What is true for the fetishist is also true for the surfer: putting rubber on is fun, but taking it off is even funner. For the European surfer, the gradual disrobing process, which begins maybe in March and culminates in a pagan orgy of sunburnt flesh sometime around July, is one of life’s chief pleasures.

The key is in the timing, and in a patient, one-step-at-a-time approach. Taking everything off too soon, or all at once, is very not sexy, and very cold.

Off come the gloves, followed by the hood, then the boots, then you change into a thinner wetsuit, but what next? Some go for short sleeves, some for short legs, some for both at the same time, some for no sleeves at all; some go for wetsuits completely lacking in any bottom half, also known as wetsuit tops.

A quick word about terminology. By summer wetsuits we mean wetsuits that have in some way been cut short — that are several sleeves short of a fullsuit — although there isn't universal agreement here. Anyway, if you’re after a full-length 3/2 wetsuit, which is still the best summer option for many parts of Europe (the UK, Portugal), see our list of the best fullsuit wetsuits for 2018.

 

Vissla 7 Seas 50/50 Short-Sleeve 2/2

Vissla 7 Seas 2/2 50/50 wetsuit

Vissla 7 Seas 50/50

Materials: Super stretch neoprene / thermal hollow fibre
Weight: 760g
Water temp: 17-20 deg C
Price: €209

Vissla

Short-sleeve (but long-leg) wetsuits are the most normal, the least controversial of the summer-suit options, and they're pretty much all good; it's a hard one to get wrong. But like breakfast burritos, Smiths albums, and girl's mothers, some are more better/bigger than others. In terms of Smiths albums, Vissla's 7 Seas 50/50 short-sleeve 2/2 is the short-sleeve wetsuit equivalent of The Queen is Dead, or Meat is Murder, or possibly their eponymous debut. For those not fluent in Smiths albums, that's really good.

The blue and grey combination is daring but works wonderfully; the hollow-fibre lining is light, warm, and quick-drying; the freedom of movement is remarkable, and a cheering antidote to any post-Brexit blues you may be suffering/about to suffer... Read the full review

 

Ion Onyx Amp Zipless Short-Sleeve 2/2

Ion Onyx Amp Zipless 2/2

Ion Onyx Amp

Materials: Hot stuff lining, N-foam
Weight: 812g
Price: €289

Ion

Another fine example of the short-sleeve genre, Ion's Onyx Amp Zipless short-sleeve 2/2 guarantees a thoroughly satisfying sensory experience. The flex and freedom is superb, thanks in part to the joyously supple neoprene, in part to the hassle-free zipless entry.

When we sent our homeslice Giles to the Canaries to put it through its paces, he returned rejuvenated in mind, body and soul, and highly impressed with the suit's stretch and warmth. Read the full review

 

O'Neill Hyperfreak Long-Sleeve Spring Suit

O'Neill Hyperfreak L/S Spring Suit

Thickness: 2mm throughout
Weight: 648g
Price: £155 / €185

O'Neill

Many surfers go their whole surfing lives without ever even wearing, let alone owning, a long-sleeve shorty aka long-arm short-leg wetsuit. Some are actively resistant to the idea.

You should not follow in their clumsy, clunking footsteps. The long-sleeve short-leg combo is both highly functional (think warm-ish water, chilly air-temp) and extremely stylish; indeed, it was the wetsuit of choice at the recent Vans Duct Tape Invitational, where style was of the essence, and the footsteps were nimble and weightless. The O'Neill Hyperfreak L/S is buttery and smooth and a pleasure to wear. Read the full review

 

Patagonia R1 Lite Yulex Shorty

Patagonia R1 Lite Yulex Shorty

Thickness: 2mm throughout
Weight: 820g
Materials: 85% natural rubber, 15% synthetic rubber
Price: £200 / €230

Patagonia

Just like the late, great Phife Dawg, everybody needs a shorty in their ill convoy. Phife Dawg is the Tribe Called Quest MC who gave us lines such as, "I'll bust a nut inside your eye, to show you where I come from", but where do wetsuits come from? Who makes them, and out of what?

