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Wetsuit Thickness and Temperature Guide [+ Chart]

by Grant Draper

Confused about how thick your wetsuit should be for summer, or if you’re brave wakeboarder or surfer, for winter too? 

Our 5-minute wetsuit thickness guide explains everything you need to know before buying a suit, including: 

  • How to understand wetsuit thickness and sizing
  • A buyer’s guide to which mm wetsuit to wear in certain temperatures
  • Wetsuit brands we like, with our top pick for the best wetsuit for surfing and wakeboarding.

Bottom Line

You can work out the wetsuit thickness and temperature rating you need by jumping to our wetsuit thickness chart below; it starts with 2mm/3mm combo for summer, and ends with 6mm thick suits for super-cold conditions.

After the wetsuit thickness explanation and temperature chart, we’ve covered the brands we like, including a recommendation to our favorite wetsuit right now, which is the XCEL.

Wetsuit Thickness Explained

If you’ve already started looking at wetsuits for sale on online stores, you’ll notice they’re labelled with numbers. Some common ones are: 

  • 3/2 (a typical wetsuit for surfing or wakeboarding in summer)
  • 4/3 (a wetsuit thickness rating designed for those surfing or wakeboarding in slightly cool conditions, such as late Spring or early Autumn)
  • 5/4 or 6mm (wetsuit thickness designed for winter temperatures).

The first number represents the thickness (in mm) of wetsuit material around the torso, so 3mm on a 3/2 wetsuit.

The second number represents the thickness of the wetsuit on the arms and legs. So, that would be 2mm on a 3/2 wetsuit. 

A 4/3 wetsuit would be more suited to colder conditions, with 4mm across the torso, and 3mm covering arms and legs.

However, there are suits labelled with 3 thickness ratings, such as the 5/4/3. The meaning of a 5/4/3 wetsuit would be the following in terms of thickness:

  • 5mm for the torso of the wetsuit
  • 4mm around the the legs
  • 3mm thickness around your arms.

You’ll be able to find a wetsuit for surfing or wakeboarding here to suit any water temperature. 

Wetsuit Thickness and Temperature Guide (with chart)

Let’s cut right to the chase and work out what mm wetsuit you need using our thickness and temperature chart below.

Please note the fact that it’s “sea temperature” that’s the important factor here, NOT outside temperature. 

To get an indication of sea temperature, search your local surf sport. For example, I just searched “Huntington Beach California sea temperature”, and it shows at this time of the year, it’s approximately 56 - 57 ° F.  For this sea temperature, you’d want a 4mm wetsuit (4/3 for instance). And if you still feel cold try wearing wetsuit boots, gloves and a hood.

Wetsuit Thickness and Temperature Chart 

Below we’ve created a wetsuit temperature chart inclusive of temperatures in Fahrenheit and a conversion to Celsius. 

You’ll be able to find wetsuits in all the thickness ratings mentioned in the chart here

Temperature (°F)Temperature (°C)Wetsuit ThicknessBootsGlovesHood
70°F +22°C +Not requiredNoNoNo
64°F-69°F19°C-21°C2mmNoNoNo
58°F-63°F15°C -18°C3mmNoNoNo
52°F-57°F12°C-14°C4mmOptionalOptionalOptional
45°F-52°F7°C-11°C5mmYesYesYes
44°F or less6°C or less6mmYesYesYes

Choosing Your Wetsuit

summer thickness wetsuit from Xcel

Happy with the thickness you need to suit water temperature at your local surfing or wakeboarding spot? Now you need to choose a specific wetsuit. 

There are a ton of wetsuits on offer from some great brands. Whilst there are plenty of places to get cheap wetsuits (from no-name brands) sub $100, we’d avoid them. They tend to be uncomfortable, unreliable in terms of thickness and fall apart before their time; it's a false economy. 

Instead, stick to our list of the best wetsuit brands below.

The Best Wetsuit Brands

  • Billabong
  • FCS
  • Mystic
  • O'Neill
  • Quiksilver
  • Rip Curl
  • Roxy
  • Vans
  • Vissla
  • XCEL

You can get these brands and more here.

How Much Does a Good Wetsuit Cost?

A wetsuit that’s the right thickness, size and from a leading brand is likely to cost upwards of $150, with the best wetsuits costing as much as $600. Typically, a budget of $150-300 will get you a quality wetsuit. 

Whether you’re looking for a wetsuit for wakeboarding or surfing, for men, women or kids; this surf and wake store has got you covered

Or, if you’re looking for a specific recommendation, we like the XCEL Axis X, a 3/2 wetsuit that’s suitable for summer. We found it here, and you’ll get change from $250.

In Summary

And there’s really nothing else to it. Check the water temperature of your local surfing or wakeboarding spot, and buy a wetsuit with a thickness rating to suit. And if you’ve not ordered a wetsuit before, we recommend this store.

Like what you’ve read here on SkiSurfWake.com? We constantly post up tips and product reviews such as this guide to goofy vs regular riding. So, bookmark this page and pop back soon to see what’s new!

Wetsuit Thickness & Temp Guide FAQ

Do I need a wetsuit hat, boots, or gloves?

Typically, you’d only wear wetsuit hats, boots and gloves in extremely cold conditions (so, winter wakeboarding and surfing). Once water temperature is 52°F-57°F (12°C-14°C) or lower, a hat, boots and gloves are advisable.

However, if you surf at a spot where the beach is covered in rocks and pebbles, a thin set of wetsuit boots is going to protect your feet (even if water temperature isn’t cold).

How should my wetsuit fit to trap in warmth?

Wetsuits trap water in the suit, and your body heats that water to keep you warm. A wetsuit that’s too tight won’t keep you warm (as water isn’t allowed in) and one that’s too loose won’t either (it’s going to let too much water in, and your body won’t be able to heat it). 

A wetsuit should fit snugly; flush with your skin.

What is a 5/4/3mm wetsuit designed for?

A 5/4/3mm is a cold water wetsuit (winter). The most popular wetsuit thicknesses are 3/2 and 4/3 which can be used in warm-mild conditions (summer).

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