The Ultimate List of the Best Wetsuit Brands [2021 Edition]

by Tom Lacmundy

Whether you’re searching for a short-sleeved wetty for a stint in the Canaries or a proper West Coast steamer with 4mm, this guide to the best wetsuit brands is essential readind!

So, you’re hunting for a new wetty but don’t know where to begin? You come to the right place. This guide to the best wetsuit brands covers what’s hot and what’s not on the market right now. Written by surfers, for surfers, it takes a snapshot of the 2021/22 surf shop to see what names are making waves, and which are bailing like a kook on an overhead swell down in Mavericks.

We’ve had our fair share of overpriced, overrated suits in the past. It’s a frustrating feeling seeing a new tear down a supposedly double-stitched seam, or catching water flushing in whenever you duck dive, especially after forking out $400 for the newest tech in the surf world. That’s why we’ll focus on the brands that we think are truly worthy of your money.

The good news is that wetsuit manufacturing has come a whole long way since things began in the 1950s. You’ve now got infra-red neoprene, double-dipped neoprene, UVA/UVB resistant neoprene – you name it! There’s been a mini eco revolution, giving rise to loads of environmentally-friendly suits, along with advances in foaming that means you can now feel as flexy as rubber band while still donning a 5/4/3 up in Alaska.

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

Check out more about wetsuits in our ultimate guide to all things neoprene right now!

A quick-jump guide to the best wetsuit brands…

Best wetsuit brands
  • XcelArguably the peak of all the best wetsuit brands, perfect for intermediate surfers and up with a bit of cash to spend
  • VisslaFlexible, light suits that look fantastic
  • Quiksilver Decent balance between price and tech, especially on their accomplished midrange suits
  • O’Neill The original wetsuit makers
  • PatagoniaExceptional cold-water quality with unrivaled eco credentials
  • Rip CurlAlways trying something new
  • Sisstrevolution For the ladies

Xcel – our all-round favourite among the best wetsuit brands

Xcel wetsuits

We’re just going to go right out and say it: Xcel wetsuits are our all-round top pick when it comes to the best wetsuit brands. Why? Well…lots of reasons, actually…

The first plaudit has to go to the Drylock and Drylock X suit. Okay, so these bad boys will set you back a hefty chunk ($499 at our last checking) but they do have more features than a top-of-the-line Tesla. The interior is a trademark Celiant Black thermo, which stretches up the limbs to harness the infrared warmth of your own blood flow to stay balmy. Unlike loads of UFO-like tech, it actually works!

That takes care of the winter months. But what about the summer? Cali locals and surfers all over the Eastern Seaboard and Europe will LOVE the Phoenix. At least they will if they prize a 3/2 that feels as warm as a 4/3 but has ultra malleable Channel Flex up top combined with light Japanese limestone neo. The whole thing feels so light and airy it’s probably the closest we’ve found to tropical surfing in four-season environments.

Xcel wetsuits were born in 1982 in Sunset Beach, CA. They’re now based out of Haleiwa, Hawaii. They’ve made their name on creating high-performance neoprene for surfers at the top end of their game. The result is a brand that might not be easy on the wallet, but pretty much gets everything spot on with tech and fit. We’d recommend them as a sure-fire investment for surfers intermediate and up.

Vissla

We’ve had a soft spot for Vissla ever since a pal showed off his all new 7 Seas wetty during the Cornish summertime in 2018. We’ve heard lots of good things since, too. Although we’re yet to sample one of the suits for ourselves, we’d say you’re in pretty good hands if you plump for some neo bearing the big white ‘V’. There seem to be more and more in the lineup every year, and they look darn fantastic.

Vissla really cut their teeth with the aforementioned 7 Seas. It was pretty revolutionary when it first came out. That’s largely down to the minimalist approach. They billed it as “everything you need in a wetsuit, nothing you don’t”. It ticked all those boxes, with a high thermal retention, wonderful flex, and light Japanese limestone to finish off. Tech aside: My bro recently got one and it’s fantastic. Consider it the epitome of the upper-end of the entry level suit.

Vissla have also made a big nod toward the eco end of the market in recent years. They’ve got non-solvent glues and environmental dyes in all their suits, along with AquaA lamination that won’t risk the sea.

Quiksilver

Billabong wetsuit

Quiksilver has a long hisoy of providing neoprene to some ofthe world’s best surfers. It’s continually on the forefront of the market, developing new technologies and design nuances that can sometimes go on to totally change the way we surf under the neoprene. Yes, sometimes there’s a miss year and the suits aren’t the most durable in our experience, but all that’s more than balanced out by solid warmth, good flexibility, and tried-and-tested brand identity that means you really can’t go wrong.

Special mention should be made of the Syncro range. It’s a mid-level steamer suit that comes in most commonly used thicknesses and works fantastically well in loads of the destinations we love to surf, from California to northern Europe. They’ve now bulked up the thermals on that range with a new Syncro+ version, and have the Highline for more serious surfers.

We’d sum up Quiksilver like this: Solid and secure but rarely exciting. That might sound a little drab, but in the world of thermal sports gear it goes a very long way!

O’Neill 

We know, we know – being the first doesn’t necessarily make you the best. Still, O’Neill is worth a spedcial mention on this list of the world’s best wetsuit brands, if only for the long and impressive pedigree of market-leading suits that have come before the current 2021/22 season.

