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Ice Man: 12 Best Winter Wetsuits For Surfing

Some may argue the entire ethos of consumerism relies on the notion of want vs. need. In other words, there’s an internal cost-benefit analysis we conduct internally as we make our way through the buying process. We must ask ourselves whether or not that product on our screen or in our online cart is, in fact, something we need versus an ancillary product that’ll eventually lose its alluring “newness” within a couple month’s time. If you’re a surfer, however, winter wetsuits become a necessity — that is if you have any inclination of remaining in the water during what is oftentimes the most fruitful time of year for swell. And an absolute necessity at that, for there is no compromise in this regard.

It’s here where those who’ve experienced all that winter has to offer — waves, weather, and frigid temps — will without a doubt agree with this notion of necessity. Even if the water doesn’t dip to ice-cream-headache status at your local break, the air temp surely will at times, especially if the wind picks up. So there’s no reason why preparation shouldn’t be taken to ensure when the swell of the season does arrive — and it will — you’re not left with a hyperthermic core and frostbite that will surely limit your time in the water. Yes, in some parts of the country it’s that serious. So, allow us to be your guide through the latest and greatest winter wetsuits on the market today, with options ideal for both mild winters in the south and sub-zero paddle outs in the northeast.

Need Essentials Fast Dry 4/3 Hooded Fullsuit

Piggybacking on the very fact that a winter wetsuit is something you need to stay sharp in the water and in shape throughout the season, Need Essentials is looking to outfit winter lineups the world over with their Fast Dry Hooded Fullsuit. Each piece comes equipped with a Hooded Chest Zip Steamer for maximum warmth and flexibility, a 4-way mega stretch 4mm limestone-based neoprene construction, glued and blind-stitched/taped seams for added strength, as well as 4-way stretch knee pads for added durability and function. It’s the entire package, but for only a fraction of the price.

Thickness: 4mm/3mm
Closure: Chest Zip
Recommended Temperature: 50-61° F

Purchase: $210

Vissla High Seas 4/3

As you’re probably already aware, some winter wetsuits can cost a pretty penny. Fortunately, Vissla remains in the court of a select few that keep the price tag within budgetary range. It also shouldn’t go unnoticed that even with that price tag, you’ll enjoy a high-performance suit with the High Seas thanks to their I-Foam neoprene that’s lightweight, warm, and highly flexible. In fact, the High Seas is the most flexible suit Vissla has to offer so you know it’s a solid pick. Additional features include a watertight zipperless entry, triple glued and double blind stitched seams, and liquid taped cuff seals to prevent flushing.

Thickness: 4mm/3mm
Closure: Zipperless Easy Entry
Recommended Temperature: 51-58° F

Purchase: $265

Billabong 4/3 Furnace Carbon GBS

Billabong’s been in the wetsuit biz for many years now. So it only makes sense that their proprietary heating technology and quality-built wetsuits remain plentiful in lineups the world over. Case-in-point, the Furnace Carbon GBS. It’s their athlete-driven performance option to offer up the heating capabilities we all know and love along with a featherweight composition to keep your above-the-lip surfing in check during those colder months. Each Furnace GBS hosts the likes of their Furnace Carbon lining, a new fluid quick dry pattern that channels water, smart foam made from recycled tires, minimal seams, and an Airlite Stretch for insane comfort and agility in the water.

Thickness: 4mm/3mm
Closure: Chest Zip
Recommended Temperature: 50-61° F

Purchase: $310

Quiksilver 4/3 Highline Plus

You don’t get more household than Quiksilver. And for good reason, too. The iconic brand has set the standards for both surf and snowboard for decades at this point and there’s no end in sight. Just take their Highline Plus Chest Zip wetsuit for instance. It’s one of their warmest suits yet thanks to the enlightened combination of their F’n Lite 2 neoprene to help minimize drying time between sessions, a Thermal Smoothie on the chest and back panels, WarmFlight Far x2 Infrared thermal lining, and Hydrolock technology which Quicksilver claims to be their thinnest and most flexible external seam seal.

Thickness: 4mm/3mm
Closure: Chest Zip
Recommended Temperature: 50-61° F

Purchase: $340

Feral Hooded 6/5/4

Outfitted for the coldest of the cold, the once-dreaded 6/5/4 wetsuits used to add upward of 10 pounds of wet weight to your person while simultaneously limiting movement — not a good combo while paddling out in overhead icy surf at remote winter breaks. Luckily, Feral wised up to this blight and released their 100% Yamamoto Japanese neoprene suit for the world to enjoy. Here, we have a strategic seam design to enhance flexibility, critical seam taping, wrist and ankle seal silicone tape, and an ultra-smooth low water-absorption jersey.

