Wetsuits are worn by people for a wide variety of activities in the water, especially during the nippy temperatures of the winter months. Whether it’s the added warmth or extra buoyancy that you’re after, wetsuits have several advantages.
Furthermore, many swimmers find that they’re a little faster when wearing a wetsuit, while surfers value the extra layer of protection against the baltic conditions as they spend hours out in the sea.
Despite the clear pros of wearing a wetsuit, many people find them uncomfortable at first. Often, this will simply be the case of trying something new, but sometimes wetsuits can be a little too snug.
While they’re designed to be tight to the body, wetsuits should never make you feel excessively uncomfortable or claustrophobic when wearing them.
As a result, there’s much discussion about whether it’s necessary to “break-in” a wetsuit, and the methods best for achieving this. Realistically, however, most of the time your wetsuit will become somewhat “broken in” the more you wear it.
Therefore, slowly but surely, it’ll conform to your body, and become a little more comfortable each time you put it on.
Do you have to break in a wetsuit?
With constant developments in wetsuit technology, there’s often very little break-in required for the majority of suits. The super-stretchy materials that some brands use – such as 100% stretch neoprene – almost always look to prioritize immediate comfort.
Whilst it’s hard to overlook these impressive technological advances in wetsuit manufacturing, many experts still feel it takes a period of time for a wetsuit to properly conform to its owner’s body.
Whether you class this as a break-in period for the wetsuit, or simply an improvement in your comfort level as you become accustomed to wearing it, be sure to give your wetsuit plenty of time and ample opportunity to sufficiently adjust to your body.
Each time you get in and out of your wetsuit, you’ll naturally stretch it out a little bit. This will mainly occur in the shoulder region of the wetsuit, and to a lesser degree, the legs, since you’ll be pulling them up frequently – which in turn will stretch the fabric.
Be mindful, however, that trying to unnecessarily pull harder on your wetsuit in order to stretch it out is never a good idea. This can cause the neoprene to tear if you pull too hard.
Finding the perfect size
Doing some light movements or stretches in your suit will provide you with a good idea as to whether it’s too large, too tight, or just right. Wetsuits need to be snug to do their job effectively, but they also need to provide enough room to move freely and breathe without struggle.
A wetsuit will always feel tighter when you’re out of the water, as they naturally loosen once filled with water. However, it’s worth remembering that if your wetsuit is too loose, it won’t retain the water.
Furthermore, it’s this thin layer of water between your body and the neoprene that keeps you warmer and more buoyant while wearing the suit.
On the other hand, wearing a wetsuit that’s too small for you can lead to several problems. Some of the most common include chafing, poor circulation, and fatigue as you try to work your muscles against the resistance of the suit.
If your wetsuit is too small, it’s likely that it’ll never stretch enough to fit you properly – despite any efforts you may employ to try and break the suit in.
To put it simply, pick the right size of wetsuit suitable for your body – don’t buy one expecting it to stretch out during a break-in period. If you’ve found the perfect size, and still want more stretch, opt for wetsuits made with higher-grade materials. For example, super-stretch neoprene can stretch up to 300%.
The bottom line
One of the most important things to remember is to always try on your wetsuit before using it. Being comfortable in it is essential, and you shouldn’t rely on the fit changing too much – even if you try your very best to break it in.
The only change you’ll be guaranteed to experience is the ease with which you’re able to get the wetsuit on and off once you’ve been through the motions a few times.