment so it’s important that you learn how to store and maintain your scuba equipment. Proper care of your wetsuit will keep it in good condition and storing it correctly will prevent it from stretching out of shape. After the effort it takes to find the right fitting wetsuit, you don’t want to ruin the shape and face another day wiggling in and out of different sized suits!
Make sure to give your suit a fresh water rinse after every dive and allow it to drip dry in a shady place. Leaving it in the sun for too long can cause damage. As mentioned by Surfer Mag Editor Justin Houseman, always use a proper clothes hanger rather than using pegs so as not to stretch the chest and shoulders. The HangAir Hanger is a popular choice amongst divers.