Whether you're on dry land or catching waves on freezing waters, leaving your hands exposed to cold temperatures is never a good idea. Your hands start to get stiff, making it hard for you to grab your surfboard's rails, or worse, you can suddenly feel a stinging sensation in your hands, making every movement hurt.
Wetsuit gloves are highly specialised accessories designed to keep our hands protected in cold water conditions. It helps trap heat, ensuring maximum flexibility in our hand movements. Because these are used together with wetsuits, gloves are basically made from the same material (neoprene). Wetsuit gloves can be used for almost any water activity (diving, surfing, kayaking) that require hand and finger protection against cold temperatures.
Here's a little background on human anatomy which can help you understand the science behind wearing wetsuit gloves. The hands contain a high concentration of ligaments and joints, which is responsible for giving us the agility and flexibility needed for making complex movements. In between our joints is a fluid that keeps everything lubricated and moving freely. And like most fluids, prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can affect its ability to lubricate the joints—these results in a decreased range of motion and, worse, numbness or pain.
Wetsuit gloves come in different configurations. Your choice of what glove to purchase depends on the type of water sport you will be engaging in and of course, water conditions in the area.
How thick should the wetsuit glove be?
The thicker the glove, the better protection it provides against the cold. However, thickness has a direct effect on your hand's movements. Thicker gloves translate to lesser flexibility. Wetsuit gloves can be 2mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, or 7mm thick, with each offering a unique balance of flexibility and protection. So, if you're planning to surf in extreme cold-water conditions, then go for 7mm wetsuit gloves; otherwise, wearing them on warmer waters would be overkill.
What are these made of?
While thickness is a good gauge for measuring the amount of cold-water protection a wetsuit glove provides, the construction materials used to make these are major factors in determining its weight, durability, flexibility, grip, and comfort.
How much grip does this provide?
Wetsuit gloves should not only provide protection but should also offer you optimum functionality in your hands. It should not only provide flexibility but also provide enough grip for grabbing your board. This is possible by having dedicated gripping areas on the palms area.
Choosing the right fit
Because of their construction and the materials used, wetsuit gloves can be stretched to give you that tight fit. Getting something too tight can impede the normal flow of blood into your hands, and having something loose is an invitation for water to come in.
Measuring Guide for wetsuit gloves
One good tip is to get your hand's measurements before shopping for wetsuit gloves. Using a cloth tape measure, get your hand length by measuring from the bottom of your palm to the tip of your middle finger. You can measure your palm circumference by taking the circumference from the widest point in your palm.
|Size||Palm Circumference (centimetres)||Hand Length (centimetres)|
|2XL||24 - 25||22 – 24|
|XL||22 – 24||21 – 22|
|L||21 – 22||20 – 21|
|M||20 – 21||19 – 20|
|S||19 – 20||17 – 19|
|XS||17 – 19||16 – 17|
|2XS||16 - 17||15 – 16|
Just like any equipment, you should clean wetsuit gloves after every use. Remove seawater and other impurities (oil, dirt, chemicals) that can damage the glove. Doing this also helps keep your gloves smelling clean. After all, you wouldn't want to put on something foul smelling on your hands.
#Step1 Prepare your cleaning materials
Check the manufacturer's recommendation for cleaning supplies. Using detergents or harsh washing powders can damage your wetsuit gloves. You could use wetsuit shampoos or a mile solution of baking soda as a cleaning agent. Prepare cold or lukewarm freshwater (using hot water can affect the glove's flexibility).
#Step2 Soak it
Soak your wetsuit glove for about 30 minutes and then turn it inside out and let it soak for another 30 minutes.
#Step3 Wash it
While soaked, gently scrub, knead the gloves with your cleaning materials. Focus on the interior since this is where the dirt and sweat usually accumulate. Continue doing this until you've covered all the areas.
#4 Rinse it
Replace the water and thoroughly rinse the glove removing all traces of soap.
Let the gloves dry, starting with its interior, and then turn it right side out. This is to ensure that the interior is thoroughly dried to prevent mould and fungi growth.
#6 Proper Storage
Store your wetsuit glove flat, and don't fold it. This can cause permanent crease marks or damage the neoprene.
