Wetsuit boots are a necessary evil in colder climates and if you ask the surfers who use them, most have a love/hate relationship with them. In general the least neoprene that you can get away with and still be tolerably warm will usually correlate to an increase in performance with your surfing. I can’t think of anyone who would prefer to surf in a wetsuit when they can surf in boardshorts and its the same with surf booties.
With wetsuit boots the difference between a good pair and a bad pair can be like night and day. The fit and style of your wetsuit boots will have a real impact on your ability to grip to your surfboard and how warm they will be so it is worth taking the time to do a bit of research to ensure that you get the right pair for you.
To help with your research we thought we would come up with a our own….
Wetsuit Boot Buyers Guide.
We aim to cover most of things that you need when you are in the market for a new pair of wetsuit booties so read on to find out what we think you ought to know.
The Fit of the Wetsuit Boot
Wetsuit boots come in the standard size ranges (5, 6, 7 etc) but I haven’t yet seen a bootie that comes in half sizes. However because most surf boot manufacturers use different templates then a size 7 in one brand might feel like a size 8 in a rival brand. In short it is worth trying a few different brands to make sure that you get the right fit for you.
The first thing that you should know is that any pocket of air or gap between your foot and the neoprene will just fill with water. While you do want to have a layer of water in your boot any excess water will just slosh around and feel really heavy when you are popping up to your feet and surfing.
So you want a tight fit?
Yes, but not too tight!
Wetsuit boots generally have a thicker layer of rubber over the toe and heel to provide extra support and strength and if this rubber is really tightly fitted to your toe then this can cause some discomfort.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking they will ‘give’ with regular use. They won’t and you will dread wearing them after a few surfs.
The Different Types of Wetsuit Boots:
Round Toe Wetsuit Boots
The round toe wetsuit boot is the most popular boot that you can buy. They feature a rounded end, are easy to manufacture and are therefore usually inexpensive to buy. They are generally the easiest to fit as well.
Split Toe Wetsuit Boots
This style of wetsuit boot is very popular with more serious surfers. The big toe is separated from the rest of the toes hence the name. They can be a bit colder than a round toe boot because when the big toe is in a separate chamber it is not quite as efficient to keep warm as when all the toes are packed together.
The difference in performance is noticeable though. Because the boot is gripping onto your big toe then your foot is not as free to move about as in the round toe boot so all of your bodies movement is more effectively transferred through your feet to your surfboard. With a round toe boot your foot tends to roll around inside them so the energy transfer from feet to surfboard is not quite as good.
Latex Dipped Wetsuit Boots
Most wetsuit boots are made from the standard double-lined neoprene – a layer of neoprene lined with a thin layer of fabric on either side. In the last few years there has been a new material which has been gaining popularity called latex dipped neoprene. I won’t bore you with the manufacturing details but what you end up with is a very light and very flexible boot. They have the appearance of a single-lined neoprene – a layer of neoprene with only one side lined in fabric – and what they lack in durability they make up for in performance. These wetsuit boots are about as close as you can get as the feel of surfing barefoot but there have been a few question marks regarding their longevity. If you put a heavy emphasis on performance but don’t mind buying a new pair each year then these could be the boots for you.
What Thickness Wetsuit Boot Do I Need?
Most wetsuit boots are manufactured using either 3mm, 5mm or 7mm neoprene. The thicker the boot the warmer it will be. During the British summer when the sea can get up to the dizzy heights of 19˚ then boots won’t generally be required for warmth but if you suffer from cold feet or are petrified of the dreaded weaver fish sting then 3mm will be ample. The winter sea in the South West of England drops to around 8˚ and depending on how warm you like your feet to be then 3mm – 5mm wetsuit boots should be fine. If you are hardcore enough to enjoy surfing in Scotland, the East Coast of England and Northern European nations such as Norway where the water can drop to 4˚ then 5mm – 7mm wetsuit boots will be suitable for you.
Wearing Your Wetsuit Boot
When you have a good fitting wetsuit boot then peel up your wetsuit leg, put the boots on and roll the wetsuit leg back down over the wetsuit boot. This will prevent them from flushing with water, ballooning to twice their original size and getting wrenched off your feet when you do your first duck-dive.
Caring for Your Wetsuit Boots
Nothing makes the journey home from the beach slow down like a festering wetsuit boot slowly baking in the back of the van but it doesn’t need to be this way.
The trick is to take a little bit of care of them – nothing too radical, just a little rinse with cold fresh water after each surf and dry them in the shade. Doing this will help them last a little longer and prevent them from smelling like a washed up seal carcass.
Go on, do the right thing. It will make everyone feel a bit better.