When I started surfing, I remember getting some serious rashes on the back of my neck, behind my knees and under my arms. Sometimes chafing can can be an easy way to identify other surfers – just look for a rash on the back of the neck.
Because it is an annoying problem that surfers face regularly, people often ask, “How do Surfers Stop Wetsuit Chafing?”
Surfers stop or prevent wetsuit chafing by wearing a well fitting surfing-specific wetsuit, wearing a rash guard and using anti chafe cream. Wetsuits with softer neoprene and interior sealed seams are more comfortable and reduce chafing.
If you have suffered from wetsuit chafing, read on to review my Top Ten Battle Tested Tips.
10 Battle Tested Tips
1. Get the Fit Right
Fit is absolutely the most important factor when choosing a wetsuit. Make sure the wetsuit fits snugly, is comfortable and doesn’t limit your range of motion.
Wearing a well fitting wetsuit is the number one way to reduce chafing.
Keep in mind that the “right fit” will be different for every person. Not every wetsuit brand will fit comfortably so it’s important to try on a few different wetsuit brands to find out what works for you.
It’s important to review the size chart for each wetsuit brand because they may differ. Sizing in one brand may have different height and weight ranges than another brand.
If you haven’t seen wetsuit size guides, a good example is the EXCEL Wetsuit Size Guide for Men, Women and Youth, which can be viewed here.
2. Wear a Surfing Specific Wetsuit
Wearing a surfing specific wetsuit helps to prevent chafing because it has been designed with flexibility and mobility to support sport specific movements.
That being said, I am often asked, “Can I use my ( scuba diving, triathlon, water skiing, kayaking, fishing etc.) wetsuit for surfing?
In my opinion, for kids and people just getting into the sport it’s probably more cost effective to use whatever wetsuit you have access to as a means of trying the sport without too much financial commitment.
My first wetsuit was a two-piece women’s diving wetsuit that fit pretty good but caused some pretty nice rashes.
3. Check the Interior Seams
The interior seams of a wetsuit are the joints between the different pieces or panels of neoprene. The seams are a common area of the wetsuit that can cause chafing.
There are a number of different methods to seal/stitch wetsuit seams, including: stitching, gluing, welding and taping. There may even be several different methods of sealing seams on one wetsuit.
If you are getting chafing, check the seams in the corresponding interior area of your wetsuit. Look for raised or bumpy seams, deteriorated joints, loose taping, or cracked welds.
4. Anti-chafe Cream
When I first started surfing, we didn’t go to the beach without Vaseline. Because our old wetsuits caused rashes, we put Vaseline under our arms and on the back of our necks every time we went surfing.
As I got a bit older, I would sometimes forget to bring Vaseline and then pay the price with a rash that would take some time to heal. Rashes were just part of surfing.
These days, I rarely get any type of rash from my wetsuit. There are also better anti-chafe cream alternatives than Vaseline.
As a preventative measure, I use BodyGlide. It comes in a container that looks like Deodorant and it is small and easy to carry. I use it for many different sports including, surfing, triathlon, running, cycling and hiking. It goes on smooth, stays on for a long time and really works!
You can find it at most specialty sports stores or follow the link to BodyGlide on Amazon,
5. Wear Rash Guards
Rash guards are a thin shirt that offers protection from rashes, skin irritation and the sun. They don’t provide much warmth but they can be layered under a wetsuit to prevent chafing.
Rash guards come in a wide range of different options and materials. In order to reduce chafing, a short or long sleeve thin rash guard, with no zippers (zippers can cause irritation) is recommended. See the summary table below for some different options:
|Billabong Short Sleeve Rash Guard||$31.95|
|Rip Curl Long Sleeve Rash Guard||$34.95|
|Roxy Womens Long Sleeve Rash Guard||$33.75|
|O’Neill Kids Long Sleeve Rash Guard||$25.95|
In warmer climates, rash guards can be used as the primary surfing layer for protection from the sun. My daughter wears a rash guard (or sun shirt) for all beach related activities, including, playing in the sand, swimming in the ocean and running on the beach.
6. Use your Wetsuit for Surfing Only
Although rash guards can be a great layer for hanging out at the beach, it is not recommended to wear your wetsuit for long periods of time before or after you go surfing.
When I was younger, we would finish surfing and then just hang out in our wetsuits. We would have snacks, play on the beach and roll around in the sand. It was perfect recipe for chafing.
Wetsuits aren’t designed for riding bikes long distances, playing soccer or going to a nearby beach shack for lunch, so if you decide to wear your wetsuit as a before/after surfing outfit, you will be increasing your likelihood and severity of chafing.
Just do yourself a favour and wear your wetsuit for surfing only.
7. Follow a Post Surf Protocol
Following a post surf protocol sounds really formal, but it is just the series of steps you follow to clean, rinse and dry your wetsuit so it’s ready for the next session.
Rinsing your wetsuit with fresh water after each session and hanging it to drip dry is a great first step. Don’t hang your wetsuit in the direct sun since the UV rays can break down the neoprene over time.
Although you don’t necessarily need to wash your wetsuit after each session, it may be wise to wash it with soap if you pee in your wetsuit or surf in an area with noticeable ocean pollution.
A pee soaked wetsuit can cause skin irritation and be smelly too!
8. Try Softer Neoprene
There have been significant advancements in wetsuit technology over the last number of years. Neoprene, the primary material used in wetsuit technology, has gotten softer and more comfortable since I first started surfing.
All the major surfing brands have invested heavily in wetsuit technology and offer super comfortable high-end wetsuits. Generally, higher cost wetsuits come with better flexibility, warmth and comfort.
That being said, the fit of your wetsuit is still the most important factor to consider. Don’t be influenced by all the marketing hype. Try on a few different wetsuit brands and find the one that works best for you.
9. Check the Neck
As previously mentioned, the back of the neck is one of the most common areas to get wetsuit chafing. Full disclosure: I used to think of neck chafing as a badge of honour – then it just got annoying after a while.
Chafing around the neck happens for a number of reasons, including:
- Wetsuits are tight around the neck to reduce water infiltration
- Surfing requires a lot of head movement
- The neck area is more sensitive than other areas of the body
- A lot of rear entry wetsuits have zippers and velcro that fasten on the back of the neck.
If you are experiencing chafing on your neck, make sure to check that the closure mechanism is lined up. Is the velcro rubbing against your neck? Is there an exposed zipper that is rubbing?
It’s important to get it figured out because once a good rash develops, it will just keep getting irritated.
10. Don’t Change on the Sand
Sand is made up of many tiny particles that have a way of finding their way into your wetsuit and causing issues. They don’t call it sand paper for nothing!
If you stand on the sand when you are getting changed into your wetsuit, it will be impossible to keep the inside of your wetsuit clean.
I can’t count the number of times I have shown up at the beach, changed really quickly only to get out into the ocean and notice that I had sand, small sticks and even leaves caught inside my wetsuit.
There are many different innovative ways to get changed at the beach without getting sand in your suit, just watch other surfers and you will find the best strategy that works for you.