Water sports can really make a holiday. Jet skis are exhilarating, scuba diving can plunge you into the silent calm of still water and stunning sea creatures, and there’s a real sense of community among surfers and kayakers.
British tourists who try bodyboarding in warmer climates have been known to announce that it’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
This, of course, is quite a subjective announcement.
For the moment, let’s ignore the fact that it can imply rather too much information. The simple fact is that any activity can be wrecked by having the wrong clothes.
Overly tight garments are the stuff of nightmares, for example, and if you’re over a size 8 then there appears to be an endless risk of ordering something which turns out to not be big enough.
You want your wetsuit to be snug, yes, but you don't want to be hyperventilating while staving off hypothermia.
The debate about what counts as a “plus size” could go around in circles for days. The simple fact is that women do not stay the same shape for their entire lives, and sometimes you’re going to move into a different clothing bracket.
Plus size could simply mean that you’ve given birth in the last year, or that you’ve been (allegedly) “blessed” with a cup size which means that you need to take a size 12 top instead of an 8, which would fit your waist nicely.
For the sake of simplicity and industry consistency, let’s work with Lane Bryant’s minimum size 10 as the lower level of “Plus Size”.
To help you pick the right suit, we’ve narrowed down the five best options that come in a plus size, taking function, price and popularity into account. To further broaden your selection, we’ve also included a few honorable mentions for products which have really strong ratings while not having been so widely reviewed.
Top 5 Best Women’s Plus Size Wetsuits
OUR TOP PICK
The O’Neill Reactor suit is essentially a three-quarter style wetsuit for surface sports (open water swimming, surfing, etc). Although not specifically marketed at plus-size customers, the quality, flexibility and fit of the larger sizes has been highly commended by reviewers.
Of particular note is the room in the arms and shoulders, and the flattering fit. This suit has been given the thumbs-up by wearers of broader or more athletic build, for whom a tight fit around the shoulders or biceps is usually an irritant.
The 2mm fluid foam neoprene and smooth skin chest panel makes this suit a soft and flexible wear. You don’t want chafing at the best of times, let alone when you’re paddling or surfing, so the FluidFlex upper body construction and Flatlock seams make this suit particularly comfortable
The YKK back zip slides nicely on an extended cord, which gives you the freedom to get in and out of it by yourself. The hidden key pocket is also a blessing—the last thing you want to be doing while beating a personal best is worrying about whether your car keys and smartphone are safe with the person who has your locker key..
Comments about the quality and eventual fit of this suit are extremely positive, not just on Amazon, but on surfing and outdoor sport messenger boards.
We say ‘eventual’ fit because there is a fair amount of debate over the sizing descriptions. Those who have used O’Neill’s own sizing chart before ordering have been happy with their purchase, so we’ve included the link for you here. Just scroll to the bottom of the page for the women’s table.
- Great quality for the price and nicely durable
- Comfortable and flattering
- Easy to get in and out of
- Warm enough for open water swimming, but light enough for strenuous activity
- If you’re tall (5’8” or more), you might find this short in the torso. The tall ladies of the world of internet comments and reviews suggest you go up a size if possible
One of Amazon’s bestsellers, the 2mm neoprene top will provide protection in colder (50-70°) water and block out the worst of the windchill when dry.
This front-zip top comes with a Smoothskin rubber seal inside the collar, hem and cuffs to keep the water out. It provides good buoyancy and the material is soft and flexible.
The range of sizes is generous from XXS to 5XL and it comes in six attractive designs. The hot pink top is cute and gives you that high-vis safety advantage in open water. The other tops feature high contrast designs such as bright sleeves or piping against a dark background.
A word to the wise: if you click through to Amazon, you’ll see the advisory note next to the drop-down size selector. Though this note says that the fit is true to size, the manufacturer’s detailed product description suggests going one or two sizes up. The customer reviews seem to bear out this advice.
When you put it on dry, expect it to be alarmingly snug. You should only just be able to zip it. It will relax and expand in the water. Because ordering fitted garments online always feels like a bit of a scary gamble, Goldfin have made the purchasing experience less stressful with a friendly 30-day return policy and a 1-year warranty.
- Fantastic product for the price
- Really warm and flexible
- Decent buoyancy, but still suitable for shallow scuba diving
- Easy to get on and off
- Reviewers have mentioned a rather long sleeve
- Minor cosmetic issue for some reviewers: the material alongside the zipper doesn’t lie as flat as it should
This ‘Guardian I Goddess’ full body suit from Hevto comes in sizes up to XXX-Large and pretty much does what it says on the tin—it’s a 3mm neoprene and nylon elastic suit for diving enthusiasts featuring flatlock seams for maximum flexibility and minimum chafe.
