Eau de Neoprene
In today’s blog, Frangipani SUP’s Paul gets to grips with all things neoprene.
A while ago I was asked to write something about wetsuits to help people when they are about to shell out a load of their hard earned on a wetsuit.
This is by no means a full and definitive buyer's guide, but more a few things to think about when looking to buy a wetsuit for your chosen board sport.
I hope it helps you choose something that will keep you comfortable in the summer and warm in the winter.
There are three important things to bear in mind when you are buying a new Wettie.
1 The Fit
2 The Fit and....
3 THE FIT!!!!
I can’t tell you enough how much of a big deal this is. There are few things that are as sucky as getting a cold water flush every time you put your head under the water, and nothing quiet so uncomfortable as the “divide and conquer” feeling you get if your wettie is too short in the body.
Try them on, lots of them. Every manufacturer is different. As are we…
It shouldn’t be baggy nor should it stop the blood flow to your hands, feet and head.
The things to concentrate on are wrist and ankles. Neck in the case of front zip suits and the length in the body and limbs.
There are loads of manufacturers that will make to measure too
Remember, ladies are a different shape to the men and most of the premium brands have ladie's range.
My opinion is that a SUP wetsuit can be a little more roomy (but not much) as you don’t spend quiet as much time in the water (in comparison to surfing)but still needs to fit closely enough for those times that you do.
Most surf wetsuits can be divided in to three thicknesses.
4:3 (three season)
These figures relate to the thickness in Millimetres of the neoprene. The thicker part of the wetsuit is in the torso and the thinner part will be on the legs and arms, to give you some extra flexibility.
How much of the suit is made from the thicker neoprene varies from maker to maker as there is no British or European standard saying how much there should be of what thickness.
Back zip, front Zip, No zip
Something worth considering is what type of zip entry you need or want.
With front zip and zipperless wetsuits a more flexible,stretchy (and more expensive) neoprene is used. So if price is one of your prime considerations a back zip maybe where you start to look.
Back zips are easy to get on and off and as the neck is adjustable it’s easy to make a good seal round the neck.
The down side of a back zip is that they don’t have any stretch in the zip effectively making the back of your wetsuit a fixed length.
Freedom of movement in your arms is obvious, but consider how much you “hinge” at the hips too when you paddle or stand up. This may steer you towards a front or zip free suit.
Front Zip & Zipperless
With the advance in technology in neoprene manufacturing, and how much more stretch there is, front zip and zipper free wetsuits are becoming more popular.
The good bad pay off for this extra flexibility?
Price, and of course ease of getting on and off.
What does it all mean?
There are three types of stitching used in wetsuit construction. As you might guess, stitching involves making holes in neoprene and passing a thread through. These holes can let water though the waterproof neoprene, so the type of stitching is important when considering how warm a wetsuit will be.
This method is the simplest way of stitching, and the least effective at keeping water out. This won’t be found on high-end wetsuits, and would only be found on summer wetsuit or cheaper wetsuits.
The two edges of the panels are rolled together and then stitched to hold them together. This method drastically reduces the flexibility of the seam. It also leaves a bulge on the inside of the wetsuit, which can be uncomfortable and result in chafing - ouch!
Flatlock stitching involves laying one panel edge over the other, then stitching though the neoprene. The resulting seam is flexible and strong. The drawback to a flatlocked seam is that the process involved creates many holes, and is prone to high water penetration. This makes it more suited to summer or warmer water surfing.
The edges of the panels are placed end on end and glued together. They are then stitched on the inside, but the stitching does not go all the way through to the outside of the panels. Result: watertight, flexible seams. This is the ideal seam for cold water temperatures, and is the one found on higher quality, more expensive wetsuits. If you are a cold water paddler, this is what you need to be looking for.
Seams are usually finished in one of the two following ways.
Tape is glued to the inside of every seam. Neoprene tape can be used to ensure there is no loss in flexibility
The ultimate seam seal. A special liquid rubber is applied to the inside seam which makes it 100% waterproof.
Well neoprene for thought! We wish you safe and happy times in the water.
Paul - Frangipani SUP