New constructions and materials and finding the suit that's right for you
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 20 December, 2015 - This autumn the crew at Surfersvillage tested four new models from wetsuit makers O’Neill, Rip Curl, Xcel and Body Glove. The suits ranged from mid-level to top-end full suits with thicknesses from 2/2 ml to 4/3 ml.
In the below reviews we focus on what makes each suit unique in the marketplace and what conditions they are best, uhhh, suited for. We’ve also included a crash course in wetsuit basics that every consumer should know before venturing into their local surf shop.
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.
XCEL Revolt 4/3
A very warm suit with some cutting-edge smartfibers that redirect infra-red heat back into your body (so the claim goes…) After a few sessions I am still unable to tell if the warmth is due to the Thermo Dry Celliant weave redirecting infrared body heat back into my muscles, or if TDC is just a good insulator.
Positives included water beading off the outer neoprene shell. Most neoprenes do this the first few surfs, but this was some good, solid hydrophobic water-beading action that has lasted through several sessions.
The TDC material stays surprisingly light when wet. It’s a plushy material, so it looks like it would absorb heaps of water. When taking the suit out of the rinse bucket it was still fairly light in weight. Some interior linings on the market soak up water like sponges.
The feel of the TDC against your skin takes some getting used to. Not as scratchy as a wool-lined suit and not as clammy as straight-up traditional neoprene, the TDC felt a bit like a new piece of clothing that hasn’t gone through a wash cycle yet.
Flexibility was great for a 4/3. Although the suit looks heavy and solid, it is quite stretchy. On the Revolt suit there is not outer-seam taping. Seams are taped on the inside but not on the outside. This helps the flexibility of the suit, but does allow some minor seepage.
O’Neill 3/2 Psycho 1 backzip
The big difference between this suit and others on the market is the TechnoButter 2. It dries quickly, is light, kind of techy looking and very stretchy. The sheer weight difference of this neoprene compared to others puts it at the top of the branded neoprenes list this year.
The TechnoButter 2 claims of being more water resistant are believable as it took several duck-dives and spills to get the inside of the Psycho 1 to feel wet. The warmth factor for Technobutter 2 is average-to-good for the thickness, while the stretch-factor scores in the excellent range.
The Psycho 1 we tested came with a back zip, the Z.E.N. Zip. For a back zip design it’s much less restrictive than other traditional back-zip wetsuits.
Overall it’s a very smart design coupled with a great neoprene. We would recommend this design for users looking for a mid-priced suit that is simple without a lot of bells and whistles.
This suit scores big points for flexibility and insulation. But I would not recommend the Psycho 1 for surfers looking for a thicker, more insulative suit. For that go with a design that has the chest smoothie material to help keep your core warm - remember such adding a lot of smoothie material tends to restrict flexibility. It’s all about finding the suit that’s balanced for your particular surfing needs. That said, it’s a reasonably priced suit with good insulative properties and superior flexibility properties.
Rip Curl Flashbomb zip-free 2/2
Getting into a suit without a zipper is not as hard as you might think. I was skeptical, but the material is stretchy enough that putting this suit on is about as difficult as putting on a majority of the chest front-zip wetsuits out there. A back zip wetsuit will always remain the the easiest to get into for most of us.
To secure the suit and keep the water out, the pull-string on the shoulder tightens up nicely and the tab to lock it is simple. However, be careful not to tighten it too much as that will restrict paddling as we found out. But a quick adjustment of the pull-tab fixed that problem. Also, for testing sake we left the pull string unsecured for a couple sets and it still didn’t flush. So I can safely say the suit doesn’t flush - which was my main concern. Remember, flushing also has a lot to do with the fit of a suit.
We also found that this suit is very flexible. Yes it’s only 2mm but the neoprene is really soft and pliable. Through the torso and legs this suit loosened up more than prior generations of the Rip Curl Flash Bomb which I would attribute to the minimal seams in the design and having no outer liquid tape to restrict movement. We can also credit the lack of a zipper or stiffer smoothie material as helping the suit stay loose.
Keep in mind that when you remove smoothie, outer liquid tape the suit is not as seep-proof through the seams as a heavier and taped wetsuit would be. Water does get through the seams of the suit because there is no outer seam taping. But it’s a give-and-take between flexibility and seepage. And this suit is very flexible.
Also in testing the suit we have to admit we’re fans of the Flash Dry Lining. A couple years ago Rip Curl introduced this combed, fluffy polypro material. It has nonabsorbent properties, dries quickly and wicks water away from the wearer’s body leaving a cushion of air between surfer and suit. It’s a great insulator.
Body Glove Vapor X Red Cell 3/2
In a nutshell, the suit performs like a top-end suit, utilizing all the best seams, constructions and materials available on the market. We liked the entry slanted zip design and experienced no flushing during our test surfs.
The Body Glove Red Cell material looks like several other fluffy interior neoprenes, but the ad-line is that the Red Cell redirects infrared rays back to the body, thus heating more efficiently. We found it to be a warm, comfortable lining material with good insulative qualities.
Pluses included: top-end inner and outer seam construction; overall comfort; no flushing; very warm suit. Minuses: ‘X’ shape seams feels stiff across the upper back.
Should you find yourself in the position to purchase a top-end suit, we would definitely consider the Body Glove Vapor X Red Cell.