Do I need a name brand wetsuit?
Do you need a name brand wetsuit from one of the surfing companies like Oneill, billabong, quicksilver, rip curl, etc.? Yes. 100% yes. Let me explain.
I’ve bought (because they were so cheap) generic wetsuits from Sams/Costco many years ago and now purchase wetsuits for my young kids from amazon. My experience has been no different than the reviews I see online – they fall apart. I mean literally fall apart after one use. They are not designed for surfing so they can’t take the abuse of paddling. I’ve ripped off zippers, had seams unwind, and tore through the material after just one use. As far as warmth, I’ve only tried this with tops and spring suits so the water was never cold enough to really test them. I don’t think I would risk it with a 3/2+. And this is just talking about the quality. The stretch in a surfing wetsuit arms/shoulders is not the same stretch in a scuba suit. So a scuba suit will feel like paddling in armor for a surfer.
For my kids, who are under 10yrs old, the generic wetsuit tops I’ve bought on amazon seem ok because my kids cant paddle a lot yet – I still push them into waves. They work well enough but would never last if i were to wear them. Wetsuits are designed to fall apart with use as it is.
Buy quality. Even the cheap suits from the surf manufacturers will be much better. I’ve had tops, vests, and spring suits from the top companies last 5-7+ years. Of course my full suits only last 2 maybe 3 seasons if I am lucky but thats normal. I dont think a generic full suit would last me a few sessions let alone a season. But my last 3/2 lasted almost 4 years and I just switched it out this year. My 4/3 is going on year 8 but will get replaced this next winter season. As far as brands I prefer, everyone has their preferences. But what fits you and what you like. I’ve tried most of them and more or less buy what’s on sale.
So don’t make the mistake of buying generic. There are a few times in life where its more cost effective to buy quality and wetsuits are one of those times.