Flash Bomb Zip Free gets high marks for flexibility
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 1 October, 2015 - One of the most flexible suits on the market due to the integrity of the neoprene, a minimal seam design, having no outer seam tape and also being zipper free. In reviewing the features of the Rip Curl 2/2 Rip Curl Flash Bomb Zip Free full suit perhaps it’s best to talk about what’s not there instead of what is there. Missing item number one is weight.
Because the suit doesn’t have smoothie material, a zipper, outer seam taping and because the Flash Bomb interior material is so light, the suit weighs very little.
Early generations of zip-free wetsuits used velcro to fasten them. This worked well until the neoprene got torn up by the locking-end of the velcro. Those first-generation suits were ditched once zippers got lighter and stronger. And let’s face it, zippers are pretty good these days. Consequently we haven’t seen too many zip free suits on the market lately. But they are making a comeback.
We asked Rip Curl’s PJ Elbing why the company chose to go with a zip-free wetsuit. “Our pattern maker has been building Rip Curl wetsuits for over 40 years,” said Elbing. “We worked with him to make a pattern that could delete the zipper and actually make the suit as easy to get in and out of as our standard chest zip. All of our testers and team riders were calling it the best suit they ever wore. So, we decided to run with it.”
From there Rip Curl did fit testing and in-water testing, making tweaks as needed to minimise flush and maximise flexibility.
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.
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.
Flash Bomb outer seam construction just below the knee
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.
The Rip Curl Flash Bomb Zip Free is 100% E4 with E4 Flash Dry lining from the chest down through to the legs. Smart idea as that leaves the arms and shoulder material as just the stretchy E4.
What we discovered about the E4’s performance is that it does feel warmer, lighter and stretchier than the previous generation of high-performance E3 rubber. Not by much, because the E3 was very light and pliable to begin with. But most notable about the E4 is its water-repellant properties. Yes, water did bead off the neoprene in places when we went for a surf.
Seams: The suit has three-quarters internal E4 taped seams wherever there is flash lining, opting to leave interior taping out of the arms and shoulders increases the flexibility of this suit. However, the seams aren’t waterproof since they don’t have an outer seam seal. Minimal water does get through.
Flash Bomb inner seam taping just below the knee
Other New Features: This year Rip Curl changed up the key pocket with a magnetic latch. There is no zipper or button which frees up the flex of the suit on the lower leg and simplifies the overall design of the suit.
Overall the combination of solid, warmth-minded core and leg materials coupled with the upper body performance-minded stretchiness has made it one of the better suits on the market.
The suit is priced at the mid-to-high-end of 2/2 full suits ($360). What you get for your hard-earned cash is a suit that is smartly designed with premium materials and minimal gadgetry. Fewer components mean there are fewer things to go awry with the suit. Because it is more flexible than other high-end wetsuits we've tried, we’d recommend the Rip Curl Flash Bomb Zip Free. If you are looking for more warmth over flexibility (yes there is always a trade-off) then go with the Rip Curl Flash Bomb Plus.
Before buying a suit this year, take the below crash course in what makes a wetsuit flexible and warm. Yes, many other factors apply, but below you’ll find a basic primer to learn before heading into your local surf shop.
Consider conditions, just like when you pick a board for the conditions. Do you want more flexibility or more warmth or a happy place in between? A suit with interior tape, exterior tape and a host of materials will make a suit warmer, but also (generally - and the industry is trying to find the perfect alchemy to remedy this) less flexible. That’s why a top-end suit with head-to-toe interior/exterior taping and super-charged lining material might feel stiffer than your less expensive backup suit. However that backup suit will not be as warm…. Read on.
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.
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.
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.