If these are questions that vex you, the Patagonia R1 Lite Yulex Shorty is the shorty for you. Not only does it look rad, this suit eschews neoprene in favour of natural rubber grown in plantations certified by the Rainforest Alliance... Read the full review

 

Billabong Furnace Pro 2/2 Shorty

Billabong S/S 2/2 Furnace Wetsuit

Price: €190
Weight: 690g
Materials: Neoprene, nylon, elastane, polyolefin

Billabong

Billabong, like the Arsenal, are undergoing a transitional phase, but all you need concern yourselves with is how the wetsuits work. This one, the Furnace Pro Shorty 2/2, works very well indeed.

Perhaps its most striking feature is the jersey or outer layer, which is lighter and faster-drying than a conventional outer layer; Billabong have dubbed it the Ax1 External Superflex Jersey. Read the full review

 

O'Neill Hyperfreak Shorty

O'Neill Hyperfreak Shorty

Thickness: 2mm throughout
Weight: 620g
Price: £145 / €175

O'Neill

The O'Neill Hyperfreak Shorty is basically the same suit as the aforementioned long-sleeve short-leg suit, minus the forearms. It's made out of "TechnoButter" neoprene, and if you're not familiar the stuff — wait, even if you are familiar with it — it's possibly the stretchiest rubber on the market.

Besides excellent flex you'll also enjoy great comfort and some nifty protection against wetsuit rash, in the form of the “double superseal” around the neck. Read the full review

 

Quiksilver High Line Plus 2/2

Quiksilver Highline Plus S/S Spring 2/2

Material: 92% Nylon / 8% Elastothane
Temp: 18-21°C
Price: €179

Quiksilver

The Quik Highline Plus packs a boat load of features packed onto a relatively small rubbery area. These features include: F’N LITE2 neoprene construction for rapid drying time, water block semi dry PK#8 chest zip, Vaporstretch mesh for ultimate flexibility, spot taping where seems meet, and full taping in that inner leg gusset area (where seepage can present a discomfort).

You will be bold and bright but also extremely comfortable, and your shred will be as precision as your tan lines. Read the full review

 

Patagonia R1 Lite Yulex Long John

Patagonia R1 Lite Yulex Long John

Thickness: 2mm throughout
Weight: 732g
Materials: 85% Yulex natural rubber, 15% synthetic rubber
Price: £160 / €175

Patagonia

Long Johns are basically the dungarees of the wetsuit world, and arguably the funnest of all the wetsuits to wear. This one here, the R1 Lite Long John, is made by Patagonia and is thus the eco-friendliest Long John you'll find anywhere; it's made out natural Yulex rubber rather than neoprene.

In a sense it's the most flamboyant option on this list, and yet it's flamboyant in a soulful, low-key sort of way... Read the full review

 

Hurley Advantage Plus 0.5mm Windskin Jacket

Hurley Advantage Plus 0.5mm Windskin Jacket

Materials: 80% Neoprene 20% Nylon
Weight: 245g
Price: £80.95 / €95

Hurley

Size by size, gram for gram, this Hurley Windskin Jacket is the warmest piece of rubber you could possibly sneak into your already-full-to-bursting board bag. It's only half a mil thick, but that half a mil could be sesh-changing, maybe even trip-changing.

Benefits include: sessions of greater duration and comfort; a super snug fit, which means it won't balloon with water as some wetsuit tops have a tendency to do; and complete upper-body UV protection without the older dude/Dad dance vibes of the long sleeve rashie. Read the full review

 

RVCA Back Zip Wetsuit Jacket

RVCA Back Zip Wetsuit Jacket

Materials: 2mm stretch C-Mesh
Weight: 570g
Price: €90

RVCA

Another session-extending neoprene top to go with a pair of boardshorts, but characterised by a slightly fruitier, fashion-conscious vibe, the RVCA Back Zip Wetsuit Jacket is a successful balancing act between looking highly presentable and being fully functional.

This jacket was tested all last summer/autumn in SW France by the Surf Europe editor, who wore it when logging, singlefinning, thrustering, and pint-drinking, among other things. He assures us it rose to every challenge. Read the full review