Let me start off by saying, I’m not in the best shape according to society’s standards of beauty. I’m not even in my own Personal Best shape, if I “compare and despair” over the health of my body now versus in prior years when fitness and eating clean was a higher priority. So the idea of purchasing an expensive full body wetsuit, that essentially accentuates every curve and bulge, was not an experience I was looking forward to.
I started with conducting online research from the safety of my couch in baggy pajamas and a sweatshirt. I wanted to know what I was getting myself into and if learning to surf was worth wearing one in public. I learned that all manufacturer sizes are made differently and you have to try it on to really know what size you are in that brand and style. Some material stretches more than others, and some (like all fabric) is more durable and lasts longer than others. All the sites I visited recommended buying from a brick and mortar retailer over purchasing online.
I’ve worn wetsuits in the past, yet it has always been for SCUBA diving when you’re also wearing an inflatable vest and a giant oxygen tank strapped to your back. Any proof (like photos or people’s memory) would show a round set of scuba gear with arms and legs protruding out. Even with SCUBA, I only rented wetsuits with the rest of the gear. I once competed in one triathlon, and I still only rented a wetsuit.
Buying a wetsuit is a commitment. It’s a financial investment in a sport that I don’t know if I’ll like yet. Unless you’re buying second-hand, even discounted wetsuits will cost a pretty penny.
Late last week, I scheduled my first surfing lesson for this coming Friday. It’s been a long time coming. My instructor is a woman who’s been surfing most of her life. She started a surf lesson MeetUp group for women over 35 (that’s me!), who may feel self-conscious and have been deterred from trying the sport that is mostly taught by a young, athletic men. Her post resonated with me and I knew I’d found someone who would be an empathetic, patient and compassionate teacher. We have emailed back and forth for the last few months trying to schedule a mutually available time between her full time job and my coaching. We finally landed on a date and time!
While she has extra surfboards to teach on, she doesn’t have a supply of wetsuits. So today is the day to buy one. With Fall here, many of the surf and sport shops in the area have wetsuit sales to clear out this year’s inventory. Now is probably the best time to buy a wetsuit (in case you’re also looking).
Jack’s Outlet store is known for it’s markdowns and I’m all about Up To 50% Off sales!
I was hoping there would be female employee to request advice from, and although everyone was a male, I asked my questions anyway. It wasn’t as difficult as my mind had made it out to be. In fact, it was quite informative and pleasant.
I shared that it was my first time buying a wetsuit and didn’t know the first thing about differences between them. I added that I was going to have my first surfing lesson and I wanted a wetsuit I could move in without feeling like my chest was restricted. The gentleman escorted me to the back wall where they kept the women’s sizes.
“The best way to find a good fit is to try a variety on,” he explained. He sized me up in a matter-of-fact, non-threatening way. “Start with a size 8 and see how that moves. Women’s suits are made to have more give in the chest. You want it to be tight enough that water isn’t going to get in but not so tight that you can’t swim. So once you’re in it, move your arms around like your swimming and see how that feels.”
He then began pulling out some of the wetsuits and asking questions.
“When do you plan on surfing?” he asked. “Summer and Fall, or Winter?”
“I have my first lesson on Friday and I assume I’ll mostly surf in the Summer,” I replied.
“And will you be surfing just here or do you plan on surfing elsewhere?” he asked.
“Mostly here,” I said. “I might also take it to SCUBA and that’s usually tropical water.”
“You’ll want a 3/2 then,” he explained. “The ‘3’ stands for millimeter thickness of the neoprene around your trunk, and the ‘2’ is the thickness on your arms and legs so you can move and bend them. The water here doesn’t get that cold and some people wear a 3/2 all year long. Just depends on how easily you get cold.”
“Got it,” I said.
“I assume you don’t want to spend that much if you’re just learning,” he said. “This is one of our cheaper wetsuits that’s good for beginners until you get a feel for surfing. It’s also 40% off.”
“You are speaking my language,” I said.
He handed me a couple different wetsuits and suggested I try them on and go up or down in size accordingly.
I tried them on and the cheapest one fit well. To make certain it was the right choice, I grabbed the same wetsuit in both a smaller and larger size for comparison. As it turned out, the size up felt a little like water would get into it and I couldn’t get the smaller size on. The Jack’s employee made an accurate assessment!
Looks like I’m all set. Time for some self-coaching inquiry work around my body thoughts before Friday’s lesson!