Layne learned to surf in Santa Barbara and later moved to Southern California. She now surfs in colder water in the north of the state.
How to Repair Your Wetsuit Cheaply at Home (Rips and Tears)
So, if you're like me you probably try to get your wetsuit to live for as long as it can if you're a surfer, diver, triathlete, etc. I know I'm overdue for a new one because the neoprene in my 4:3 suit which I use for surfing is disintegrating. I'm getting a black ring around my neck and there are holes galore. The thing is, I'm just not ready to buy a new suit because I'm saving up for a really nice one.
I recently tried on a new Yulex suit by Patagonia—I know that their repair policies are excellent—but I just wasn't ready to drop $500 dollars on a new suit. I have their booties (which are great!) and they fit like a sock. In the mean time, I had to make my current suit work now that our water is in the 50s.
Will the Wetsuit Company Repair It?
If you have excellent coverage with a company like Reef or Patagonia or some of the more obscure and expensive brands of suits like Matuse, I highly suggesting sending the suit in to have it repaired professionally. You do not want to go and puncture holes in a suit that cost you big bucks and can be repaired for free (minus shipping). If you have a Patagonia suit, just walk it into the store. Seriously, they have great customer care.
How to Use Wetsuit Adhesive
I your suit is in nice condition, you still will want to consider purchasing a wetsuit adhesive like seal cement. This stuff is easy to use and works great for holes that are not along seems. I've used it just to fill in holes that I've accrued from rock punctures, etc. Here's what to do:
- Lay your wetsuit flat and pinch open the tear.
- Apply the adhesive to the surfaces (lips) of the tear (less is more here).
- Let the suit sit flat with the edges of the tear touching.
- Remove any excess adhesive by smoothing it with a toothpick or something disposable.
- Let the suit dry for 24 hours.
Why I Repaired My Suit With Fishing Line
It's been raining in the north of the state and the water quality is lousy anyways, so I decided rather than going and purchasing a repair kit (which you can do), to use a technique I've used before. That is, fixing my suit with fishing line.
Some people use floss, some people buy fancy repair kits like iron-on neoprene kits . . . it all depends on how old your suit is and where the hole is. If your suit is super old like mine, the fishing line repair will work great for you.
How to Repair a Wetsuit Using Fishing Line
- hand-sewing needle (small eye, sharp point); see below for selecting a size
- 4-pound test fishing line (about 2 feet per hole, we will double it up); see below for an explanation of "test" or strength
- beat wetsuit
Note: Your fishing line should appear larger than the needle diameter/eye of the needle.
Tutorial for Casting Your First Stitch
- Turn your wetsuit inside out if you had it drying. The dark/black side of the neoprene (not the inside) should be exposed.
- Thread your fishing line (go with 2 feet per hole; too much length will get tangled) into the eye of the needle and double it back so that the ends meet.
- Tie an overhand knot in the line leaving about half an inch of "tail" that you can trim off afterwards. (See photo)
- Locate the hole and start at one end. Dive the needle into the neoprene. Make sure the "tail" of the fishing line is on the outside so that it won't rub against your skin. If you are sewing along a seem, you will want to plunge all the way through the neoprene and wrap around the original stitching as if sewing in a "looped" pattern.
- When you cast your first stitch, make sure an inch of line hasn't been pulled through at your initial stick (you will be threading the needle back through this "tail" to create a knot).
- Arc the fishing line back towards your "tail" and pass between the two lines (through the center of the doubled "thread"). Pull tight. This will "lock" the first stitch into place.
- Continue to sew in a looped pattern (down, up, loop around; see the whip stitch pattern in the video below; try to sew vertically or horizontally as in the photos—depending on how you look at it—rather than diagonally as in the video).
- Once you get to the other end of the hole that you are fixing, cast a stitch without tightening the loop and pass the needle through it, pinching it tight. Do this twice. (Similar to what you did at the start to secure the first knot.)
- Finally, trim the tail of each knot on both ends down but leave a few milimeters. If you cut too close to the knot and then tension pulls on the stitching, you will lose your knot.
Use a Vertical Whip Stitch Pattern
What "Test"/Strength Fishing Line Do I Need?
The biggest difference with sewing with fishing line is that you want to make a good decision on the "test" or strength. I always thought bigger/thicker fishing line was better, but I realized that smaller/thinner fishing line is best since fishing line is pretty indestructible unless cut.
4-Pound Test Should Work
We fish for stream trout in my family, and so I literally pulled whatever line we had off a random real. I needed about 4 feet since I had 2 holes. I believe it was 4-pound test. Basically, anything that you would use for trout fishing on a reel will do. You can go a litte larger if you want..
Choosing a Needle
You will want a hand-sewing needle with a small eye and sharp point. If the eye of the needle is too large, you will be putting that extra stretch into the fabric when you pass the needle through to create a hole. The needle should appear skinnier than the fishing line that you use (see photos).
How Are Sewing Needles Sized?
Hand-sewing needles are sized by diameter. Contrary to what you would think, the smaller the needle, the higher the number it measures in. They come in sizes 1–12.
How to Care for and Extend the Life of Your Wetsuit Care
- Don't use your fingernails when you are putting on your suit and keep your nails short (this will case punctures in the neoprene or material). Use the pad of your fingers to put your suit on.
- Purchase a suit with a great warranty (Patagonia, etc.)
- Don't hang your wetsuit to dry by the shoulders. This will cause the material around the shoulders to fatigue faster than the rest of the suit. Instead, hang it by the waist.
- Always rinse your suit out with fresh water—salt water will damage a suit overtime and cause it to stink.
- Don't pee in your wetsuit (you know this!)
- Never hang your wetsuit to dry in the heat or direct sun.
- Never use harsh chemicals on your suit to get rid of odor. Shop for wetsuit-friendly soap/wash (make sure it's eco-friendly, too!).
- Always first consider getting it repaired professionally or drop in at a local free (or cheap) wetsuit repair day.
What's the Best Way to Repair a Wetsuit?
Well, the process worked great for me. I literally sewed up two holes and went and reinforced the seems. It's great to reinforce the seems over the original stitchwork, just don't go to unnecessarily crazy on it. My suit was so old I had nothing to lose. I've used this method on two suits when they were at the end of their days. Did this method work for you?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Layne Holmes
Did this method work for you?
Layne Holmes (author) from Bend, Oregon on December 06, 2019:
Thanks for the read Liz! I have used this method twice when I need to extend the life of my suit. It's cheap and works! Hope you are doing well.
Liz Westwood from UK on December 06, 2019:
This is a really useful article on care of wet suits. I would never have thought of your method with fishing line. This is a great tutorial.