Everything every surfer should know about wetsuits – who invented them, how they are made, what they are

Wetsuits have revolutionized water sports by providing comfort, protection, and extended time in cold water environments. Over the years, modern wetsuit technology has seen remarkable advancements, resulting in garments that offer improved insulation, flexibility, durability, and overall performance.

From innovative materials and seam construction to specialized features and eco-friendly initiatives, wetsuit manufacturers have continually pushed the boundaries to meet the demands of water sports enthusiasts. This article explores the fascinating world of modern wetsuit technology, delving into the key aspects that have transformed these garments into essential gear for anyone venturing into the water.

General information

A wetsuit is typically made using a combination of neoprene, nylon, and various manufacturing techniques. Here is a general overview of the process of making a wetsuit:

  1. Material selection: The primary material used in wetsuit construction is neoprene, a synthetic rubber that provides insulation and flexibility. Neoprene comes in different thicknesses, usually measured in millimeters, to suit various water temperatures. The inner and outer layers of the neoprene are typically lined with nylon fabric for added durability and comfort.
  2. Pattern cutting: Wetsuits are designed with specific patterns that vary depending on the brand and style. These patterns are often computer-generated and carefully tailored to ensure a good fit and freedom of movement. The neoprene sheets are laid out, and the patterns are traced onto the material.
  3. Neoprene bonding: The neoprene pieces are joined together using various techniques, such as blind stitching, flatlock stitching, or glued and blind-stitched seams. Blind stitching involves using a special sewing machine to create a stitch that does not penetrate the entire neoprene, reducing water leakage. Flatlock stitching creates flat seams that are comfortable but may allow some water entry. Glued and blind-stitched seams are sealed with adhesive glue and then stitched for added durability.
  4. Zipper installation: Most wetsuits feature a zipper on the back or chest for easy entry and closure. The neoprene around the zipper area is reinforced to prevent tearing. The zipper is usually made of corrosion-resistant materials, such as plastic or stainless steel, to withstand exposure to water and salt.
  5. Finishing touches: Various manufacturing techniques add features like reinforced knee pads, ankle and wrist cuffs, and logos to the wetsuit. These may involve additional stitching, gluing, or heat bonding.
  6. Quality control: Once the wetsuits are assembled, they undergo a thorough quality control process to check for defects or inconsistencies. This includes checking the seams, zippers, and overall construction to ensure the wetsuits meet the required standards.

It’s important to note that the specific manufacturing processes and techniques can vary among different wetsuit manufacturers. Advanced wetsuits may incorporate other technologies like thermal linings, heat-sealed seams, or specialized panels to enhance performance and insulation.

History of wetsuit

The history of the wetsuit dates back to the early 20th century. Here’s a brief overview of its evolution:

  1. Early Attempts: In the early 1900s, divers and water sports enthusiasts began experimenting with various materials to create protective garments for prolonged exposure to cold water. Wool and rubber were among the initial materials used, but they could have been more effective at insulating against cold temperatures.
  2. Development of Neoprene: In the 1930s, a major breakthrough occurred with the invention of neoprene, a synthetic rubber developed by DuPont. Neoprene exhibited excellent insulating properties and flexibility, making it an ideal material for wetsuits. This discovery paved the way for the modern wetsuit.
  3. First Wetsuit Patent: In 1951, Hugh Bradner, a physicist at the University of California, filed the first patent for a wetsuit. His design featured a thin layer of neoprene foam covered with nylon fabric. This design helped trap a thin layer of water between the body and the suit, which would warm up and provide insulation.
  4. Commercial Production: In the 1950s and 1960s, several companies started producing wetsuits commercially. Companies like O’Neill, Body Glove, and Beuchat played significant roles in popularizing wetsuits and refining their designs. These early wetsuits typically had back zippers and limited insulation compared to modern wetsuits.
  5. Technological Advancements: Over the following decades, wetsuit technology continued to improve. Thicker neoprene materials were developed, providing better insulation for colder water conditions. Different types of neoprene and lining materials were introduced, such as open-cell neoprene, closed-cell neoprene, and various nylon or polyester linings. These advancements enhanced thermal efficiency, durability, and comfort.
  6. Modern Features and Specialized Wetsuits: Wetsuit manufacturers have recently introduced various features to enhance performance and cater to specific water activities. This includes the introduction of sealed seams, neoprene panels of different thicknesses to improve flexibility and movement, and the integration of stretchy materials in key areas. Specialized wetsuits have been designed for surfing, diving, triathlons, and other water sports, addressing specific needs related to mobility, durability, buoyancy, and warmth.

Today, wetsuits have become essential to water sports and activities, allowing individuals to enjoy extended periods in cold water environments while staying comfortable and protected from the elements. The continuous research and development in wetsuit technology ensure that they remain an integral part of the water sports industry.

