Choosing the right wetsuit is one of the most important decisions you'll make as a spearfisher.
Your wetsuit is what keeps you warm, comfortable, and protected when you're in the ocean, so it's essential to your enjoyment, safety, and spearfishing success.
However, with such a wide range of styles, cuts, materials and features available, how do you know which spearfishing wetsuit is best for you?
In this in-depth guide, you'll learn what to look for when buying a wetsuit for spearfishing, whether you're just getting started or you've been doing it for ages.
How experienced are you?
If you're just dipping your toe in the water, you probably don't need the most high-end spearfishing wetsuit on the market. However, if you're keen, committed and willing to invest, there's no harm in going high-quality from the beginning.
On the other hand, if you're a hardcore spearo, you're going to want the best spearfishing wetsuit within your budget.
Where are you spearfishing?
If you're spearfishing in Northern Queensland or a tropical paradise where the water's warm all year round, you can get away with a basic wetsuit — or no wetsuit at all.
However, if you're in New Zealand, Southern Australia (Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney), or anywhere in the world where the ocean is cold, you're going to need a good quality wetsuit, or a couple of wetsuits for different temperatures.
With those two questions in mind, you can navigate the other factors that go into choosing the best spearfishing wetsuit for you.
Spearfishing wetsuits come in a wide range of shapes, styles, materials and thicknesses.
Let's dive into the most important things to think about when buying a spearfishing wetsuit.
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Most spearfishing wetsuits are made from neoprene, a synthetic rubber material that's waterproof, flexible, and insulating.
However, as you'll learn below, not all neoprene wetsuits are the same. We recommend keeping your eyes peeled for wetsuits that use Yamamoto neoprene, which is widely regarded as the best neoprene in the world.
Here, we'll cover the different styles of spearfishing wetsuits.
Closed cell wetsuits
A closed cell wetsuit has an inner lining, usually made of nylon or polyester, between the neoprene and the skin. The main benefit of the inner lining is the wetsuit is easier to put on. The lining also contributes to the overall strength of the wetsuit. Closed cell suits are easy care and low maintenance.
The main downside of closed cell wetsuits is they allow water to flow freely between your skin and the wetsuit, which reduces your body temperature, especially during longer spearfishing sessions.
They also need to be thicker to achieve the same level of warmth as open cell wetsuits. This can reduce overall flexibility and require you to wear more weight on your belt.
Open cell wetsuits
Open cell wetsuits don't have an inner lining and use what's known as "naked neoprene". This means the tiny air bubbles within the neoprene act as suction cups on your skin, creating a watertight seal that keeps you completely dry and warmer in the water.
Open cell wetsuits achieve superior warmth relative to thickness. For example, a 3mm open cell suit is equivalent to a 7mm closed cell suit in terms of warmth. Therefore, open cell wetsuits provide the optimum balance of warmth, comfort and flexibility in the water.
The downside of open cell suits is they can be difficult to put on and you need to use some kind of lubricant or soapy spray to slide into them. Also, because they don't have an inner lining, the neoprene can be prone to ripping. However, this is usually accounted for by adding extra protection and padding around high use areas.
Seabuck wetsuits are open cell because, we believe, it's the superior option for spearfishing.
Smoothskin wetsuits are made for freedivers, but some spearos also prefer the streamlined design. They have an inner lining so they're easy to get on, but the neoprene bubbles of the outer layer have been smoothed over, creating a more hydrodynamic finish.
The downside is the outer layer is prone to scratches and rips and exposure to the sun can lead to cracking and discolouration.
Wetsuit face fabrics
While there's a lot of focus on the type of neoprene used for the wetsuit inner lining, it's also important to consider the face fabric, or outer neoprene layer.
There's no point in going for a high-tech flexible inner layer, such as the Yamamoto neoprene we use, if the wetsuit doesn't have an equally responsive face fabric. You'll find most modern wetsuits use a superstretch neoprene face fabric, but it's worth checking.
The face fabric does need to be tougher and more abrasion resistant than the inner, but you still want it to have plenty of flex.
The cut refers to the design of the wetsuit. When it comes to spearfishing, there are two main cuts to consider.
The traditional steamer is a full-length one-piece wetsuit with a standard back zipper. It's ideal for entry-level spearfishers and freedivers. Most steamers are lined on the inside so they're easy to slide into and they offer a good degree of warmth and protection. However, they're not as comfortable, versatile or warm as a two-piece wetsuit.
A two-piece wetsuit has separate top and bottom pieces. They are really comfortable and provide extra warmth around the core where the top and bottom overlap. You can get two-piece wetsuits with overall-style bottoms or high-waisted "long johns". It really comes down to personal preference.
A two-piece suit will have what's called a beaver tail to prevent water getting in between the top and bottom pieces. One downside of two-piece wetsuits is it can be hard to get them off "when nature calls". That's why Seabuck wetsuits have a watertight scupper, which is essentially a hole for doing number ones easily. It just makes life more comfortable, convenient and hygienic and you won't end up smelling like an old billy goat after a day of spearfishing. A scupper is especially important for commercial divers, but really, it's handy for everyone.
