By removing features, Rip Curl has built a solid wetsuit
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 9 September, 2014 - The first thing you notice picking up the Rip Curl Flash Bomb Zip Free is how light the suit is. So in reviewing the features of this suit perhaps it’s best to talk about what’s not there instead of what’s there. And missing item number one is weight.
Next up would be missing smoothie material, followed by outer-seam tape and most importantly and finally, a zipper. It’s like some German Deconstructionist went to town and took out everything that wasn’t absolutely vital to a wetsuit and removed it from the Rip Curl Flash Bomb zip free.
Early generations of zip-free wetsuits used velcro to fasten. This worked well until the neoprene got torn up by the lock-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.
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 minimize flush and maximize 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 front-zip wetsuits out there. A back zip wetsuit will always remain the the easiest to get into.
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 for a 4/3. Paddling felt loose and the rubber stretched a great deal through the arms and shoulders. Through the torso and legs this suit loosened up more than prior generations of Rip Curl Flashbomb which I would attribute to the minimal seams in the design and having no outer liquid tape to restrict. 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 seems as a heavier & taped wetsuit. We noticed minimal water entering through the seems.
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.
More Tech Specs: The Rip Curl Flash Bomb Zip Free is 100% E4 with E4 Flash lining from the chest down through to the legs. Smart idea as that leaves the arms and shoulders material to the stretchy E4. On the outside they’ve ditched the outer smoothie material in favor of nylon.
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 it out of the arms and shoulders, again, this increases flexibility.
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 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 wetsuits ($399). Fewer components mean there are fewer things to go awry with the suit. The suit is warmer than other 4/3 suits we tried and because it is more flexible than many other high-end wetsuits we've tried, we’d recommend the Rip Curl Flash Bomb Zip Free.