Wetsuit fit is a matter of give and take
Back zip wetsuits, the zipper is always in the back. It starts at the neck and goes down. All wetsuits we sell with a vertical zipper, the zipper always goes in the back.
Chest zip wetsuits, the zipper is 99% of the time in the front, and 1% of the time in the front and back.
Zipperless wetsuits - well, there's no zipper, but there's only one correct way to wear it and if you're thinking about a zipperless, then you should already know how that works.
And all wetsuit manfucaturer's sizing chart are not the same. Each company's size "M" is different. O'Neill is shorter, Quiksilver is taller, Rip Curl is taller and thinner, and Billabong is taller and thinner still. And then, to make it ever more fun, each company has a 'tolerance' of what is and what isn't acceptable in their sizing. O'Neill and Rip Curl seem to have the more reliable sizing for wetsuits. If you wear an "LS" in O'Neill, then order an "LS", their tolerances are insanely accurate. For most companies, the accuracy of sizes is so much better now than in the past.
Unless you fit right inside the measurements, your're going to have to find the combination that is closest to you. Never go smaller in the waist, that's always been the worst mistake first-time buyer make. If you have a 32" waist, a 34" waist in a wetsuit is going to be a problem. Where there is bagginess, that's where your wetsuit will hold and pool water. Around the waist and upper thigh, this is NOT GOOD. You do not want cold water pooling around your upper thigh, groin, and waist area - you will be cold and miserable in no time! You want a wetsuit to be snug, wetsuits aren't easy to get into - so keep that in mind. Wetsuits are restrictive to movement - there's no way around that fact. You'll need a wetsuit that's snug, without being too tight. Too tight is fairly relative, but too tight is also a problem. The little air bubbles inside the neoprene get compressed and lose their ability to insulate. So too tight is just as bad a problem as too loose.
The secret to a good fit, other than trying on 4 different size wetsuits, is to know, what size shirt would you wear under a dress shirt? A well ironed dress shirt with a tie. What size undershirt would you wear? If that answer is 'Large' then 90% of the time, you'll wear a "L" wetsuit. You may need an LT if you're taller than the max height for a Large, or a LS, if you're shorter than the max height for a Large.
But you said different brands fit differently? They do and that's where we're going next. Lets say you wear a L t-shirt under a dress shirt. It's the proper fit for an undershirt. Is it an athletic cut shirt? If so, chances are good, that O'Neill is going to be your good size. Can you see your pecs? Again, O'Neill will probably be the suit for you. But what if it's a standard cut and you can see you pecs, but it's not super noticeable? You might want to try a Rip Curl or even a Quiksilver. Lets say, you're standard cut, but taller than most people your weight and have basketball player build, again, let's try on a Rip Curl, Quiksilver or even a BIllabong or Hurley.
Nothing beats trying on wetsuits for a proper fit. No matter what you've read, nothing beats trying on a suit in person if you've never owned a wetsuit or you're thinking of switching brands. Because shipping can get expensive fast, we recommend you always try on the size and brand wetsuit you buy from us. Trying on 2 wetsuits online requires 3 total shipments! And because of the discounts we give, we have to charge for actual shipping charges on returns.
The wetsuit feels too tight. I've heard this a lot, sometimes it's totally correct - sometimes it's not. With the wetsuit on and zipped, grab a neoprene at your sternum and pull. Can you feel are coming into fill the vaccuum? If so, chances are the wetsuit is not too tight. Does the wetsuit snap back and no air entered the void from anywhere? Well, it's probably too tight. But that's not always the case either. Give and take, a wetsuit that's tight in the chest is much better than one that's loose anywhere else.
New wetsuits are tighter. If you've worn an L for as long as you can remember and haven't gained any weight ot mass, when you put on the new L you ordered, remember, your old wetsuit is likely stretched out a lot from use. The neoprene has broken down and is thinner, it doesn't keep you warm anymore either and probably leaks, that's why you're getting a new wetsuit. But new wetsuits are tighter - they haven't been stretched yet, and once they're wet, they get a lot more flexible. And if you're ordering from us, chances are, nobody has touched your suit since we got it from the factory. We keep enough wetsuits that online ordered wetsuits have rarely been tried on by anyone. But if you did get taller/wider/shorter/heavier, then you may need a new size. Your old suit may have stretched beyond what is now a L and it's time to move up a size.
O'Neill Wetsuits fits a person with boarder shoulders and stockier body types better than most other wetsuits - I call it the rugby/football/weightlifter build. Your BMI isn't representative of your height or athletic ability, you're the person people call when they need to move and want help to carry a sofa.
RipCurl Wetsuits fits a slender build much better, If there's less than an 8 inch difference from your chest to waist, based on size large, Rip Curl is probably your way to go. Rip Curl wetsuits tend to fit people who are tall for their weight. Some clothing seems a bit 'short' to you, if that's true, you a a good candidate for Rip Curl
Quiksilver Wetsuits seems to fit slender bodies and legs with larger shoulders, but not as broad as O'Neill barnds, more of a swimmer's build, you probably are in great shape and most clothing fits you very well. You wear the same size shirt in every brand, you have a 6-8+ inch waist to chest ratio and can wear skinny jeans.
There's a lot of information in the size charts, so read over them carefully. Using a tape measure helps a lot. And measure your waist about 1 inch below your belly button. It really helps to get someone else to measure for you.
If you need help, call 877-560-9009 and ask for Angelo or Chris, we will be glad to help make sure you get a proper fit, we have over 30 years of combined wetsuit experience.