Second Skin: A Wetsuit Journey
When I started surfing a few decades ago, there were few options for women’s wetsuits.
My wetsuit journey by asking a male surfer pal for help. He (begrudgingly) took me to his local surf shop for a try-on session. As I sweated, struggled, and fell in the changing room, I heard him chuckling outside. He finally realized I had twisted myself into a knot and along with having the wetsuit inside out. With a few tugs and pulls, along with a lot of sweat, I was released from the embrace.
I later found out there are tricks to putting and taking off your wetsuit efficiently.
I settled with a men’s small black Billabong 4/3mm due to long arms and legs- which was heavy and didn't quite fit my female body. In time I did purchase other known surf brands that had a women's option, however, they just never fit right. Eventually, splurged for a women's Patagonia— which kept me warm, was quite durable, and the warranty amazing.
A small slice of wetsuit history: By 2000, a group of Four Girls: Brighdie Grounds, Amber Nolan, Michelle Paskowitz, and Navah Paskowitz, formed a wetsuit company for Girls. Four Girls’ mission was brought together by a common thread, more female representation in an industry run by men. Unfortunately, they had to close.
Now In 2020, things have improved and there are definitely more options available than before, designed by women for women. I am continuously discovering new women-owned companies making great suits! The styling is continually improving, even from existing wetsuit companies. It would be a game-changer if a custom option was not so pricey. I am sure someone will figure that out soon.
SEAA is and has been one of my favorite companies, not only for their innovative designs but also for their deep commitment to reframe the women's narrative in and out of the water. I have been wearing their spring swimsuits, rash guards, and shorties from the beginning, and they all are *still* in great shape. I am hoping to get one of their wetsuits- but they sell out fast!
I was first introduced to SEEA through Thalia Surf Shop in Laguna Beach. The shop has been very supportive of women-owned companies. Many surf shops were (and still are) very bro-culture hangouts, it was refreshing to walk into a shop and feel welcome! I hope we see more full suits for colder climates. Seas products are thoughtful, timeless, durable, and conscientious. Check out their surf caps!!!
The Nineplus women Cat Suit
The Cat Suit feels amazing. (I also have purchased the men's standard wetsuit in a small) The biggest drawback is these suits tear easily if you’re not careful. With a $350+ price tag, I surfed for eight months with minimal damage, but I was lucky.
I also appreciated that the company did not sexualize its female surfers. The styling is respectable and consistent.
*Remember! Be sure to rinse the suit with fresh water after each session and do not leave the suit out in the sun for long periods of time.
Matuse Artemis 3/2 Wetsuit
Matuse also makes a very flexible wetsuit that feels fantastic and keeps you really warm. I have been wearing their suits since they released their women’s version. My 3/2 has held up after almost 8 years. This brand does run upwards of $500 USD, but you get what you pay for. They now have a much more extensive female collection, where you can get anything you might need. The founders put a lot of energy and thought into developing their female line. You can tell by the fit and hold up over time. This brand is super responsive and loves to hear feedback from customers.
Axxe Custom Wetsuit
My biggest splurge has been in the “custom” wetsuit landscape, or as I tell peeps my fascination with ‘couture wetsuits’. I started with Axxe and moved onto connections with pals in Japan. The waiting time is the worst part, anywhere from 3-6-8 months.
Custom Axxe suits range from $800-1200 depending on the deal or features you want. Cool fact styling and unisex color selection!
Justifying the cost -- if I surf 100 days/year that’s about $3.50/session (the cost of one small latte).
Other Wetsuit Options
La Bamba NYC: See the withitgirl interview
Kassia Surf: recycling program: https://kassiasurf.com/pages/wetsuit-recycling-program
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