The whole subject of wetsuits can be a tad daunting, especially, if like me, you're only just starting out with a new hobby/sport which requires a wetsuit. But honestly, they're not that confusing once you know the basics.
#1: Determine Your Weather
The first thing you need to do when it comes to wetsuit shopping, is to determine what the weather is like, whether it is warm or cold. If, like me, you live in an environment (Great Britain) which goes through both warm and very, very cold weather; then you'll have to dig deep in your pocket and buy two wetsuits. However if you don't plan on pursuing your hobby when the temperatures are cold, then you'll only need a summer wetsuit. A summer wetsuit will be 3/2, meaning that the neoprene around your body will be 3mm thick, whilst on the limbs it'll be 2mm thick to enable more movement. There are also short wetsuits which means that the legs and arms are chopped off so give you even more mobility. In addition to this there are spring suits which are long on the legs but sleeveless on the arms. Nevertheless if you are considering to pursue your hobby throughout the winter, then you'll need a 5/4/3 suit which again means that it will be 5mm on the body and 3 to 4mm on the limbs.
#2: Price Range
Basic entry suits: These kinds of wesuits are the lower price range, usually used by surf schools and ideal for those starting out as they normally have bright colours so the lifeguards can see you. These start for around £60 and have 'flat lock stitching' on the seams of the suit which means that the neoprene material is overlapped and sewn together. This type of stitch ensures comfort and durability.
Mid Range Suits: These suits are ideal for those who don't want to just splash around in the water, but are aiming to become a skilled surfer. These suits include a whole range of technology features, such as the stretch panels which means that some sections are made of stretchier neoprene material, usually found under the legs and arms. This ensures that you will not become fatigued when paddling and whatnot. Not only this, but the stitching on the wetsuit is called 'blind stitch' which means that glue is put in-between the seams so that water is prevented from entering the wetsuit meaning you're warmer for longer.
Top End Suits: Now these are the creme de la creme of wetsuits, as they offer it all and are ideal for those who have a real passion about surfing. A large majority of the wetsuit, or all of it are made of stretchy neoprene which results in it feeling like a second skin. These suits have the blind stitching as in the mid range suits, but with an added bonus; a water resistant tape is added to one side of the stitching or even on both sides! This fluid seam ensures that water doesn't flow into the suit and thus keeps you warm for a very long while. Some suits even include an inner back panel/batwing which prevents water entry around the zip or neck. However every suit has different added bonuses so it is good to check the suit description!
#3: The Fit
This is the most important factor when it comes to buying a wetsuit, as the idea is to trap water between your body and the neoprene material to keep you warm. The places where your wetsuit needs to be tight is around your neck, wrists and ankles, otherwise the water will run freely throughout your wetsuit and you'll never be able to warm up. If you're uncertain about your size, grab a tape measure and write down your measurements and then check the individual brand size guides. What is also important if you have a little buzzing surfer, is to make sure that you buy a tight fitting wetsuit and not one a little too big so that he/she can grow into it. This is very dangerous as it means that the child will lose a lot of body heat and the water may also weigh them down. Remember, these wetsuits are not made to be worn in the house, so they do need to feel snug. If you purchase the wetsuit with the right fit, you'll really notice it as they heat you up very quickly!