Wetsuits are so cool. We get to put on a superhero costume every time we paddle out at coldwater spots. Yes, surfing in boardshorts is undeniably better, but breaking in a new pair of boardies is nowhere near as satisfying as pulling on some soft, fresh rubber. At $400 a pop or more, good wetsuits are annoyingly expensive but worth every cent. Keep that new suit new for as long as possible by sacrificing a few minutes of your post-surf burrito time for some crucial wetsuit care. Proper, meticulous, obsessively over-the-top maintenance will not only prolong the useful life of your suit, it keeps it looking and feeling fresh a whole lot longer. Here’s a must-do list:
1) A thorough freshwater rinse. If you do nothing else, rinse your suit inside and out each and every time you use it, even if you’re planning a second session. Salt will destroy your suit faster than everything but direct sunlight. Save time by dousing yourself with a big jug of warm water after you get out of the water, but before you take your suit off, then when you get home rinse out the inside. Take the time to do this, every single time. Seriously.
2) Hang up your wetsuit properly. Not in the sun. Not draped over your car’s side mirror. Not slung over your balcony. And definitely not by the neck or shoulders; this will quickly stretch everything out. Take a plastic hanger, slide the top or bottom of the suit through, and hang it doubled-up, inside-out in the shower or the garage. Or somewhere in the shade if you absolutely must hang it outside.
3) Turn the suit inside out each day until it’s dry. So you’ve rinsed your suit out and hung it up inside-out like a responsible adult. Great. But if you don’t surf for a couple days, only the side of your suit facing outward will dry, leaving the other half marinating in a rubber-destroying moisture farm. Once the outward part of your suit is dry, flip it inside out again to dry the other side. This is a commonly overlooked routine that will greatly lengthen the life of your suit.
4) Use some wetsuit shampoo occasionally. No matter how thoroughly you rinse your suit, you’re going to miss some spots, letting salt collect in crevices where it will happily erode the warm, flexible, but infuriatingly fragile space-age neoprene that we spend all that money on. Fill up your wetsuit changing bucket with cool water and a few capfuls of whatever wetsuit cleaner you like, get it nice and sudsy, drop in your suit, then get your hands in there and knead the cleaner into the neoprene. Pay attention to the zipper too, you’ll want to keep that nice and clean and free of corrosion.
5) Banish the stink. Coffee before dawn patrol is mandatory. So is the automatic peeing that comes from downing all that caffeine. And coffee pee isn’t helping your suit smell any better at all. You can buy products like Mirazyme, specially made to flatten odors from bacteria and mildew in wetsuits, and add that to your wetusit shampoo regimen. Or you can use a little bit of Listerene instead. Works great.
6) Slow down when taking your suit off. Diagonal chest-zip suits are a godsend when it comes to sealing out water and improving comfort. But they are hell to take off. Trying to quicken the process by grabbing at any piece of rubber you can and ripping it from your body like an animal isn’t doing the neoprene any favors. Try not to use your thumbs when you’re pulling the top of the suit off. Don’t stand on one leg of your suit while trying to yank your foot out of the other. Especially not while grinding the suit into oily asphalt. Take it slow, apply pressure across a broad area when slinking out of the suit, and keep those seams happy.
Need a new suit? Find one in our 2013 Wetsuit Buyer’s Guide, online now.