How tight should a wetsuit be?

Question: How tight should a wetsuit be?

There is a world of difference when you put on a wetsuit that is just the right amount of tightness. Whether you are a triathlete, surfer, or scuba diver a wetsuit should not fit so tight that it is restricting movement.

Modern technology has enabled wetsuit manufacturers to produce stretchy and high-performance wetsuits. Since modern materials are stretchy, many people solve issues of fit by sizing down. Sizing down brings down the insulating properties of a wetsuit and shortens the life of the wetsuit. This myth of downsizing is not the correct way of wearing a wetsuit and in fact it lowers your overall performance.

To understand how tight a wetsuit should really be, look for these three things:

1. The feeling and sensation of correct wetsuit tightness
2. Signs and symptoms of wetsuits that are too tight
3. Benefits of having the correct tightness in a wetsuit

1. The Right Tight Sensation

A wetsuit should not hinder your movement or restrict breathing. It should feel like a good pair of shoes. Snug, but not so tight that it cuts off circulation.

The wetsuit acts as a second skin. It should be as close as possible to your skin with the slightest squeeze.

When you're putting on the wetsuit, does it feel challenging to get your arms through the armholes and wrists? If you're struggling to put your limbs through the wetsuit, it's a clear indication that your wetsuit is too tight for you.

The neoprene gives you more buoyancy and the layer of neoprene acts as a protective barrier from other swimmers. A wetsuit should never feel uncomfortable and a person should not get used to being uncomfortable. If you are wearing a wetsuit that feels uncomfortable it's not the right wetsuit for you no matter what activity you are doing in a wetsuit.

2. The Right Level of Tightness: Signs and Symptoms

Try on your wetsuit and observe the area right above your buttocks where your tailbone is. If the wetsuit lifts off your lower back and forms a little trampoline like area, it means the length of the torso is too short. This causes the material to stretch and lift off your body, instead of resting on your skin. The wetsuit should be flush against your skin for maximum contact. This also applies to your entire body, so make sure there aren't any areas of your body that are causing the wetsuit to lift off your body.

Zip up your wetsuit and move your arms in a slow paddling motion. A wetsuit that fits correctly should have the tiniest bit of restriction, but your arm movement should not be hindered. A tight chest, shoulders, and arms can attribute to this. Sometimes your breathing can also be altered if the wetsuit is too tight. Make sure you're not having trouble breathing and if it is we highly advise you not to use it as it could become dangerous.

The lower half of the wetsuit is an area that is often overlooked. When you have your wetsuit on, lift your knee up. If you feel a pulling sensation around your hips and thighs, the circumference around your thighs and hips is too tight. Each time you move your leg in the water, that added tension is slowly drawing more energy from you. Each movement will add up and your performance will drop.

3. So why not go tighter if it doesn't restrict my movement?
With modern technology, manufacturers have created new neoprene that stretches very well. We previously said that many surfers and triathletes will downsize their wetsuits. The problem with this is as you stretch neoprene it becomes thinner. A 3mm wetsuit can become 2mm if the materials are stretched enough. If you're purchasing a 3mm wetsuit and getting 2mm warmth out of it why downsize?. Each stroke and kick you take in a tighter wetsuit will draw more energy from you while you try to fight the wetsuit. The point of having a wetsuit is to maximize your time and performance in the water. So keep in mind this - a snug fit is good but not so snug that it's restricting your movement. Have fun out there in the water and enjoy all the possibilities our ocean brings us.

Why fit is so important to us
Every wetsuit is built differently and companies have their own unique size charts and fit models. The traditional way of ordering wetsuits is to go into a wetsuit retailer and try on as many sizes and brands as possible to find the one that fits correctly. We do things differently at 7TILL8 Custom Wetsuits. We work directly with each customer to learn what issues they have to correct them. Every wetsuit we build is custom made to their specific owners. We don't have size charts because all of our wetsuits are custom made to your measurements.


  • Jeffrey Bohemier

    Your wetsuit should be skin tight to eliminate as much flushing as possible. However, you don’t want to cut off your circulation. Some people prefer a snug fit only. That’s fine, but you just won’t be quite as warm. I prefer the tightest fit I can get while keeping circulation. That’s a compression fit. Such a fit is highly beneficial to your body’s muscles, as the blood will get oxygenated better and won’t be able to pool anywhere regardless of your position in the water. Additionally, waste materials created by muscles are extracted much faster. In addition, I’m much warmer as there’s very little to no water flow in my suit other than that which I deliberately let in at the beginning of the dive.

  • Sharon

    I have hand arthritis and have a difficult time getting into and out of wetsuits. Any suggestions?

  • Anon

    Very clear and useful, thanks

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