How To Quickly Tell if a Wetsuit Is Too Small (4 Tips)

Wetsuits are a must if you are a surfer living in a cold water area. It is vital to have a wetsuit in good shape that fits properly to ensure you are warm and comfortable in the water.

But when trying on a wetsuit it can be difficult to know whether or not its the right size and whether or not it’s too small. We are often told that the wetsuit will stretch a bit in the water, but how much will it stretch and how can you quickly tell if a wetsuit is too small.

You can tell if a wetsuit is too small if it’s near impossible to get on, cuts off circulator at your wrists, ankles or neck or if it the groin is extremely tight or arm movement is severely limited. A wetsuit should be tight and snug, but not uncomfortable.

By reading the whole article, you’ll learn some ways to understand if your wetsuit is too small. I will cover tips for knowing if your wetsuit is too tiny and general sizing tips for wetsuits. For more details check out this article on how a wetsuit should fit.

For now lets look at the 4 ways you can tell if your wetsuit is too tight or too small for you:

1. Extremely Difficult To Put On

The first way to tell if your wetsuit is too small is if it is too difficult to put on. In general, wetsuits should be tightly fitted to your body, but not too tight so that you can’t get them on at all. 

If you try your wetsuit on in the shop and can’t get it on without help, it is likely too small.

Here are other signs that you may need one or two sizes bigger:

  • You may notice that your ankles and wrists barely fit inside the leg and arm holes.
  • The wetsuit leaves painful marks on your wrists or ankles when you take it off.
  • You can’t get it over your calves or thighs. 
  • You cannot get it over your shoulders.

It is likely too small if you find yourself huffing and puffing when you try your wetsuit on in the fitting room. Your wetsuit should hug your body, but it should not be so tight that you struggle to get it on. 

The exception to this can be thick diving wetsuits so extremely cold water. These are sometimes designed to be so snug they are difficult to get on and sometimes a wetsuit lubrication is needed to aid in getting the wetsuit on.

However, the shop assistant in the store should be able to advise you on whether or not the tightness of your suit is normal or if it is in fact too small. Remember, it’s very difficult to stretch a wetsuit that is too small, so make sure you get the right fitting wetsuit in the first place.

Before going to the store, you may want to check out the wetsuit size guide to have a general idea of how it should fit you.  

2. Too Tight in the Groin and Legs

Another indicator that your wetsuit is too small is if it is too tight in your groin and leg area. You may notice that the bottom of the wetsuit leg is squeezing your ankles tightly. 

If this is the case, you will be very uncomfortable in this size wetsuit. Putting your wetsuit on and taking it off when it is too tight around the ankles can be extremely difficult and painful. 

If your wetsuit feels painful in the groin due to too much compression then this can be a sign that the wetsuit is too small. Sure you could add a wetsuit pee zipper or scupper but most people don’t want this feature and it’s a customization that comes at extra cost.

Additionally, if you feel that after putting on your wetsuit, you have no flexibility or mobility in your hips, groin, or legs, this means your wetsuit is too small. One good way to measure this is by walking around, stretching, and moving with your wetsuit on.

You try to touch your toes with your legs apart when standing up, like in a start position. If separating your legs this far causes an issue, your wetsuit is too tiny. 

You can also practice popping up on your surfboard with your wetsuit on. You should be able to comfortably pop from your stomach to your feet without much trouble. Keep in mind that your wetsuit may be a bit tight at first. However, it will stretch slightly over time. 

However, you will need another size if you find that popping to your feet is nearly impossible or highly uncomfortable due to how tight your wetsuit is.   

3. Tightness in the Neck

Another critical area to check whether your wetsuit fits is around your neck. You want to make sure that your wetsuit does not sag around the neck, as this will allow too much excess water to enter, which will quickly cool you down. Shrinking your wetsuit is equally as difficult as stretching it so you want the neck to fit properly.

However, it is also essential that your wetsuit is not so tight at the neck that it doesn’t let any water in or allow you to breathe. 

If your wetsuit is too tight around the neck it can be extremely painful and lead to chafing.

You can test the fit of the neck by trying to insert one finger through the neck of the wetsuit snugly while you are wearing it.

If you feel uncomfortable pressure on your finger, then the wetsuit is likely too small for you. On the other hand, if you can insert two fingers with enough space left, the wetsuit could be too big for you. Wetsuits don’t keep you dry so some give around the neck is normal.

If your wetsuit is too tight around your neck, you will quickly notice because you may have trouble breathing. This is hazardous, especially since you will be doing an activity that requires cardio work. You can test this by walking at a fast pace or even jogging lightly in your wetsuit.

If you notice that you cannot breathe at a standard rate or your chest is too restricted in your wetsuit, it is too small. If your wetsuit restricts your breathing, you need to choose a bigger one.

If the wetsuit leaves a red line or indent around your neck this can also be a sign that it is too small.

Dry suits on the other hand do have very tight necks so no water can get it, so the fit on these should be expected to be tighter and likely more uncomfortable than a wetsuit.

4. Restricts Arm Movement

The last vital area of your body that you need to check when trying on a wetsuit is your arm and shoulder area. Your arms and shoulders need to be highly flexible and mobile when surfing. 

You use your arms and shoulders to paddle into waves and push yourself up. When you try on a wetsuit, you should feel a full range of motion in your arms and shoulders.

Yes a wetsuit will restrict this movement a little bit and make paddling slightly harder, but if it restricts it too much paddling will be extremely difficult and this isn’t what you want.

This restriction is why many surfers don’t wear wetsuits in warmer weather. But when the water gets colder you’ll need a wetsuit to keep you warm, but you still want to keep arm restriction to a minimum.

First, stand up and make full arms circles forward and backward to test this out. If you notice that your shoulders are restricted and pulled in a particular direction because of your wetsuit, the wetsuit is too tight on your shoulders. 

You can also practice paddling on the ground. This is important to try while lying down since that is what you will be doing while surfing. You may notice that it is difficult to paddle your arms regularly while lying down.

This is because the angle when laying down is slightly different and makes it harder to paddle. If you cannot paddle normally while lying down, your wetsuit does not fit you properly. 

For more tips and a visual demonstration of how to check if your wetsuit is too small, you can check out this video: 


If your wetsuit is too small, you will be uncomfortable, cold, and restricted during your surfing. If your wetsuit is too small you also won’t look good in your wetsuit nor feel comfortable as it’ll be too tight. You can tell a wetsuit is too small for you by first trying it on in the store. 

If it is too difficult to put on or too tight in the groin, legs, neck, or shoulders to the point that it restricts movement, you will need to try the next size up. Hopefully, after reading this article, you can easily find a wetsuit that is comfortable for you!