The Guardian Goddess suit has collected multiple five-star compliments for its warmth, flexibility, and adaptability for open water sports and casual/beginner diving. It’s nicely buoyant, but not to the extent that it’ll overcome the sinking support of a weighted belt.
Compared to many full body diving suits, this is light on the wallet and deals with quite challenging conditions. It’s Amazon’s choice with a 71% five-star rating, largely because the sizing seems to be true to description and the suits are exceptionally soft and comfortable.
The zip is attached to an extension cord for easy changing. As with the corded O’Neill zip, there is no need to contort in ways that would make an escapologist wince.
- Inexpensive for the quality
- Easy to get on and off
- Good sizing range which also takes varied heights into consideration
- Lightweight but warm
- A few reviewers have mentioned a slightly restrictive neck fitting
This “wetsuit” top has made it into our top five as it is specifically tailored and fitted to 1, 2 and 3XL sizes. It’s elegant, warm, and emphasizes the waist. A rash guard shirt is like the more playful, lighter cousin of the wetsuit.
If surfing or bodyboarding is your thing, then it’ll protect your skin from abrasions and UV damage. It’s also a useful accessory for a colder-than-comfortable outdoor pool, or summer sea.
This isn’t really the top for a serious swimmer or open water sports competitor. However, if you’re looking for a light wetsuit to stay warm in a pool or to remain upbeat and self-confident while surrounded by annoyingly slender friends, then this attractive budget option deserves a place in your luggage.
There are 8 flattering designs, four featuring zip-tops and four which pull on over the head. It’s made of 82% polyester and 18% spandex for that easy stretch and quick dry-out in the sun, and the neutral shades of the darker designs will go with most costumes, tankini or bikini bottoms.
Within the price range for this product, the zipped tops are more expensive and the pull-on block color tops at the cheaper end.
- Inexpensive and multipurpose
- Comfortable and flattering
- Flexible and keeps you warm while doing casual sports
- Sleeves stay put
- Unusually, this top comes up rather large. Save yourself the annoyance of returning a top which is not form-fitting by ordering a size smaller than you typically would
- No key pocket
Henderson’s Thermoprene 3mm Shorty is one of the hidden gems. It hasn’t been widely rated, but it has fantastic feedback and a very specific array of larger sizes in small, medium and tall.
Once you’ve clicked through to Amazon, just find your size from the list and the product summary bullets to the right will update to show you the measurements associated with the chosen size. There is also a sizing chart in thumbnail form to the left of the main picture.
As well as the generous sizing range and flattering design, the material has around 75% better stretch capacity than most neoprene, which makes for a sleeker silhouette.
The collar is adjustable and all seams GBS-glued and blind-stitched. It’s a neat, robust wetsuit option for surfing or open-water sports, and reviews suggest that its durability makes it a good investment, even at the higher end of the price range.
The fabric’s exterior copes well with friction from tank straps and weight belts. This is a great option for warm water diving in comfort, or as an underlayer for core warmth when combined with a jumpsuit.
- Could not be much easier to get into or out of
- Flexible and easy on the joints
- Long-lasting and good-looking
- Flattering design
- Torso fit said to be a little short on taller women
Baffling Advertising but Fabulous Reviews
This Cressi wetsuit comes in large sizes, is thick, comfortable and flexible, and has featured enthusiastically in message board chats between ‘solid’ Aussie girls who take their diving very seriously.
It took a small eternity to track it down because of the advertising. You would think, following the link below, that you’d found the wrong product. The title includes the word ‘LADIES’, yes, but nothing else would suggest its suitability for the Plus Size female customer.
Anyway, having uncovered this enthusiastically mentioned gold nugget, we thought it was an option worth sharing.
Great Rash guard short sleeve top
Hanging around a pool for hours and hours? Hate soggy, rolled-up sleeves?
As a capped alternative to the Attraco long-sleeved zip-up, this will help keep the chill off in the water and keep your shoulders, chest and back from burning.
When your cup size ratchets up your suit size
There are a lot of women who would be taking a small or medium wetsuit if not for their larger bust measurement, and this chest-waist differential can be one hell of a pain to accommodate.
We went looking for advice on this thorny topic, and there are two general trends running through all the suggestions given to bigger-busted girls.
The first tactic is to consider your suit as a long-term investment. Henderson is a brand name which crops up time and time again as a suggestion for wetsuit-seekers of E-cup or larger. This is because of the 250% stretch capacity of the fabric.
wetsuit short pants
Okay, having recommended a number of options which come in under $150, we appreciate that this suggestion might send your wallet into anaphylactic shock. If so, sorry about that.
But look at the payoffs: a long-lasting, high-quality, warm suit which does not crush your sensitive mammaries to the point that you can’t enjoy your dive. And because there is enough room for a robust underwired bikini top or swimsuit beneath, you stand a good chance of showing off an hourglass figure in this suit.
