For those of us that spend our lives in the water in less-than-tropical zones, wetsuits are a fact of life. They can be cold, sandy, and restrictive, but without them we'd be spending far less time in the ocean and be doing it a lot less safely. Here are a few tricks and tips to make your wetsuit experience more enjoyable.
1. Pee in it. We don't recommend urinating in a dry wetsuit (sticky, itchy, and discomforting)—like when you're touring—but if you're in and out of the water a lot, peeing is totally acceptable. Spend enough time in the water and that moment will come. Let it go.
2. Wash it. Especially if you follow tip number one. Freshwater rinse in cold/cool water (hot can damage seams and glue) after every session will extend the life of your suit, keep it smelling somewhat decent, and make it more enjoyable to climb in and out of. Hang out of the direct sunlight to avoid cracking, fading, and disintegration. If you're hanging it for a long period of time put it on a heavy-duty plastic hanger folded in half to avoid stress on the seams.
3. Lose it. Don't wear anything underneath your suit (if you’re a guy). It's highly uncomfortable and unnecessary; wetsuits are made to be skin-tight. Instead, towel change by wrapping a towel around your waist and pulling your wetsuit up underneath it. It takes some time to perfect, but is fairly straightforward and efficient.
4. Bag it. The crux of putting on a suit comes at the ankles. There are a few ways to handle this. Putting a plastic grocery bag over your foot and sliding it through streamlines the process significantly (it also counts as recycling). You can also get the same effect with a sock in a dry suit. If you don't have either of these options, or think it's too much trouble, flip the last three or four inches of the leg of your suit up when your toes get to the leg opening and use the bottom of the folded section to pull the hole over your heel. This has the added bonus of leaving your suit ready to slide booties on beneath it.
5. Glue it. For tears, there is wetsuit glue and waterproof super glue. Both work fine. Just make sure your wetsuit is dry before applying. Be careful to read your warranty carefully, though; many companies void warranties if their wetsuits have been altered.
5. Advanced Dirtbag Tip: Use it. Most wetsuits come with a one-year warranty. If you spend enough time in the water, say three or more sessions a week, your wetsuit will probably start to disintegrate within that year, even if you wash it. Send the wetsuit back to the company under the warranty and they’ll repair the damage (re-tape seams, add new panels) or send you a new one for free. The key is getting in the water enough. —Will Taylor