best wetsuit gloves for surfing in cold water

Surf Wetsuit Gloves Full Guide

Wetsuit gloves are an essential part of your surfing kit if you live in colder areas and you want to go through the winter months

Although they seem like an easy choice, there are a few details that you need to be aware of when choosing your wetsuit gloves, as I’ll run through in this detailed guide.

First off, what are the best wetsuit gloves for surfing? 1-3mm-thick 5-finger gloves are the best for 50-58°F water because they’re flexible and warm enough. Below 50°F degree water, get ‘lobster claw’ gloves for more warmth, but they have a little less flexibility/dexterity. 

Again, I’ll explain more on both of these below in this article. So next, let’s run through the main types of wetsuit gloves.

Full Fingered Wetsuit Gloves

The standard and most common wetsuit gloves are the full 5-fingered wetsuit gloves that just look like normal gloves.

I would go for the 1-3 mil versions of these, because they’re much better in in 52-58°F. Above 58°F, you probably won’t need wetsuit gloves, and below 50, you’d want something more substantial.

But in the 52-58°F range, you can surf with these gloves, keep your hands warm without feeling any pain or discomfort, and also they’re thin enough to give you that dexterity, meaning you can do everything you need without any issues.

However, if you go into colder waters, (<52°F) these wouldn’t be quite enough because one drawback of having the five fingers is that each finger lets in that much more water because there’s more surface area, and it is a bit colder on your fingers.

My recommended brand for these kinds of wetsuit gloves are Xcel, because I have the 1.5mm ones that I’m wearing currently and they are excellent. They’re also a very well-known and reputable surf brand, so I would highly recommend them.

As your next-best option for surf gloves from Amazon, Hyperflex surf wetsuit gloves are a safe bet and are a well-established and respected wetsuit brand out of the US.

A surfer riding a nice wavepool wave with surf wetsuit gloves
Photo Credit : Surfing Croyde Bay on Unsplash

Lobster Claw Wetsuit Gloves For Surfing

The next type on the list are the lobster claw wetsuit gloves, which as you can probably guess, look like the claw of a lobster. 

In that you either have one finger split and then the rest group together and a thumb in a sort of mitt, or you have a split in the middle with two fingers on either side. 

Lobster claw gloves are better when the water temperature is let’s say 45 to 55 degrees or even 45 to 50. This is because they are generally thicker and they also let in a bit less water given the minimal surface area.

They usually come with some kind of valve to stop the flush. Because again, in that cold of water, you need that extra features that you don’t get with a thinner standard wetsuit glove. 

My actual pair of O’Neill Gooru Lobster Claw wetsuit gloves – time for some new ones soon!

For the deeper winter months, I currently have a set of the O’Neill Gooru wetsuit gloves in the lobster claw style with one separated finger.

And I do find them good, but a little bit cold on that one finger, because the finger is on its own, so you don’t have much dexterity and that finger can get cold. It is a bit of a liability.

And for that reason, I would recommend going for the split at the two fingers where you can, as distinct from mine above with the isolated pointer/index finger.

But lobster claw gloves are generally thicker. They’re not perfect, but they are a good option if you’re going down into, yes, 40-50°F water.

Mitt Shaped Wetsuit Gloves

The other option in terms of wetsuit gloves is to have them in the shape of a mitt. And in this case, it is to have all of your fingers together in a group and your thumb out on the side. 

This gives you, in theory, more warmth, but least dexterity and control. So you do have that trade-off, and these would be, again, for the coldest temperatures, probably anywhere in the 40 to 50 degree range. 

There is crossover with the lobster claw and there are similar designs. You might even find the lobster claw a little bit warmer depending.

But generally, the mitts are for the more extreme. But like I said, you have minimal dexterity and control, so they can be a little bit frustrating. 

I’ve owned O’Neill Gooru, again, wetsuit mitts and found them good. But one of the problems I had was putting them on and taking them off. 

Because when you’re trying to take them off, it can be quite hard because you just don’t have that grip and it doesn’t generally stop that claw-like feeling in your hands when your hands get really cold after a long surf in cold water.

But if you go for wetsuit mitts, go for the premium ones because the cheaper ones are just not really going to work. Think about that as well.

Webbed Wetsuit Gloves

Webbed wetsuit gloves are a bit more of a novelty item in that people used to wear them for surfing in the ’90s. 

There was a time when people thought it would help you to paddle faster. And even not in colder weather.

More for just any weather and try to get that bit of boost to your paddling. Personally, I’ve not tried webbed wetsuit gloves, and I don’t think they look particularly helpful. 

Because although they give you a little bit more power, you lose that bit of control with that webbing between your fingers. I wouldn’t be going for them.

I like to cut my fingers, but there are webbed wetsuit gloves out there if you look for them online, and that is another option you can try for surfing gloves.

General Points About Surf Wetsuit Gloves

How Should Wetsuit Gloves Fit? They should be nice and tight and almost too tight when they’re dry to allow for water to get in and for them to expand a little, because they will loosen up in the surf and that is when you need them to be the perfect fit

If they’re too big, they’ll probably come off and your hands will get cold. They’ll balloon with water. They won’t work. Always go, just like wetsuit boots, a size smaller than you think and they should be good for you.

How Do You Dry Wetsuit Gloves? Prop them up on something that is not sharp and can give them an airing, but there is no easy way. You can’t turn them inside out because they will likely break over time if you do this often enough, given how fine they are in parts. 

And you really just need to hang them up in some way, any way you can to let the water drip out of them. Putting them in your ironing cupboard is a good idea

But again, there’s no easy way. You can’t speed it up, and definitely do not put them in the tumble dryer because they will break and shrink. A bad combination and an expensive mistake.

If looking for more on drying surf gear, check out my article on the best wetsuit drying racks here!

How Do You Wash Neoprene Gloves? With a light wetsuit shampoo or baby shampoo in lukewarm water. Don’t use too much though, because it will degrade the quality of the neoprene over time and they will break down. 

Never use anything stronger, because again, the glue used in them, the neoprene, all of that will break down more quickly if you do.

So keep it light and simple. And if you don’t surf, you can buy a wetsuit shampoo that will be made for neoprene specifically. 

Otherwise, just make sure you rinse them in fresh water when you’re not shampooing them and that will be good.

They don’t usually get smelly like wetsuit boots, which fill with pee and really can stink. So at least there’s not that issue to think about having.

Best Brands Surf Wetsuit Gloves

The best brands of surf wetsuit gloves are the same I recommend for wetsuits and that is:

  • O’Neill
  • Xcel
  • Vissla
  • and Patagonia 

Those are my top four brands. O’Neill and Xcel are just some of the best hardware brands for surfing.
Best Wetsuit Gloves for Surfing UK Early / Late Winter

And then Vissla are a relatively new brand, but they’ve got some really good quality stuff, a bit more environmentally friendly approach.

Patagonia have a very ethical, high-quality, hardcore hardware approach as well that’s really good (in fact Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard wrote a very interesting book called Let My People Go Surfing, which is well worth a read/listen – it focuses on business and lifestyle behind the brand – very different to most out there!)

 So if you go for any of those, you won’t be disappointed in terms of wetsuit gloves or even a wetsuit.

And that rounds up this guide to surf wetsuit gloves. I hope you find the right ones for you and have an excellent time when those waves are a bit colder. Talk to you soon!

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