Almost all spearfishing wetsuits have a hood that you wear over your head. This provides extra insulation and protects you from wind so you can regulate your temperature and stay in the water longer.
One thing to keep in mind is the hood needs to create a watertight seal with your skin and dive mask. This is why Seabuck uses smoothskin neoprene for its hoods because it creates a superior seal while also being more comfortable. The tiny bubbles in traditional neoprene don't create the same watertight seal as smoothskin neoprene.
Spearfishing wetsuits come in the usual range of sizes, but there might be slight variations in the fit of different materials and cuts. To get the right size for you, we recommend taking measurements of each part of your body. You want the wetsuit to be snug, but comfortable.
You can refer to the sizing guides for Seabuck wetsuits below, or contact us with any questions.
"What's the best thickness for a spearfishing wetsuit? " is one of the most common questions we get. It all depends on the temperature of the water you're diving in. The most common thicknesses are 3mm and 5mm, but there's a wide range of options to suit all conditions.
In New Zealand, a 5mm open cell wetsuit is generally going to be the best option for all seasons, but it may be too warm in the middle of summer in some parts of the country. Serious spearos may choose to have a 3mm wetsuit for summer and a 5mm or 7mm for winter. However, 7mm suits are mainly used by commercial divers who are in the water all day.
In most parts of Australia, spearfishers also tend to prefer a 5mm wetsuit for extended dives.
But in warmer areas, you may get away with a 3mm wetsuit year-round, or even a 1.5mm suit in tropical climates.
Remember, the thickness will also depend on whether you're getting a closed cell or open cell wetsuit (open cell wetsuits are warmer relative to thickness).
You can use this simple thickness/temperature guide (this is for an open cell wetsuit):
The colour or camouflage you choose for your wetsuit will depend on where you regularly go spearfishing. You want to blend in with your surroundings and avoid being detected by fish as much as possible.
If you're spearfishing in open blue water, you'll want to go with a blue camouflage, like the PRYM1 Shoreline used in Seabuck wetsuits. If you're hunting around rocks, reefs and the ocean floor, a green, earthy-coloured camo is best.
A simple black wetsuit will also do the trick in most cases and provides a good level of concealment around kelp, seaweed and rocks and in darker waters or overcast conditions. The PRYM1 Blackout camo used in Seabuck wetsuits is a good option if you're wanting a black wetsuit.
There is a range of different sealing and stitching methods used in wetsuits. This is one of the only ways water can get inside your suit so you want to make sure the seals and stitching keep water out.
We recommend going with a wetsuit that's been blind stitched and glued. This is a method where the needle only penetrates halfway through the neoprene without comprising its waterproof properties. The stitching is reinforced with a glue seal. This is the method we use with Seabuck wetsuits, but we also add a layer of latex glue for extra strength and waterproofness. This technique also offers the optimal balance between strength and flexibility.
Any other stitching technique is going to let water into your suit, which means you get cold faster and limits the fun you'll have spearfishing. However, some divers prefer a simple stitched seam for the extra stretch and flexibility.
You should also check if a wetsuit has wrist, ankle and face (hood) seals, which are essentially tighter sections of neoprene around areas where water could get in.
Now that we've covered the key things you need to look for, here are a few additional features of spearfishing wetsuits, which make them different to wetsuits used for surfing and other water activities.
Chest loading pad
One of the key features that makes a spearfishing wetsuit unique is the chest loading pad, which provides protection and stability when reloading your speargun in the water. Seabuck wetsuits come with kevlar loading pads because it's the strongest abrasion resistant material for the job.
Some spearfishing wetsuits will have knife pockets so your knife's always handy for quickly dispatching fish once you've reeled them in.
A good-quality spearfishing wetsuit should have some level of padding and protection around the knees and bum. These are the areas most likely to come into contact with rocks and reefs and the padding helps to extend the life of the wetsuit. Look for materials that provide a good level of strength without sacrificing flexibility, such as Powertex.
It's a good idea to use a pair of gloves when you're spearfishing. Not only do they keep your hands warm, they protect you from sharp rocks and reefs and the variety of ocean creatures you're likely to encounter, but they also give you a better grip on your gun and fighting fish in the water.
Ideally, you should get gloves designed for spearfishing rather than surfing. Spearfishing gloves should come with padding on the palm and be nice and flexible for loading your gun and handling fish.
Similar to gloves, wetsuit booties or socks help to keep your feet warm, dry and protected from sharp and rough surfaces in the water. They're also handy for rock hopping around the coastline. But not all Booties are created equal. Like wetsuits, diving socks come in different thicknesses. Just keep in mind that they'll need to fit comfortably into your foot pockets/fins.
You could say that the best spearfisher on any given day is the one having the most fun.
Choosing the best spearfishing wetsuit for you is a major factor in how much fun you'll have out on the water.
A good wetsuit is going to help you feel comfortable, warm, and relaxed, which is always going to lead to a better spearfishing experience.
Take the time to learn about the different styles and features and select a wetsuit that's right for you.
It will be one of the best investments you make on your spearfishing journey.