BY CLAIRE SMAIL
It’s getting to that time of year again when you really notice how new or old your wetsuit is! This week I ventured out at first light, for a surf, in a hopeful attempt to time mid tide. That morning I had grabbed and suited up in the driest looking wetsuit I could find and as I was wading out into the rather fresh and very grey looking water. I was reminded just how important it is to have a good (as in warm) wetsuit. My warmest wetsuit for a 6.40am surf in November was my 5.4 Alder Torch.
Braving the grey November surf in my 5.4
I am struck after such a surf as this, as to just how important the continued improvements into wetsuit materials, design and construction are, and how these developments have revolutionised the sport of surfing, particularly in our cool Atlantic waters. The fact that wetsuits are now readily available, relatively affordable and incredibly warm has opened up surfing to a much wider audience than previously.
I can comfortably sit here and say that there is no way I would have had the opportunity to take up and continue surfing in this country if it was not for the first full length wetsuit my mum picked up for me from a car boot sale all those years ago. My thanks to the original owners for passing on a good suit as it was able to see me through my first winter of learning to surf; standing in the shallows at Bantham whilst big, messy south-westerly swells swirled around me, I was not deterred in my hand-me-down suit!
From that first suit, I have always tried to maintain and so prolong the life of my wetsuits as they are a worthy investment. I want to share my top tips for caring for my wetsuits with you and I have also asked Alder Wetsuits for their professional option and recommendations.
Yes, yes I do get changed standing in a bucket…helps keep my suits clean from sand and mud.
Alder 8 Top Tips…
1. After wearing, immediately rinse your gear with fresh water.
I have got into the habit of rinsing my suits off at my local beach showers. If I’m at a beach with no such facilities I make sure once I am home I just quickly fill up my wetsuit bucket and give them a dunk.Wash it inside out to ensure there is no sand left that could be against your skin. Spend time cleaning the zip as any sand will restrict it and may cause a failure.
I also do this because the inside of your suit will be the driest when you come to put it on.2. Do not use hot water, use fresh cool or tepid water.
I have to admit I always try to use tepid water if I’m washing my suit at home as my hands are normally already pretty cold!3. Never wash your wetsuit in a washer or with other garments.
No one likes a smelly suit, so what I do after very surf is rinse it in (medical grade) Detol or an Eco washing liquid. I also leave my wetsuit boots in soaking for an extra couple of minutes just to try and keep them fresher.5. Hang to drip dry away from direct heat and sun. If you use a clothes hanger ensure the hanger is very broad. A wet wetsuit can weigh a lot and if this weight is on a thin hanger then you may damage the neoprene on the shoulders.
I always hang my suits up on either an Alder wetsuit hanger (as they tend to give them with their suits) or for lighter summer suits I use one of Saltrock’s wide wooden hangers.6. Keep your suit away from sharp objects including finger nails. Single lined neoprene (this is the rubber type of neoprene sometimes seen on wetsuit torso) is susceptible to cuts.
As a surf instructor I have seen many a suit end its life this way. At home I always keep some wetsuit glue to hand, just in case I accidently snag my suit on a rock or my surfboard fins. You never know when it will happen and the glue stops the tear getting worse.
7. If you store your wetsuit in the garage check there are no mice – the little critters love to nibble on a neoprene lunch.
8. If you are putting on a back zip suit and the zipper is stuck don’t pull too hard. Get help, it’s probably a zip flap in the way.