5 Things to Look for in Budget Wetsuit Surf Gloves


If you buy a pair of wetsuit surfing gloves from one of the best wetsuit manufacturers (Rip Curl, O’Neil, etc.), then there’s no doubt that you are going to get a great pair of gloves. But what about those cheaper gloves that you can find on Amazon or eBay?

Are they any good? I tested them out and I’ll show you what to look for.

There are basically 5 things to look for in a pair of inexpensive surfing gloves: 

  1. A sung fit 
  2. The right thickness 
  3. Good grip
  4. Wrist strap and fitted wrist
  5. Build quality 

Now let’s take a look at each of those elements in more detail and the types of gloves that I tried. I’ll also show you the brand that I liked best.

Get the BPS Storm gloves here.

A Snug Fit

The most important thing to look for is a glove that fits well. If it’s too big, it will let in water and your hands will get cold. Te gloves may also come off during your session, if they are too big.

On the other hand, if the gloves are too tight, they can cut off the circulation to your hands and can be really uncomfortable. They will also limit your mobility and you will feel your fingers and wrist get tired quickly.

If possible, go to a store and try the gloves on first.

However, if you buy your gloves online, like most people do nowadays, pay attention the manufacturer’s sizing charts and measure your hands.

Here’s the sizing chart from the gloves that I recommend. It also shows you how to measure your hands.

But every company is different, so be sure to double check.

BPS glove sizing chart
Image by BPS

Are Neoprene Gloves Waterproof?

No.

A little bit of water is going to get in, and that’s fine. Neoprene is actually designed to keep a thin layer of water between your skin and the wetsuit.

Your body warms the water in the wetsuit and that helps keep you warm.

If there is too much space between your skin and the wetsuit, the warm water gets flushed out easily and gets replaced with cold water. This is why a good fit is essential when buying surfing gloves.

The Correct Thickness

Next, consider the thickness of the neoprene that the gloves are made of. There are basically two thicknesses:

  • 3mm
  • 5mm

The thickness you need will depend on how sensitive your hands are to the cold and the temperature of the water you will be surfing in.

But as a general rule of thumb, I would recommend going with the 3mm gloves up until about a water temperature of 50°F (10°C). 

Any colder, and you should consider the 5mm gloves.

A thicker layer of neoprene will be warmer, but it will also be more restricting.

So when it doubt, go with the thinner gloves.

Good Grip

A pair of surfing gloves have to keep you warm, but they also have to give you enough grip to control your surfboard.

So avoid gloves that don’t have some sort of gripping element on the palms. Bare neoprene won’t get the job done.

Different companies have different solutions for providing grip. Some use a soft “printed-on” grip material, while others use rubber.

Either one will work for surfing. 

The only type of grip to avoid are the “hard bumps.” These slip on hard surfboards and will strip off the wax.

I tested a pair of gloves with hard bumps and I talk about it below.

A Fitted Wrist and Wrist Strap

The design of the wrist of the glove plays a big part in how warm you will be while surfing.

Your gloves should keep as much water out as possible, so they maintain that layer of warm water inside the gloves. This means that the wrist should be as snug as possible.

A wrist strap is also essential to keeping excess water out of your gloves.

Look for both, when buying a new pair of gloves.

Good Build Quality

Let’s face it, if you are buying a cheap pair of gloves, it can be tough to find something that will last. However, it is possible.

This can be tough to judge when buying online though.

Therefore, it’s important to read the reviews of a glove throughly before buying. A glove may have a high rating, but the people who rated it may be using it for a sport other than surfing.

For example, the requirements for a good surfing glove are going to be different than what’s needed in a good diving glove or a good kiteboarding glove.

The 2 Types of Gloves I Tried

There are basically 2 types of wetsuit gloves that you can get for cheap:

  1. Diving gloves
  2. General water sports gloves

So I tried one of each.

Just so you know where I’m coming from, I usually surf in 55°F degree water in Northern California.

Diving Glove Performance

Diving glove for surfing?

Diving gloves are built more for protecting your hands from sharp objects like coral or spiny sea life, so the grips on the palms are usually hard.

I was pretty sure that this wouldn’t work out very well for surfing, but I decided to give them a try anyway.

As I expected, the grips on the palm were too hard and kept slipping on my surfboard. If you use these gloves with a soft top board, you might be OK.

But they definitely don’t work well with hard boards. They also started removing the wax from the board.

These hard bumps also made it impossible to wipe my face with the palms. I had to use the backs of the gloves.

Since the area near the wrists are flared (see picture), they also let in a lot of water and my hands were a little cold for the first few minutes of the session. The wrist straps kept the gloves on my hands, but did not work well enough to keep the water out.

A benefit of these glove is that they are easy to take off. But that was the only benefit.

I’m sure they do the job for diving, but I wouldn’t recommend them for surfing.

Multi-Purpose Glove Performance

Multi-purpose glove

The general purpose gloves were much better.

I was able to grip my surfboard and my hands were warm from start to finish. These gloves almost didn’t need straps because they fit so well.

The fit was so good that it was a bit of a challenge to get them off at the end of the session.

That’s a good thing. 

Although the surface of the palms feel softer to the touch, they still hurt when wiping my face. So I still had to use the back of the gloves.

But all in all, I’m really happy with these gloves and will continue to use them.

These are the gloves that I use. I’m sure that there are other good ones out there, but I really like these.

So if you are looking for affordable surfing gloves, multi-purpose gloves actually do a great job.

Do Webbed Gloves Help for Surfing?

I’ve used webbed gloves in the past and I didn’t like them.

The theory behind webbed gloves is that they make your hands more like duck feet and the increased surface area gives your hands more pull, so you can paddle faster.

In reality, I found that the additional webbing isn’t really necessary. They make the gloves bulky and actually make paddling harder.

Wearing regular gloves will already increase the surface area of the palms of your hands. By increasing or decreasing the space between your fingers, this will give you as much pulling power as you need.

But when you have webbed gloves, you can’t make that adjustment. It’s either a lot of pull, or way too much pull, and they made my shoulders a really tired.

Webbed gloves work for some people, and if they interest you, give them a try.

But I don’t recommend them.

Conclusion

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the multi-purpose budget gloves that I got off Amazon.

If you want to get the ones that I have, you can go here.

So don’t write off a pair of surf gloves, just because they are inexpensive. Some of them actually work quite well.

Read the reviews and give one of them a try. 

Many are under $20 nowadays. You can have 2-3 pairs, for the same price of the premium gloves. This allows you to have a backup pair ready if you lose or break your primary pair.

Hugh Kimura

I grew up in Hawaii and I've been surfing since I was 9 years old. Since then, I've learned to ride all types of boards from bodyboards to standup paddle boards. I started Stoketopia to share the stoke of being in the water.

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