Next to buying a new board, investing in a fresh wetsuit is one of the most expensive purchases a surfer will make in a given year. With most new suits retailing above $300, you want your investment to last. We rang up Joanne Huebner of Froghouse Surfshop in Newport Beach for advice on extending the life of your rubber. With more than 20 years of experience repairing neoprene, she knows how to get your suit through another winter.
Fit Matters: Having a comfortable suit that fits will not only make for a better session, but can also extend the life of your suit. “If your wetsuit doesn’t fit properly, you’re not only going to be uncomfortable, but you’re going to be slowly ruining your suit as well,” says Joanne. “If your suit is too small, you’re constantly stretching it out further than it should, putting tension on the seams and rubber that will lead to holes and tears.”
Dry it in the Shade: One of the absolute worst things you can do for your suit is to leave it in the sun. “It’ll dry out all of the rubber and shrink it up, which means you’re gonna start creating some holes and tears. Dry your suit out in the garage or in your shower, but never leave it to dry out in the sun.”
Don’t let it Rot: One of the quickest ways to shorten the life-expectancy of your suit is to wad it up and throw it in your trunk. Not only will your car smell like a gas station urinal the next time you get in, but if left soaking wet for too long, the rubber in the suit will begin to deteriorate. When you do hang your suit, don’t hang it wet over a hanger. “If your suit is soaking wet and you hang it on a regular small hanger, you’re actually stretching it out. The weight of the wet rubber will pull at the legs and stretch out the suit, creating tension at the shoulders that can lead to tears and holes. Drape your suit over something wide so there’s no tension pulling at any part of the suit.”
Desalinate: The salt from the ocean can be one of the biggest factors in killing your suit. After each session, wash it off in fresh water, inside and out. “I’ve seen a lot of people bring in their suits and you can tell that they’re not washing it all the way off and only doing it halfway. You’ll see that the ankles and other places that they didn’t clean will start to tear.”
Kill the smell: If your suit’s grown a bit ripe and no amount of freshwater rinsing seems to do the trick, there’s still hope. Fill up your bathtub with warm water and add a splash of Woolite. “That seems to help out a lot if your suit gets too stinky,” adds Joanne. “But keep in mind one of the worst things you can do is to throw it in the washing machine. If you just soak it in the tub with Woolite, that’ll do the trick.”
Utilize The Warranty: Shit happens. Zippers break, seams tear, holes abound. Despite taking the utmost care for your suit, problems will inevitably arise. Fortunately, most good suits come with a warranty. Use it. "Most people that come to me for repairs come in with problems that could have been fixed with their warranty, but they waited too long,” says Joanne. “When you get a new wetsuit, take note of the seems, zippers, knee patches and leg holes. Most of the problems can be replaced by the company. Just save the warranty card and your receipt."