Wesuit Alterations

So it’s coming up on that time of the year in NorCal when a thicker wetsuit is going to be needed. I have this one O’Neill wetsuit that fits great except the legs and arms are long. Last season i just stuck it out.

I was wondering if anyone knows if it is bad to just cut off the excess length? should i sew a hem into it or leave it cut? it’s a great suit…any suggestions?

A hem is the best way.

Over the years I’ve turned some full suits into springs by just cutting the arms and legs shorter. After some pretty good use they’ve frayed a little. Not too bad though.

I’m not all to worried about the fraying but i’m thinking I may need to reinforce the seams so they don’t start to split.

anyone with suggestion on thread. i once heard of dental floss as an alternative. i guess my suits could fit and be gingivitis free or minty fresh at best.


If you ever make it down to Santa Cruz, there’s a custom wetsuit/repair place on portola near pleasure point. I’ve been told by folks who rave about them that they can do anyting with a wetsuit. Might be worth checking out. Btw, I’d love to hear how the dental floss turns out if you try it.


anyone with suggestion on thread. i once heard of dental floss as an alternative.

many scuba shops have connections for custom wetsuits at pretty reasonable prices… I bet they would alter the suit for you at a minimal cost.

As for sewing in the helm I would think nylon thread or light fishing line would be the thing to use.

As Pat mentioned, having it done by a pro is the best move. But, if that’s unavailable, then there’s a few things you want to do:

First, do your cuts. And get hold of a sewing machine that can do zig-zag stitching on fairly thick material. The old all-metal Singers from the '50s are good for this, as are the old White, Necchi and others.

You will want a roller foot on the machine if you can get one that’ll work with your machine and a zig-zag stitch. It’s much better for neprenes. Or a little teflon or something, so it’ll go smooth

Then, either hit the new edge with an overlock type stitch so it won’t fray or chafe or do a rolled edge on the hem. The latter is probably by far better

Use the zig-zag stitch with a decent sail thread, I’d suggest a #92 or #69 bonded dacron thread, and it’s useful for lots of other stuff like board bag repair, making custom soft racks with a bit of webbing, etc. The reason for the zig stitch rather than a straight stitch is so it’ll deal well with the material stretching, as shown below.

It’s amazing how many things in this world are sewn together, even with all the miracle adhesives and such that you can get nowadays. And knowing how to do it is a very useful skill to have.

hope that’s of use


Rewind on the memory bank—

one spring, decided to cut off the legs and arms, knowing I could replace

by winter–

luckily, I held onto the cut offs, sewed 'em on

with dental floss, took me through

another winter

wouldn’t recommend it-

did make it easy when spring rolled around again.

Agreed that sewing the altered length up is the best way to go but a tested alternative follows. I will usually recycle my aging full suits into long sleeve shorty. After cutting the legs off carefully with a sharp pair of scissors or razor blade and straight edge take care to seal up only the areas where seams are cut. I’ve had really good luck with the 3M 6000 series of adhesives, comes in black and sticks to neoprene well. My last amputation has lasted 2 years, still pliable and no unravelled seams.

Tom S.

Since this thread started I noticed a couple things.

I loaned my old cut-off, full to spring, suit to a buddy. The ends are not freyed.

I was in a surf outlet yesterday. Many of the name brand suits on the rack do not have a hem on the sleeves and ankles. They’re straight cut-off. They may be using a different glue than the suits with hems.

Judging from my experience and what I’ve seen, straight cutting doesn’t seem to be a big problem. I guess you could always cut it just a little long in case you decide to hem later.

Call this girl:


I’ve converted old fulls to new springs with dental floss a couple times. One from high school is still holding fine (I don’t wear it not because it doesn’t fit, but because of the colors - aqua & light gray Body Glove - Ughh) and I’m 37 now…

2 major tips (and why the other one failed): Cut about an inch longer than you think, even after measuring twice. For some reason, when you put on a cut suit, it just doesn’t go as far as it measured when it was full. Drag from the extremities stretching it out, maybe? And second, make sure to use unwaxed dental floss :slight_smile:

Why “unwaxed?” I always liked the added slide the was provides. Taylor

It unties itself. Trust me. :frowning:

I agree with not using dental floss (not that I’ve tried it… but it just breaks too easy. I dunno what floss you guys use, but ours isn’t that industrial)… plenty of sturdy nylon thread at the fabric store…

I personally would skip the hem as well. I’ve had unhemmed suits that didn’t fray and the hem will effectively tighten the opening putting extra pressure on the stitching you’ve done to reinforce the seam.

Oh yeah… but I also agree you should just have a pro do it. It can’t be that expensive.