There are quite a few of them. Jack O’Neill, founder and inventor, started his range way back in 1952. That’s the first year the wetsuit is thought to have been around, so it’s fair to say that these guys were trailblazers long before anyone else!

Of course, the tech used in O’Neill suits is very different these days. We consider it a solid option that promises good heat retention for medium-long sessions. It might lack a little in the way of durability, but that’s probably our only complaint.

The O’Neill Hyperfreak is the top-of-the-range offering from these guys. It’s a solid winter prospect that goes up to 5/4+ for hardcore sessions. It boasts that TechnoButter 3 neoprene on the key panels, which lives up to its name with extra stretch and good foam insulation. It’s also got a F.U.Z.E. chest zip, which we consider to the be one of the top anti-flush fixtures on the market right now – great if you have abnormal chest sizing and need a zipper that’s forgiving with water inlet.

More than anything, O’Neill offer some wonderful entry-level suits that won’t break the bank. Check out the Reactor II suit (which RRPs at around just $124.99) or the Epic (coming in at around $189.99) if you’re keen to get something with good tech that will help you kick off the whitewash and get comfy on the green waves.

Patagonia

Okay, Patagonia aren’t gonna’ be the option if you’re tight on cash. There’s a joke going around: “How do you know someone’s got enough money to risk breaking their board in two?” Answer: They’re in a Patagonia suit. And it’s true, the neo from these guys is pricy, but it’s not that pricy. In fact, we’d say it’s in line with the upper end of the range of Xcel and Quiksilver. Ball park? You’re looking at $400-500 a suit.

It won’t be wasted, though. Not a chance. There’s some serious power in the Patagonia suits. There should be, because they’ve positioned themselves as one of the go-to choices for serious cold-water surfing. The Yulex flagship range means you get 85% biomaterial rubber in there and 15% synthetic rubber combos that add stretch and flex to the outer without compromising on warmth. There’s also triple (yep, TRIPLE) gluing on the seams so flushing is rarely an issue on medium-long sessions.

Even with all of those bonuses, Patagonia’s greatest draw might just be how eco-friendly the whole range is. These guys use FSC-certified rubber stamped and okayed by the Rainforest Alliance. All materials are Fair Trade, so buying here supports local farming communities down the supply chain. Oh, and a whopping 68% of all Patagonia fabrics this season were recycled!

Rip Curl

Rip Curl continually prove that they’re right up there on the cutting-edge of wetsuit production. Sometimes, and it’s rare mind you, they get things wrong. We can remember a clunky production of the midrange back in the noughties, for example. Most times, things go right. And when RC get it right, they usually get it right in grand style.

A nod here must be made to the incredible zipless tech that went into the E Bomb E7 series these past few years. It was like a political focus group worth of research if the PR is to be believed. Fanning, Medina – the consultants that Rip Curl went through to develop their top-of-the-range steamer are akin to getting Gary Kasparov to help you design the perfect chess set.

What consistently gets us with the more expensive end of the Rip Curl range (the E Bombs and, to a certain extent, the Flashbomb) is the willingness to mix and match different grades of neoprene on various panels. Here, you’ll get the E7. That’s optimized for durability and flex, so perfect for high-contact chest areas. There, you get the E6, which prioritizes heat retention, making it the go-to for high blood flow spots like the upper legs.

It’s also worth pointing out that the Dawn Patrol is hard to beat on the midrange front. It now surfs almost the same as the Flashbomb (the top of the range) did a couple of years ago. We also love the added E5 Flash Lining for the intense heat pickup as you paddle out, but also that RC haven’t gone overboard and padded out the shoulders too much. The suit is still very novice-friendly, with extra maneuverability in the upper especially.

Sisstrevolution

Female wetsuit on beach

Nope, the extra ‘S’ doesn’t make it cool, the accomplished tech in their wetsuits does. This all-female brand only took off in 2019, but we’re sticking it up here on our list of the very best wetsuit brands because it’s shouldered its way onto the market like a seasoned pro.

We’ll start with the obvious thing. Sisstrevolution only make women’s suits. That means they’ve freed up design time to really hone the shape and style of suits to compliment female surfers. The fit is curvy and relaxed, with a flattering profile that also acts to loosen up manoeuvre space at key points like the hips and upper chest.

We love the use of  limestone-based neoprene to add lightness, along with non-toxic dyes to keep the pieces reef safe and whatnot. Perhaps most of all, it’s the range that we think takes the biscuit. Sisstrevolution have nailed everything from the 5/4 hooded for midwinter to the shorty steamer for the spring months. They also look fantastic, with subtle floral touches and muted greens and blues all round.


There are many more companies that could easily have made it onto this list of the best wetsuit brands. We’ve stuck to tried-and-tested names that you can easily source online. If you can think of any more to add to the list, be sure to drop comments in below – other readers might just find the suit of their dreams.

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

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2 comments

Dan April 12, 2021 - 10:14 am

Rip curl have consistently had the best suits and the best r&d.
Nine plus make a damn fine smoothie.
That’s my 2c.

Reply
Joe @ Surf Atlas April 13, 2021 - 1:42 pm

Yo Dan. We actually can’t argue. In fact, the only reason RC isn’t here yet is because we’re waiting on a summer suit to try out for 2021 season (need the water to warm up first). If it’s as good as the steamer we were in 2 years back then they’ll be back on selection. Any recommendations on what suits are the best with them? We’re going Ebomb.

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