Morga, O’Neill, and the Meistrells

Bob Meistrell, Jack O’Neill, and Bill and Bob Meistrell, who founded the brand Body Glove.

  1. Bob Meistrell and Bill Meistrell: Bob and Bill Meistrell were twin brothers and avid water sports enthusiasts. In 1953, they co-founded Body Glove, which initially focused on making wetsuits for water activities. Body Glove played a significant role in the development and popularization of wetsuits. The Meistrell brothers’ innovative designs and contributions to the industry helped establish Body Glove as one of the leading wetsuit manufacturers.
  2. Jack O’Neill: Jack O’Neill was another influential figure in the wetsuit industry. In the early 1950s, O’Neill was a surfer and beach enthusiast who wanted to extend his time in the cold waters of Northern California. In 1952, he established his eponymous brand, O’Neill, which became one of the world’s most recognizable and successful wetsuit companies. O’Neill’s dedication to creating functional and high-quality wetsuits was pivotal in the widespread adoption of wetsuits among surfers and water sports enthusiasts.

It’s worth noting that Bob Meistrell and Jack O’Neill were pioneers in the wetsuit industry and made significant contributions to its development. While they had separate companies, both brands played crucial roles in advancing wetsuit technology and making them accessible to a wider audience.

If you meant to ask about Morga specifically, I don’t have any information on a prominent figure or brand named Morga in relation to wetsuits or water sports.

Modern Wetsuit Technology

Modern wetsuit technology has advanced significantly over the years, resulting in wetsuits that offer improved insulation, flexibility, durability, and overall performance. Here are some critical aspects of modern wetsuit technology:

  1. Neoprene Materials: Neoprene remains the primary material used in wetsuits. However, advancements in neoprene technology have led to the development of different types and grades of neoprene. This includes super-stretch neoprene that offers enhanced flexibility and mobility, lightweight neoprene for better comfort, and various thickness options to cater to different water temperatures.
  2. Seams: Seams are crucial for preventing water entry into the wetsuit. Modern wetsuits employ different seam construction techniques to enhance water resistance and durability. These include:
    • Glued and Blind-Stitched Seams: Neoprene panels are glued together and then blind-stitched, creating a robust, watertight seam that minimizes water entry.
    • Liquid Seam Sealing: Liquid sealants are applied to seams to provide waterproofing and reinforce the stitched areas, further minimizing water leakage.
    • Taped Seams: Some wetsuits feature internal or external seam taping, where the waterproof tape is applied to the seams to create a watertight barrier.
  1. Thermal Linings: Some wetsuits incorporate thermal linings, often made of materials like fleece or polypropylene, to improve insulation. These linings help trap body heat, providing extra warmth in colder conditions.
  2. Panel Construction: Wetsuits are designed with different neoprene panels strategically placed to provide flexibility, mobility, and insulation where needed. Advanced wetsuits may have thinner, stretchier panels in areas that require greater flexibility, such as the shoulders and arms. In comparison, thicker panels are used in the chest and back for enhanced insulation.
  3. Entry Systems: Wetsuits feature various entry systems for easy wearing and removal. These include back zippers, chest zippers, front zippers, and zip-free entry systems. Each type has advantages regarding ease of use, flexibility, and water-sealing capabilities.
  4. Specialized Features: Wetsuits designed for specific water activities often include additional features to enhance performance. For example, surf-specific wetsuits may have reinforced knee pads for durability and grip, while diving wetsuits might have built-in buoyancy control devices (BCDs) or integrated hoods for added protection.
  5. Eco-Friendly Initiatives: Many wetsuit manufacturers now incorporate sustainable practices into their production processes. This includes using neoprene derived from limestone instead of petroleum, utilizing recycled materials, and exploring alternative, more eco-friendly neoprene options.

Modern wetsuits continuously evolve as manufacturers explore new materials, construction techniques, and design innovations. These advancements aim to provide water sports enthusiasts with wetsuits that offer better performance, comfort, and durability in various water conditions.


The evolution of wetsuit technology has transformed the way we enjoy water sports. From the early development of neoprene to the introduction of specialized features and eco-friendly initiatives, wetsuits have become highly functional and versatile garments. Advanced materials, seam construction techniques, thermal linings, and thoughtful design have led to wetsuits that provide optimal insulation, flexibility, and durability.

As technology advances, we can expect even more exciting innovations in wetsuits, further enhancing comfort, performance, and sustainability. Whether a surfer, diver, or water enthusiast, modern wetsuits enable you to pursue your passion while staying protected and comfortable in the water.

Max Surfer


About Author

>> Professional surfer with over 10 years of experience >> Participant in numerous international competitions, including World Championships >> Experience in training and instructing beginner surfers

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