Review: The Rip Curl H-Bomb

I remember surfing in the dead of winter 20 years ago, as my bros and I shivered in our neon-colored overlock-stitch fullsuits, dreaming about heated wetsuits. “J-j-just th-think,” we’d stutter. “We’d never have to get out.”

Fast-forward to 2008 and I’m staring at that dream turned reality — a battery-powered 3/2 millimeter Rip Curl, designed to keep us warm and loose no matter how icy it gets. It had been hanging in my garage for the better part of two months, as {{{80}}}-degree weather and above-average water temps in November made me think more about trunks and beach parties than icy dawn patrols and super-charged heating coils.

But after almost a month in tropical waters, a serious cold-snap at home and abysmal surf, I needed to find something to motivate me to paddle back out into our brown, polluted waters.

The H-Bomb did the trick.

The suit comes with its own vinyl cover – just like you'd get with a tuxedo – and a very techy battery kit and chargers, just like you'd get if you were…oh, I don't know. Some kind of James Bond agent. The whole set-up looks pretty intimidating and complicated, which is why I also probably delayed trying it. But now it had been more than a week since I had surfed (which is weird for me). And since the forecast didn't look like it was going to improve anytime soon, it was time to read the user's manual and fire that baby up.

According to Rip Curl, the 2 lithium-ion, 7.4 volt batteries they supply are enough to keep me warm in practically any water temp for up to three hours. Even more reassuring is that these batteries don't increase my chances of getting chomped. Apparently, it was tested by the Natal Sharks Board in South Africa and got the "thumbs up," so it's good to know my voltage doesn't double as a dinner bell.

Although all the gear looks complicated, it really isn't. Just pull the batteries out of your James Bond kit, plug 'em into the two slots provided in your suit, and proceed with your normal wetsuit-pulling-on ritual. I timed it – each session in the H-Bomb takes about an extra two minutes in pre- and post- prep. Not too much to ask when hypothermia is in the balance.

Walking down the beach, you look pretty much like a normal guy in a fullsuit. The only difference is the two 4.2-oz batteries bulging out of your lower back on each side. You don't really feel them – and definitely don't feel them surfing. But I have to be honest here: walking down the beach with batteries strapped to your back and a button on your leg inevitably makes you feel like…a suicide bomber. If you see a bunch of jihadists running around in Rip Curls in the future, keep your distance.

But we all know that will never happen. The H-Bomb will be used for entirely for good things, like warming the cores of surfers worldwide. During my 45-minute session in dribbly, offshore mushburgers at Oceanside, I barely even felt the water. A month in the tropics usually makes that first surf back in California painful, but this time it was as easy as sliding into a pair of flannel pajamas. The button on your leg gives you three heating options: low, high or "boost." For the really frigid stuff. But just to be a wimp, I kept it on "boost" the whole time. The carbon-fiber coils in my back roared to life, I stayed warm and loose (like I had a little campfire in my suit) and – even though the surf sucked – I kept telling myself "one more."

Aside from keeping you warm, the H-Bomb just might serve as the key motivator to keep you in the water…forever. Just like we used to dream about when neon was cool.

For more on the Rip Curl wetsuit line, including the H-Bomb, visit