How to put on a wetsuit and booties

Wetsuits can be a real pain to put on, especially extra thick wetsuits and booties for surfing. I live and surf in Northern California and put my wetsuit on several times a week. Over the years I’ve owned a few different types of wetsuits and discovered little tricks to make suiting up easier.

In the video tutorial below I’m putting on a non-zippered O’Niell Mutant 5/4 Hooded Wetsuit. This extra thick style of wetsuit called a “steamer” can be especially challenging to put on but is much warmer than thinner zippered alternatives.

  • any style wetsuit with legs or neoprene pants can be put on easier by using a plastic sack wrapped around your foot before inserting, the sack slides through neoprene easier than skin
  • for zippered wetsuits, make sure the liner is not overlapping or twisted before you try to zip it shut, get a friend to help align the two pieces before zipping, never force it
  • for non-zippered wetsuits focus on getting one arm through first, usually your non dominant arm, you can use your stronger arm to pull the wetsuit up more effectively
  • some surfers and wakeboarders recommend using baby soap or other light lubricant for making booties, bindings and wetsuits easier to put on and take off but be careful not to damage the suit, I have only done this with wakeboard bindings, never wetsuits
  • wetsuits will be easier to put on and last longer if they are washed with fresh water after use in salt water or chlorine and then hung up to dry, do not leave them outside in direct sunlight
  • to completely dry the inside of a wetsuit hang it up inside out and then reverse it just before putting it back on
  • when putting on wetsuit booties don’t force them by pulling on the back or the heel, this can rip the neoprene, instead insert your foot and slide forward as far as possible so your toes all reach the end, next pull on the sides and heal cup with both hands
  • always tuck booties in under the legs of a wetsuit when possible, this insures that moving water passes over and around instead of filling them up and potentially pulling them off
  • use a plastic bucket for changing when a restroom or other facility isn’t available, this will keep your feet clean and keep sand and other debris out of the wetsuit as you put it on