A second alternative (which probably costs around the same) is to provide full tailor’s measurements to a bespoke company and have your suit made from scratch.
The second tactic is that age-old strategy of going for separates. This is a good legging choice, for example:
Top tips for choosing a suit
Your planned activities really will dictate the kind of suit that you want to buy. First of all, where are you going to be? If you’re able to, spend a few minutes with Google to check out the average water temperature for your destination, and then use this rough guide for suit thickness:
Mid 60s to low 70s: 2mm
Low 60s to high 60s: 3/2mm
Low 50s to low 60s: 2-4mm (you can get away with a high-density 2 if not going too deep)
Low to high 40s: 3-5mm (as above)
The next question concerns what you’re going to be doing. When diving in cold water for extended periods, you’ll need an open-cell suit, which is one that works by creating suction between your skin and the neoprene.
If you’re surfing, you’ll want a lighter, closed-cell suit which works by trapping a thin layer of water against your skin so that your body raises its temperature and creates a barrier against the colder water. Competitive open water swimmers, polo players, kayakers or canoeists will want to look for designs with anti-chafe features and smooth lines beneath the armpits and along the sides.
Perhaps all you want is a warmer layer which gives you a little physical privacy, and which protects your skin from salt, sun and stingy sea creatures. If that’s the case, a spring suit, rash shirt or neoprene zip-up top might be all you need to relax while you mess around.
Finally, and at the risk of sounding like your mother, if you’re going out in the ocean and you’re not in the water with a big group, it is considered safer to buy a suit in a loud and obvious color. Or at least one that is not green-blue!
Hacks for Wetsuit novices
- Keep your balance more easily by putting your foot into a thinly slicked plastic shopping bag before sliding your foot into the leg of the suit. Same trick works for hands and sleeves, obviously
- A little hair conditioner across your chest and shoulders helps you to slide and heave a full-body or open-cell suit into place without doing horrible things to your joints
- Invest in a Robie (poncho towel with a hood) to help you to get in and out of your suit with a degree of dignity.
- If you’re driving to your destination, keep a laundry bucket in your trunk to stand in while peeling your suit off. This contains all the sand and grit, and serves double-duty as your handwashing bucket when you get home.
- For an easy instant shower, fill a 1-gallon bottle with hot water and seal it. Keep a second lid with 2mm holes drilled into it. When you’re ready to rinse off, switch lids and spritz off all muck and grit from your suit.
Frequently Asked Questions
How thick a wetsuit do I need?
The thickness of the wetsuit you need will vary depending on the water temperature range that you will be using it in and the activity you intend to do. You will also need to consider the air temperature, wind speed, activity level, and how sensitive you are to getting cold to purchase the right wetsuit for you.
Wetsuit thickness ranges from 0.5mm to 6/5mm, meaning there is one to suit every need. In warmer water temperatures, you should opt for a thinner wetsuit, and in colder climates, you will want a thicker wetsuit to protect your body from colder water and air.
The thickest wetsuits are best for 42 degrees Fahrenheit and under, with the thinner wetsuits better for temperatures ranging from 62 degrees to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Consider the temperature and the other factors mentioned when deciding how thick a wetsuit to purchase. If you do feel the cold more, we recommend upping the thickness slightly to keep yourself warm at all times.
Can a woman wear a man’s wetsuit?
In theory, yes, a woman can wear a man’s wetsuit, but there will be a massive difference in shape that might make it difficult to do so! While the materials used are the same, the shape of a man's wetsuit is different to accommodate their different body shape.
A man’s wetsuit is designed to accommodate their larger upper bodies and slimmer hips and legs than women’s bodysuits, meaning it can be tricky to find a man’s wetsuit that will fit your body snugly and correctly. But for those with a build similar to that described, a man’s wetsuit can work well for you!
It depends on your body shape, and it's best to try the wetsuit to ensure that it fits correctly. Remember, the fit should be snug with no excess room in the middle, crotch, shoulders, or knees and still allow for a full range of motion.
Can a guy wear a women’s wetsuit?
While a man could wear a women’s wetsuit, they might have difficulty finding one that fits them correctly. Women’s wetsuits are designed to suit their more feminine figures. They tend to be wider at the thighs and hips and narrower across the shoulders. Women’s wetsuits are based on the average women’s body type and should provide an excellent fit for most women.
However, men might struggle to get their broader shoulders into the wetsuit and might be left with excess material around the thighs and hips, not ideal. The fit is unlikely to be perfect unless their body type is similar to the one we just described.
It can be worth trying a women’s wetsuit if you have limited options, but it is unlikely to offer men the same fit a men’s wetsuit will.