Thickness: 6mm/5mm/4mm
Closure: Chest Zip
Recommended Temperature: 36-50° F

Purchase: $405

Xcel Drylock X 3/2 Fullsuit

Possibly one of the most common suits out in the water today, Xcel works diligently to up the performance value with each and every release they drop — which has worked to propel the brand into household-name status. Their newest Drylock 3/2 Fullsuit is no exception. Here, we find a Japanese limestone neoprene construction with high-performance stretch, triple-glued and blind-stitch seams, a lightweight quick-dry exterior, an engineered fit system for superior comfort, and Drylock wrist seals that work to keep water out.

Thickness: 3mm/2mm
Closure: Chest Zip
Recommended Temperature: 55-64° F

Purchase: $485

Isurus Ti Shield 4/4

Per the request of Mavericks big-wave-hellman Grant Twiggy Baker, Isurus sought to build a zip-free competition wetsuit with the flexibility of a 3/2 but with the warmth of a 5/4. What they came up with was the Ti Shield 4/4, a #40 Yamamoto neoprene suit complete with a heat reflecting Titanium Z-Fleece along with a seamless single back panel — meaning, fewer restrictions on range of motion— and an “Arms Up” design for the desired flex you need on a board. Hey, if the boys in the heavy NorCal waters enjoy it, we’re sure the rest of us mere mortals will fair just fine.

Thickness: 4mm
Closure: Zipperless Entry
Recommended Temperature: 48-58° F

Purchase: $500

O’Neil Psycho Freak 4/3

Another legacy wetsuit brand in its own right, O’Neil’s Psycho Freak is a heavily sought-after wetsuit for winter warriors. That’s because what the product may lack in thickness it actually makes up for in patented heat retention technology (i.e. their Techobutter Firewall). The Psycho Freak also hosts their driest neoprene to date — compliments of over 60 years of winter water R&D — along with the likes of a Stitchless Super Seam Weld, an anti-flush barrier, patented Z.E.N zip entry, and a featherlight ENVY foam rubber core.

Thickness: 4mm/3mm
Closure: Back Zip
Recommended Temperature: 50-61° F

Purchase: $530

Patagonia R5 Yulex Frontzip Hooded Fullsuit

Neoprene-free and built, quite literally, to handle icy water, the R5 Yulex gets its name from its 85% Yulex natural rubber composition in conjunction with a 15% synthetic rubber makeup. It’s all natural and sustainable as well — since Patagonia worked diligently to pull the natural rubber materials from sources that are Forest Stewardship Council certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Other notable features include the Yulex’s 100% external seam sealing, an adjustable hood opening with cord lock, an inverted microgrid thermal lining, and triple-glued seams.

Thickness: 6.5mm/4.5mm
Closure: Chest Zip
Recommended Temperature: 32-38° F

Purchase: $579

Matuse Tumo Hooded 5/4

Borrowing its namesake from the Buddhist meditation technique where Monks utilize their own body heat to dry out a wet blanket on top of fresh snowfall, the Tumo’s intended purpose should be quite apparent. That’s because with upward of 5mm of Japanese geoprene at the helm, icy waters no longer become a factor for winter sessions. The Tumo also hosts built-in hidden chambers that work to store radiant heat from your body,  Hydrasilk technology to serve as a windbreaker in the water, and durable SCS tape for extra seam protection.

Thickness: 5mm/4mm
Closure: Chest Zip
Recommended Temperature: 45-53° F

Purchase: $600

7till8 Custom Surf Hooded Fullsuit

Built specifically for some of the coldest environments on earth, this #40 Yamamoto neoprene suit comes available in a handful of thicknesses depending on your winter season. On top of all that, each suit is custom tailored to deliver maximum warmth. They’re all hand-taped, double glued and blind stitched for multiple seasons of use, and feature a slant zip entry for an easy-in, easy-out user experience.

Thickness: 3mm-5mm options
Closure: Slanted Chest Zip
Recommended Temperature: 45-68° F

Purchase: $680

Hurley Advantage Elite 3/3 Fullsuit

As a competition wetsuit through and through, Hurley’s Advantage Elite is the product of insight from the world’s top surfers competing in less-than-tropical waters year after year. Each piece is built by hand with Japanese neoprene for a premium fit yet boasts a thin composition for minimal movement restriction. Additional features include double-glued, blind-stitched seams, pre-bent legs, and even an external key pocket on the lower leg. Ideal for what we’ll call Southern California winters, this is one suit that’ll keep you toasty enough to brave those early morning sessions before work.

Thickness: 3mm
Closure: Chest Zip
Recommended Temperature: 60-68° F

Purchase: $750

The 12 Best Surfboards For Every Rider

With the suit comes the board. Thankfully, no matter which type of surfer you may be there’s a board out there just for you. Take a look at this list of the 12 best surfboards for every rider to find yourself a new sled.