Best Surfing Wetsuit Tops of 2018

Best Surfing Wetsuit Tops of 2018

Every surfer needs a good wetsuit top/jacket in his closet. When the sun is out and the water gets above 65 degrees, nothing feels better than ditching that cold and constricting wetsuit for your favorite pair of boardshorts. However, you can’t wear the boardies by themselves. A wetsuit top serves three main purposes. The first and most obvious is to keep you warm. The second is to avoid rashes that come from moving around on your waxy board. The third is to keep your upper body out of the sun’s harmful rays. It’s a no brainer, you need a good wetsuit top, and you need one now!

Things to consider…

Wetsuit Brands

Just about every major surf brand out there offers multiple wetsuit tops. It can be tough to filter through all the options in this over-saturated market of foamed neoprene. Some brands are known for making quality wetsuit tops while others are not. Xcel and Matuse are two brands that focus exclusively in the wetsuit category. These are good brands to keep in mind but other brands like Billabong and Rip Curl have been very innovative with their wetsuit lines and should be considered as well.

Wetsuit Thickness

Thickness is the first major spec you need to consider. I’ve seen tops range anywhere from .5mm at the thinnest to 3mm at the thickest. For reference, 1 millimeter is about the length of the tip of your pencil, 2 the tip of a crayon, and 5mm the eraser on the end of the pencil. In my opinion, that sweet spot for a top is 2mm. Keeps you warm and isn’t too tight. To put this into perspective, most full length wetsuits are 3mm in the core and 2mm in the arms and legs (commonly referred to as a 3/2). Generally, a 3/2 can be worn almost year round. A wetsuit top obviously takes the lower half out of the equation and a little thickness out of the core to create a 2mm thickness all the way around.

What Wetsuit Cut Do I Need?

Another thing to think about is the cut. Wetsuit tops can come in three forms: long sleeve, short sleeve, and tank top. Less material means it will be less constricting but also less warm, so we are dealing with another trade off here. When you feel too constricted, paddling can be difficult and it can even feel a little bit like you’re suffocating and being strangled in the neck. However, wetsuit tops break in like shoes and should become more comfortable pretty quickly. The main thing to consider with the cut is the aesthetic of the piece. I personally would only buy a top with long sleeves because I need all the warmth I can get and some would consider it to be the least kooky of looks.


The last thing to look into is price. Top wetsuits range anywhere from $50 at the cheapest to $150 for premium brands like Matuse and Patagonia. Don’t be fooled by a $20 top that is actually a rash guard. Rash guards and wetsuit tops are NOT the same thing. The sweet spot for a quality top without breaking the bank is going to be in the $70-$80 range.

The Best of the Best Wetsuit Tops 

I’ve researched almost every top out there and have even got to test drive a few out at my local break. Below, I’ve narrowed it down to the best four tops on the market right now. You’re welcome 🙂

Billabong 202 Revolution 2mm Tri Bong Reversible Jacket

Billabong has an awesome 2mm wetsuit top. Its unique reversible nature lets you switch up the look every other time you paddle out. There is only one subtle billabong logo in the pocket are which will leave you looking steezy in the lineup with no major brand plastered across your chest.

Buy Now: $80

O’Neill Wetsuits Mens Superlite Jacket

O’Neill offers a unique long sleeve wetsuit top with a front zipper. The front zip makes slipping it on and off a breeze. The 2mm top is designed with seamless paddle zones that creates for maximum flexibility. No constricting feel that a wetsuit or some other tops might have.

Buy Now: $85

Rip Curl Mens Flash Bomb Vest 0.5mm Suit

Rip Curl is known for its tank top style wetsuits. Their Flash Bomb vest is said to dry in just 15 minutes due to its .5mm thickness. The trade-off with the thinness is that it won’t keep you as warm, so probably a better top for 70 degree plus waters. Perfect for that tropical surf trip or the warmest of summer days.

Buy Now: $75

Xcel 1.5mm Axis Basic Short Sleeve Top

Xcel is a popular surf brand that focus specifically in the wetsuit category, so you can be sure they’ve figured out how to make a quality top. Their 1.5mm short sleeve top constructed with stretchable neoprene is designed for flexibility. The seamless shoulders and underarms combined with the shortsleeves create for very comfortable paddling.

Buy Now: $75

Wrapping up the best wetsuit tops of 2017

There’s a lot to consider when you’re looking for a surfing wetsuit. Design and cut not only matter for your own style, but some benefits you won’t notice until you get into the water. Consider the conditions of your local break so you get the best wetsuit for you.

Shop All Wetsuit Tops


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  • comment-avatar

    The best wetsuits for your height and weight are the ones that stay close to your body, perfectly fit in the neck, torso, arms and legs.

  • comment-avatar

    Depending on where and when you plan to do most of your surfing, you may opt for a lighterweight wetsuit or one that offers more protection against chillier temperatures.