At a glance, wetsuit gloves may look the same. But they all differ in one small way or another based on what these have been designed for. The best and most popular loves today are those made from neoprene, just like their wetsuit counterparts. These offer optimum flexibility while offering maximum warmth. Wetsuit gloves come in different types providing their unique balance of cold protection and flexibility.
a. 5 Finger – these gloves offer the best in terms of agility and freedom of movement. It gives you full use of your fingers and the most natural feeling of all gloves. These are ideal for use in not so extreme cold-water conditions. Although 5mm 5 finger gloves are also available, having your fingers wrapped in thick neoprene can feel bulky and uncomfortable. Which makes the 3mm 5 finger glove the most ideal.
b. Mittens – the perfect choice for frigid water conditions. These gloves keep your four fingers closely tucked together but still separated from your thumb. It helps you retain heat in the hands but severely limits hand movements.
c. Lobster claw/three-finger mitts – these gloves sit nicely in between 5 finger and mitts. They offer better cold protection compared to 5 finger gloves and more flexibility than mitts.
Every little bit counts when it comes to maximising your performance and surfing experience. Having the right equipment also includes using the best wetsuit gloves for the right water conditions. Below we give you a list of the top-performing wetsuit gloves in the market today.
O'Neill Psycho Tech 3mm Gloves
It comes on top of our list because it offers excellent flexibility and grip. It is designed to keep your hands warm except during extremely cold-water conditions effectively. It comes with an O-seal on the wrist that prevents water from entering the gloves. Other highlights include a tacky grip on the palms, which offers better grip even when compared to bare hands. The gloves are also made from neoprene alloy, making them feel light and comfortable to wear.
Vissla Claw Glove
The Vissla Claw Glove is a high-performance glove with a claw design. This combination of a mitt and traditional glove helps create warmth with traditional glove dexterity. Silicon grip on the palm helps round out this 5mm glove, providing superior gripping ability.
Rip Curl E-Bomb Gloves
One of the best-selling gloves in the 2mm category, the Rip Curl-E Bomb is a lightweight, highly flexible glove made from E4 Neoprene. One unique feature that sets it apart from other gloves is a detachable wrist strap. It allows you to adjust the fit of the glove around your wrist. The seams are sealed with stitch-less technology, which gives it its leak-resistant and enhances its hand-warming properties. Gel palms provide an extra level of comfort and grip.
Rip Curl Flash Bomb 5/3 3 Finger Gloves
Don't let the cold water stop you from catching those winter swells. The Rip Curl Flash Bomb 5/3 is the ultimate companion for surfing during near frigid water conditions. These gloves have been updated with internal E6 Flash lining making them even lighter, more flexible, and warmer. Its silicone-sealed inner seams give you better cold protection than five-fingered gloves while offering better dexterity than a mitten. The clove also comes with an Aquaban wrist seal to reduce water flush and gel palm for better grip.
Vissla 7 Seas Glove
The 7 Seas Glove is another high-performance glove designed by Vissla for surfing in cold temperatures. From finger tip to wrist, the entire glove was designed to keep surfers in the water longer with thermal protection and high quality, durable construction.
Quiksilver Syncro Plus Gloves
The Quiksilver Syncro Plus is a durable wetsuit glove with a Liquid Fluid Seam seal that makes it extremely water-tight. The gloves are made from Freemax Neoprene, an eco-friendly limestone derivative. It also comes with a textured palm for grip.
Hyperflex Mesh Skin Neoprene Gloves
The Hyperflex Mesh Skin gloves can be used for a variety of watersports and water activities. It comes with a mesh skin rubber that acts as an effective barrier against water, keeping the hands warm. The palm is rubber coated for optimum grip. The glove is pre-shaped for better ergonomics which allows better conformity with the hand's contours. The result is a better fitting glove that ultimately reduces fatigue. The glove's internals is lined with AQ6 Thermal fleece, a soft, thin fabric that offers increased warmth, comfort and stretch ability.
The same amount of scrutiny when buying wetsuits should be applied when selecting the best gloves for your needs. After all, these do not only keep our hands warm but also protect us from sharp rocks and reefs.