Gone are the days when women had few options to be both warm and chic in the water. The modern spring suit adds a whole new level of style and protection when surfing between seasons.

Based on over 20 year’s experience of avoiding the shivers while sitting on a surfboard, I’ve written a brief tutorial and listed my favorite suppliers below.

When I see you in the waves, may you be comfy, warm, and ready to rip!

Bev Sanders

Founder, Las Olas Surfing for Women

This Fall, Form Meets Function

A common question first-time surfers coming to a Las Olas surf and yoga retreat ask is, “What type of swimsuit should I bring?” Many ask if a light neoprene spring suit is necessary in the bathwater warm beaches of Mexico. Even when the water is tepid, a light spring suit makes me feel less exposed. Even our surf coaches wear them under their rashguards for extra warmth and protection.

When it’s too brisk to wear a bikini alone, but a full armed and legged wetsuit is overkill, a light neoprene wetsuit is essential in any surfer’s wardrobe. After twenty years surfing in the warm waters of Mexico and on chilly coast of central California, I’ll do my best to guide you through the frequently asked questions when choosing your first spring suit.

Las Olas Surf Coaches

What Is a Spring Suit & Why Do I Need One?

Think of a spring suit as your light sweater in the water. Surfers, wakeboarders, kite surfers, and other watersport enthusiasts wear a spring suit during those times when wearing a swimsuit alone has them shivering after 30 minutes, but sweating in a full bodied wetsuit. The spring suit offers that sweet spot in between. They come in several different silhouettes– long sleeves with bikini-cut bottoms, sleeveless with mini-short bottoms, even trendy bikini separates– all made in neoprene 0.5mm to 3mm thick. The thicker the material, the warmer the suit.

Spring suits are perfect for sunny, summer days in Southern California or even in the cooler months in Florida. Those 65-70+ degree water temps are still not tropical, yet a full wetsuit would be like wearing a down parka to brunch. However, in warm waters like Hawaii or Mexico, you’ll love having a spring suit if the afternoon trade winds blow in making the surface air feel colder. When that happens, even a neoprene bikini or a sleeveless one-piece provides a little bit of extra warmth compared to swimsuit fabric alone.
A spring suit’s neoprene shell may be thin, but it’s thick enough to offer protection from rocks and other things under the surface, too. Underwater reefs create beautifully shaped waves, but if the tide is low those same reefs can be treacherous if you wipe out. Snorkelers love spring suits because they provide a layer of defense against jellyfish or other sea critters.

Lastly, long-sleeved spring suits offer sun protection from harmful UV rays, too. What’s not to like?
Rhea at Las Olas

Ok. What Are My Options?

There are so many fun fashion options nowadays– prints, bold color-blocks, and classic black suits. Styles usually fall into the following four categories, with endless variations within each type:

1. One piece with short legs

The arms on spring suits vary from sleeveless, short, or long sleeves. The bottoms range from cheeky bikini cut, mini short, or mid-thigh length shorts. The different sleeve and bottom styles mix and match in countless ways for a dizzying number of options.

Best for: If you buy one spring suit. We recommend a 2mm long-sleeved version with whichever bottom cut you’re most comfortable in. Many surfers love this versatile style because the long sleeves provide arm and core warmth, as well as full sun protection. They cover water temps ranging from 65 – 75F degrees.

If you surf in waters warmer than 75F degrees like Hawaii, mainland Mexico, Central America, or South Pacific, a sleeveless or short sleeve spring suit may be your best bet. There are fantastic options that resemble a one-piece bathing suit, but in neoprene fabric. Don’t forget to add a rashguard for extra sun protection and avoid the hassle of slippery sunscreen arms!

2. Bikini

These exciting styles change based on the trends, but they commonly offer fuller coverage up top that provides good support and comfort for paddling. Bottoms range from bikini, mini shorts, and high waisted vintage-inspired cuts. Light neoprene bikinis don’t provide as much warmth and protection as one pieces, but they make up for it by being super versatile. You can mix and match with a neoprene jacket or other separates.

Best for: Fun with style and warm water surf over 75F degrees. 

3. Wetsuit jackets and separates 

A zip-up wetsuit jacket is exactly as it sounds: a practical jacket to layer over your sleeveless wetsuit or light spring suit. You can leave this top layer on the beach until that unexpected cloud cover rolls in.

Best for: Additional layering over your sleeveless spring suit or swimsuit.

4. Sleeveless or short sleeved one-piece with long legs

Since the men’s version is called a “Long John”, this sleeveless one-piece with full length legs is endearingly referred to as a “Long Jane” for us. Many surfers match a Long Jane with a neoprene jacket as an alternative to buying a full wetsuit.

Best for: Providing full body warmth, versatility and protection on your legs, especially knees.

Meghan at Las Olas

Comfort, Performance, Style ~ Do I Have to Choose?

Wetsuit design has come a long way. In addition to more options for women, there are fashionable options that don’t skimp on anything. We’ll help you decide the type of suit that’s best for you.

Thick or thin? When and where?
Consider the water temperature. The warmer the water, the less millimeters of neoprene thickness you’ll need. For temperatures below 70F degrees, you’ll be thankful for the 2mm of coziness all the way from your core to your wrists. For temperatures above 70F degrees, the 1mm sleeveless or bikini versions will be a comfortable balance between hot and cold.

What style and fit feels the most comfortable for your body?
Here’s where it gets personal. All spring suits fit a little differently depending on the brand and style. We suggest trying on suits to see what cut works best for your body. You shouldn’t feel any chafing under your armpits when circling around, and the leg opening shouldn’t dig too much while also being snug. There are many fantastic colorful options to express your personal style, too!

What are the most important performance features to you?
Most spring suits have similar performance features, beginning with how you put it on. There are two primary closure options: a zip-up front or a zip-up back. The type of closure you choose is a personal preference based on your comfort.

A back zipper tends to have a higher mock neck than front zip suits, thereby preventing water from flushing in through the top. They can also be more comfortable when belly paddling, although many fans of the front zip suit don’t experience any discomfort.

Next, the type of neoprene. The most common type of neoprene has a jersey fabric layer on top, but you’ll also see suits in neoprene that looks like rubber. This “smooth skin” neoprene doesn’t allow water to penetrate as easily as the jersey type, plus it attracts the heat of the sun to keep you warm. Some suits have this type of neoprene only on the chest to keep your core extra warm and others use it in larger panels all over the suit.

Gone are the days when women had few options to be both warm and chic in the water. The modern spring suit adds a whole new level of style and sense of security when riding waves.

Last Question, Where Do I Get Mine?

Links to brands seen above and a few other great finds:
Spring suits and much more:  Swim Outlet
Locally crafted, 100% Californian product for women:  Seea
A wide selection of all-season wetsuits: Wetsuit Warehouse
Well-known for sustainable production practices: Patagonia
And the company who’s founder started it all: O’Neill
Tanya at Las Olas
Guest surfers: Rachel, Meghan, Rhea, and Tanya
Las Olas Surfcoaches: Kate, Amanda, Kara
Photos by Camilla Fuchs for Las Olas.
Las Olas Surfing for Women