Stylish wetsuit that looks great and is very flexible
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 19 July, 2016 - What do you think of when you think of Dion Agius: Big punts? Big punts in Dubai wave-pools surrounded by models? Big punts in cumbersome unbuttoned shirts? Wetsuit technology? The last one doesn’t quite fit so well, but Superbrand and Dion have partnered with Spanish wetsuit brand Narval to produce a basic, stylish-as-hell fullsuit for the season.
Most of us are familiar with Dion, but who are Narval? Narval is a new wetsuit brand from the Spanish province of the Asturias who place a priority on the styling of their suits.
This last point is much easier for companies to do these days than it was, say, 10 years ago. Why? Because wetsuit construction has been so streamlined in recent years that compannies can now emphasize looks when designing a suit since the basic performance characteristics have been nailed down.
The story is that Narval used Dion’s feedback to create a suit that Dion would love to wear and when surfing coldwater. The Superbrand X Narval 3/2 fullsuit is the fruit of this collaboration and the result is a really cool-looking wetsuit.
So yeah it’s good looking, but did it work?
First off, the most original thing about this suit is the screened pattern on the right sleeve. Before, if you wanted to look unique in the water the only way to set your wetsuit apart was through various colors. With the SUPERbrand patterning, Dion and Narval have created a unique, sytlish wetsuit using just black and white.
Let’s start with the neoprene*. When you first pick up the suit you’ll notice how light it is. The Japanese neoprene is used throughout every panel and has low-water absorption. We noticed the water beading off of it when we jumped into the surf.
*FYI: Neoprene is a trademarked name, but everyone uses it to descrbe wetsuits whether they are using the trademarked brand or not.
When wearing, the suit feels very cozy and is soft. The neoprene is on the lighter, stretchier side of the neoprene spectrum compared to some of the more plush-lined, insulative (and heavier) wetsuits out there. So it’s a performance suit.
The suit is all nylon with no smoothie material anywhere. And while it’s not promoted as having quick-dry properties we found it took only an hour or so to dry out along the core of the interior. Mentioning that this suit falls on the stretchy performance side of the scale, we can’t vouch for the life of this slinky material. One drawback of wetsuit product review is we can’t tell how it will last.
The seams on the Narval X Superbrand fullsuit are interior-taped while the outside is simply stitched without exterior liquid seal tape. While this design approach keeps the suit sealed and flexible and creates a good water barrier, it does not keep water out with the same efficiency as suits with the outer seams sealed. That said, sealing the outer seams with liquid tape restricts the flexibility of the Narval X Superbrand suit.
Because the interior neoprene is flat and not plushy, there is a good, solid seal between the tape and neoprene. (Some of the fluffier interior-lined suits on the market tend to not form a good seal between panels.)
The tape on the seams is soft against the skin and doesn’t chaffe. Narval boasts what they call Anticrack seams in the construction of this suit. Should they live up to their name in the longrun, they are a great combination of comfort and durability.
This suit comes in Small, Medium and Large and half sizes in between. So it's good if you’re a Medium Tall or a Large Short, or some other combination. The reviewer of this suit typically wears a Medium Tall but used a Medium during the test. Consequently the lack of length through the torso caused excess pull on the neck seal. The result was a neck rash on the first session. However, the suit worked fine in four subsequent test surfs and no longer gave a neck rash.
Zipper and entry system
The Narval X Superbrand wetsuit closure system is secured with a relatively standard ‘dislocating’ chest-placement lightweight zipper. This means it’s easier to get into than zip systems that are sewn shut at one side. To compensate for the potential of more water flushing in through the zipper, Narval has installed a full front panel under the chest flap. This system worked well as we found no flushing occured through the zip system during test surfs. Important because earlier editions of this type of design system by other wetsuit brands were notorious for flushing water through them.
So what’s our final take on the Narval X Superbrand 3/2?
Things we liked:
- The neoprene is really flexible.
- Easy to get into “open” zip entry system.
- We liked the stylish design and the very cool branded pattern on the shoulder.
- This wetsuit is incredibly light. We felt like we were wearing a 2/2 instead of a 3/2.
- The internal seam taping is soft and comfortable and one of the best we've seen on the market. The internal seam tape is stretchy and fits flush between the neoprene panels.
Things to Improve
- First-time neck rash
- Unsure of the durability of a high-performance, lightweight neoprene.
- If you don’t want to stand out in the lineup, this is not the suit for you.
If you'd like to take a refresher course in wetsuit basics check out the below guide to the Big Three factors in what makes a wetsuit perform: Neoprene, Seams and Fit
Closeup of O'Neill's TechnoButter 2
Neoprene is amazing. At its most basic level it’s just rubber with little gas bubbles blown into it. By blowing more or fewer bubbles into the neoprene one can control things like warmth and flexibility. Each major wetsuit brand has its own top-shelf neoprene, which is to say their own secret recipe for warmth and flexibility.
Neoprene interior-lining is the new frontier in performance as companies create innovative ways to insulate the interiors of wetsuits. The body heats air more easily than water, so most suits have some type of ‘fluffy’ interior neoprene for your core areas.
Rip Curl Flashbomb inside taping along seams
Wetsuit seams at the basic level are glued and blind stitched which, while strong, does allow some water to seep in through pinholes in the stitching. This is the type of seam you’ll find on your not-too-expensive suits or warm-water suits.
The next level up is interior-taped wetsuit seams. This means the suits have flexible tape glued along the inside seams. This type of seam provides a good water barrier and plenty of flexibility.
The top-shelf method for keeping water from seeping through the seams is having interior tape and exterior liquid tape. This pretty much means the suit’s seams are waterproof - at least while the integrity of the inner and outer tape material stays pliable and in tact. The only drawback is that heavy taping can decrease a suit’s flexibility
Three different types of interior lining on the XCEL Revolt wetsuit
Sadly this is the most overlooked component when purchasing a wetsuit. When we hear complaints from surfers about a particular suit that flushes or wears out prematurely in one place, most times it’s because the suit didn’t fit correctly in the first place. Extra strain placed on seams and materials due to an incorrect fit wear out that suit quicker than a proper-fitting suit. To ensure your hard-earned money is spent well, take the time to try on several suits at your local surf shop and find the best fit.