Warmth is crucial when you have to walk through feet of snow to get to the water. Photo: Tad Mask

Warmth is crucial when you have to walk through feet of snow to get to the water. Photo: Courtesy of Tad Mask

For us surfers who have the luxury (or curse, I guess, if you’re from warmer climates) of seasons, wetsuits are an integral part of the arsenal. Owning everything from a springsuit all the way to a hooded 6mm fullsuit is absolutely necessary if you’re going to surf in the Northeast.

But the cost of all that neoprene can get pretty high. Which means you’ve got to truly take proper care of each piece of gear to get the maximum amount of seasons out of it — plus it’ll help keep you warmer in the water if your gear is in its best shape to perform.

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With the memorable El Nino winter season now in the rearview mirror, it’s time to pack away those 6mm suits and 7mm boots and mittens and pull out the 4/3s and 3/2s. Salt and residue from whatever was in the ocean is detrimental to neoprene over time, so cleaning each piece of gear inside and out before letting them completely air dry is well worth the extra work.

I’ve got a concise step-by-step process below that you can (and should) follow after each season and the changing out of your wetsuit gear. It can be the difference between two seasons out of a suit or eight, which means more money you don’t have to spend and less neoprene that gets made — win-win for you and the environment.

What you’ll need:

You don't need much to take care of this crucial process. Photo: Ryan Brower

You don’t need much to take care of this crucial process. Photo: Ryan Brower

– a large bin/bucket
– antibacterial soap
– a brush
– a rack or clothesline and a location to hang dry (preferably not direct sunlight)
– a cedar block/ball

Step 1

Photo: Ryan Brower

Photo: Ryan Brower

Turn all your pieces of gear inside out, as you will want to do the inside now and the outside once the inside is all dry. Thorough drying is crucial in the storage process.

Step 2

Fill bin with warm water. Place a few squirts of the soap into the bin. You don't want it to be too soapy though, as you want to make sure you can easily wash out all of the suds.

Step 3

Photo: Ryan Brower

Photo: Ryan Brower

Let all the pieces soak for a few minutes.

Step 4

Photo: Ryan Brower

Photo: Ryan Brower

Hand scrub and gently use the brush on each piece of gear.

Step 5

Photo: Ryan Brower

Photo: Ryan Brower

Hang each piece on a rack or clothesline. Wetsuits themselves should always be folded in half and over when hung wet, as the shoulder areas can easily stretch out when hung on a hanger with the extra weight.

Step 6

Photo: Ryan Brower

Photo: Ryan Brower

Once dry, turn all the gear right side out and repeat the same process again.

Step 7

Photo: Ryan Brower

Photo: Ryan Brower

Let dry fully. This may take all day or even overnight depending on when you start. But it’s worth the effort, as any moisture left in the suits will help create the infamous “wetsuit funk” smell.

Step 8

Photo: Ryan Brower

Photo: Ryan Brower

Once completely dry, assess the gear for any tears, rips or busted seams that could come into play next winter. If spotted, use neoprene cement (found at your local surf shop) to repair or patch as needed. If you find any problems with seams contact the shop you got it from or the manufacturer directly. Many times the manufacturer will repair or replace free of charge (if it’s still under warranty) or for a small fee (which is well worth it).

Step 9

Photo: Ryan Brower

Photo: Ryan Brower

You’ll want to store it all in a cool, dry place indoors and preferably out of sunlight. The bin you used to clean everything is a good option if it has a top — and once it is cleaned of all salt/sand residue and dried out. Make sure you fold the wetsuit neatly, as heavy neoprene like this will take shape when stored for months on end.

Step 10

Photo: Ryan Brower

Photo: Ryan Brower

A cedar block or ring placed inside the bin will help keep enough moisture in there so the neoprene will not completely dry out and crack, but not so much moisture that it will cause bacteria to grow. There are also other options to this as well.

Step 11

Photo: Ryan Brower

Photo: Ryan Brower

Secure the top and wait until next winter for more kegging barrels.

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