How to put on a wetsuit without looking like a fool

September 01, 2015                 4m read time
Hannah Oldknow

Putting on a wetsuit is, by nature, difficult—this is something that’s supposed to fit like a second skin, after all. But there are ways to minimize the hassle, discomfort, and occasional embarrassment. Here are our tactics for slipping into a wetsuit with speed, grace, and comfort.

You know the situation. It’s a gorgeous day, the beach is packed, and you’re standing at the edge of the crowd, trying to find an inconspicuous place to do the one thing that is nearly impossible to do without looking like a jet-lagged belly dancer: Put on your wetsuit. After eight excruciating minutes of wriggling and writhing and hopping on one foot, it’s finally on—or at least, one leg is. Time to end the awkwardness! Follow these steps and suit up like a pro.

surfer putting on his wetsuit on the beach Sergey Nivens

surfer putting on his wetsuit on the beach

Sergey Nivens


Step 1: Before You Start Tugging, Make Sure It Fits

The thing is meant to be skintight, so by definition it’s not gonna be a loose fit. But no wetsuit should be too tight. That’s a recipe for misery in the putting-on stage as well as during the dive, surf, or swim session. It sounds like basic advice, but many people are walking around with ill-fitting wetsuits without realizing it. Here are a few ways to tell if your suit falls into the “too tight” category:

  • It restricts blood flow once you put it on
  • You have trouble breathing while wearing it (yikes!)
  • It squeezes around your neck to the point where it’s annoying/uncomfortable
  • The suit material is wearing thin in places (like across your back) because it’s stretched so tight

Basically, just don’t torture yourself. If you nodded fervently to any of the above, start by getting fitted for a new suit (which, alas, will still be awkward to put on, but at least your neck won’t turn purple when you’re wearing it).

Man zipping up woman's wetsuit Kate Daigneault

Man zipping up woman's wetsuit

Kate Daigneault


Step 2: Find Your Perfect Trick and Go With It

Any pro can give you their tips for getting a suit on and off quickly. The key is figuring out which one works best for you. Here are a few options, so you can start picking and choosing favorites:

Inside-Out Trick

Turn the suit inside out, put one foot through the ankle of the reversed suit, then roll it slowly up your leg right-side-up. Do the same with the other leg, then the torso, and finally the arms. Patience is a virtue on this one. It takes a bit of time, but your tugging-and-hopping days will be over.

Use Plastic

Okay, it’s going to sound a little silly, but it seriously works. Wrap your foot in a plastic bag, slide it through one leg of the suit, then pull the bag off and switch feet when putting on the other leg. That pesky skin of yours is meant to cause friction, but plastic slides easily over neoprene, so this method works great for your lower half.

Get Help

If you’re with a friend, ask them to blow into the arm or leg of the suit before you put it on. The air will be a barrier between your skin and the neoprene, so the suit will slide on more easily. Added bonus: it’s an excellent bonding experience with your helpful friend.

Just Add Water

Wetsuits are designed to have a thin layer of water between the suit and your skin, so slipping into your suit while actually in the water is a good way to take advantage of that. The upside: you’ll safely avoid any nasty wetsuit burns that might get ya from neoprene rubbing against your dry arms, legs, and torso. The downside: you’ve got to get into that chilly water with no suit on, and once you’re in, any waves or current can make dressing yourself difficult.

Surfer in a wetsuit stands on mossy rocks and looks at his surfboard GaudiLab

Surfer in a wetsuit stands on mossy rocks and looks at his surfboard



Step 3: If You Want, Spend Some Green

If you’re dead set against any more hopping and tugging, there are products you can buy to ease the tension. These handy add-ons are a few we’d consider spending money on:

Dive Skins

These Lycra jumpsuits add warmth, plus they make it easy to get a wetsuit on since there’s no contact between your skin and the neoprene (no plastic bag required). Of course, you will have to put on—and walk around in—yet another skin-tight article of clothing. Dealbreaker?

Custom Zippers

Seems pretty obvious, right? Strategically located zippers would make for much less hassle. Some suits do come with ankle and wrist zippers, but if yours didn’t, you can find a wetsuit tailor (yes, those magicians do exist) to put them in. Bear in mind though—going this route is a little pricey and the zippers let more water into the suit meaning you get less thermal protection.

Diving suits drying on a brick wall with a sea view Anze Bizjan

Diving suits drying on a brick wall with a sea view

Anze Bizjan


Step 4: Avoid the “Don’t”s

Don't use soap

While it may seem like a quick and easy fix, lubing your suit up with shampoo, soap, or even vaseline (hey, we admit to trying it) isn’t a great idea. Any non-biodegradable soaps and detergents will leak into the water and turn your skin into a weathered prune (cute, right?). On top of that, lots of shampoos, conditioners, and oil-based products will leave a film on the suit that can eventually cause the material to crack—no good!

No nails

Don’t dig your nails in as a quick fix if the suit gets stuck. A jagged fingernail can easily damage the neoprene or the rubber seams. Be nice to your suit!

Never apply heat

After you’re done for the day, don’t wash the suit in hot water. And never, ever put it in the dryer, unless the idea of trying to squirm into a shrunken wetsuit sounds like fun to you. Rinsing with cold water and letting it hang dry for a few hours will take care of any funky wetsuit smell.

Hannah Oldknow

Hannah is ZOZI's Senior Merchandising Manager. She's written stories on a range of topics, including how to do a taco ride in Nebraska (yep—that's a thing) and the best surf spots in Mexico. In her free time, she keeps busy balancing her chakras, journaling, and hanging out with her family in Marin County.

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