Wetsuits are both the bane and salvation of the surfer’s existence. They’re a pain to take on and off, a chore to wash out and hang up, a foul-smelling abomination when left – as they often are – to stew in their own juices, they restrict movement and muffle tactile sensations… but they’re still generally preferable to hypothermia. For surfing in the UK, and indeed most other countries, wetsuits are an absolute necessity for most of the year.
A wetsuit’s job is to keep you not dry but warm, which it does by trapping and heating a thin layer of water between itself and your skin. The snugger the fit, the better it will do this job; an ill-fitting top-of-the-range wetsuit won’t be nearly so effective as a mid-range suit that fits perfectly. Different brands will differ in their sizings so it’s always worth trying a suit on before you buy; some brands, such as Snugg in Cornwall, even offer made-to-measure wetsuits with a custom fitting service.