How Wetsuits are Made
Ever wonder how wetsuits are made? It's a question we get often and frankly, most established brands never talk about this.
The history of diving and surfing has evolved how wetsuits are made. Modern designs result from trial and error, advancements in technology, and an understanding of the physiology of how the body loses heat. Brands develop wetsuits to insulate the wearer from cold water and cold air. Divers and surfers spend a lot of time in the water, so they need to keep warm.
What Is a Neoprene Fabric?
Manufacturers make wetsuits with neoprene, which is a type of synthetic rubber. This material was first developed in the 1930s and was used during World War II to make gaskets and seals. In the 1950s, manufacturers began using it to make diving suits because it is flexible, durable, and insulates well.
Neoprene is made from polychloroprene, which is a polymer that contains chlorine. This step gives neoprene its distinct smell and makes it resistant to some chemicals. It also makes neoprene less susceptible to degradation from sunlight and heat than other types of synthetic rubber.
How is Neoprene Made?
Neoprene is made through polymerization. This process involves combining small molecules, called monomers, to create long chains called polymers. The monomers in neoprene are chloroprene units. It takes about two years for a neoprene factory to produce a batch of neoprene from start to finish.
The manufacturing process begins with the chlorine and hydrocarbon feedstock combined in a reactor. The reaction produces chloroprene, which is then sent to a separator. In the separator, they remove any impurities from the chloroprene.
The chloroprene goes to an extruder, where it is heated and turned into a molten state. Last, it's pushed through a die, which gives it the shape of a long, thin tube.
Why Do Brands Use It for Wetsuits?
Brands use neoprene to make wetsuits because it is an excellent insulator. It traps a layer of water between the skin and the suit, which the body then heats. This heated layer of water helps keep the wearer warm.
Neoprene is also flexible, so it does not restrict movement. This feature is vital for surfing and diving, where athletes need to move freely. In addition, neoprene is durable and can withstand repeated use.
Types of Wetsuit Designs
There are several types of wetsuits. Here's an overview of the most common.
Hooded Full Wetsuit
A full wetsuit covers the entire body and has a hood. This type of wetsuit is ideal for surfing in cold water or diving in water that is colder than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hoodless Full Wetsuits
Full wetsuits cover the entire body. These are ideal for cold water temperatures, as they provide the most coverage and insulation. Manufacturers use a thicker neoprene material for the body and a thinner fabric for the arms and legs. This variance in the thickness allows the wearer to move freely while still providing warmth.
Long John/Long Jane Wetsuit
Long John wetsuits cover the torso and legs. These don't cover the arms, allowing for a better range of motion while paddling.
Short John/Short Jane Wetsuit
Short John wetsuits cover the torso and have shorter legs. Like Long John wetsuits, these don't cover the arms and allow for improved movements in the water. They are ideal for water temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spring suits only cover the torso and the legs. They are a good choice for warmer water temperatures, as they allow the body to cool off more easily. In addition, spring suits are less constricting than full wetsuits and provide more freedom of movement.
How Are These Wetsuits Made With Neoprene?
The manufacturer cuts the neoprene fabric into pieces and sews them together. Then the seams are glued or taped (and sometimes both in high-end wetsuits like Epic Tide Wetsuits) to create a watertight seal.
The thickness varies depending on the type of suit. For example, a full wetsuit will have thicker neoprene material than a spring suit. This difference is necessary because full wetsuits provide more insulation and require more neoprene to trap heat.
The next step involves adding the zipper. The most common zipper type is a front-zip wetsuit, which runs down the center of the chest. There are also back-zip and side-zip wetsuits. Also, some suits are zipper-less. These suits have a pull-on design and are easier to get on and off.
After the zipper is in place, the manufacturer adds reinforcement at the stress points, such as the knees, elbows, and shoulders. This reinforcement helps the wetsuit withstand repeated use.
Finally, they add the wrist and ankle closure system, which keeps water from entering the suit. A common type of closure system is a velcro strap. These keep the body up to 15% warmer than other materials.
A form of fleece is often added for more insulation.
What Are the Most Common Seam Types?
The seam type depends on the brand and purpose of the wetsuit. GBS and Flatlock are the most common seam constructions.
They sew together the raw edges of the GBS patterns down the length of each piece. After that, the manufacturer stitches them with a machine that only sews through half of the neoprene to create a more watertight seam. For additional protection, some manufacturers add liquid tape to the external seam. This is how we do it here at EPic Tide
Manufacturers mainly use Flatlock seams for cheaper wetsuits as they're less time-consuming and require less material. However, they're not as durable as GBS seams and are more likely to leak.
Wetsuits: The Fit is Vital
Now that you know how wetsuits are made, it's time to learn about the different fits. The fit is just as important as the construction in finding a comfortable and functional wetsuit.
Wetsuits should be snug but not too tight. They should feel like a second skin. The suit is too big if there's too much space between your body and the neoprene. If you can't move freely in the suit, it's too small.
A good rule of thumb is to size up if you're between sizes. It's better to have a wetsuit that's a little too big than one too small. You can always adjust the fit with a wetsuit belt or rash guard.
For Epc Tide Wetsuits, you MUST pick one size up from you're using now. If you think you're an XL in any other brand's suit, you should absolutely order the XXL and XL tall. Look at our sizing chart. I know most people think they're a certain size, but just like with European sizes, you can't compare them to what you're wearing now.
Now that you know how wetsuits are made, it's time to buy one! We offer a wide variety of wetsuits for all budgets and body types. Shop now to find the perfect suit for you.