Ahhhh, fresh suits in the autumn. Nothing like it. Photo: Taras
So, yeah, we tested a lot of wetsuits.
Nine to be exact. They were all good, some of them even great. But we were consistently enthralled by a few specific features that graced these winter warmers. In order to share this insight, we’ve compiled a list of the top five innovative qualities of 2016's hottest line of neoprene …and treeoprene.
Neoprene is bad, environmentally speaking. We know this. Wetsuit companies know this. This is a thing that's known, period. That said, businesses have never been ones to rank morality over a dollar sign. And when it comes to wetsuits, neoprene is the cheapest, most effective product on the market. Right?
Patagonia is starting to question that assertion. Recently the Ventura-based company has been experimenting with alternative wetsuit construction. Specifically, their new line of Yulex suits are made from a natural, sustainable tree rubber that is produced in the highlands of Guatemala. They are literally tapping trees for organic rubber. We're not sure on the price specifics, but the suit felt damn good. This could be the future.
Treeoprene is hot right now! Photo: Taras
Remember back-zip wetsuits? Ya know, the ones with the long string that would get caught under your hand during a pop-up, leading to an inevitable face plant? The ones where you'd occasionally catch some back fat in the zipping process? The ones your non-surfer friend put on backwards once, leading to your deep, deep embarrassment? We weren't aware of it at the time, but those things totally sucked. Chest-zips share this same, cruel fate.
Because guess what? Zippers aren't flexible. They're made from hard plastic or even harder metal and they break and break and break but never bend. And that is why zippers will eventually be disbanded from our cold-water body condoms. Innovation should move in only one direction – forward. In this sense, Zion, Rip Curl, and Billabong are ahead of the curve with their highly functional non-zip wetsuits.
For those with broad shoulders or cute little gut, a zipperless suit could really help the entry and exit process. Photo: Taras
Less Seams, Better Seams
Much like zippers, seams do two things for wetsuits: close holes and reduce flexibility. It's a trade-off, but one that can be avoided with improved construction. In some cases, a superiorly-built seam will do the trick; in others, no seam at all will suffice. Companies such a Body Glove, Billabong, Buell, Xcel and Quiksilver have done a lot in this category by removing unnecessary seams and enhancing the essential ones.
Still, it makes us think – do wetsuits really need seams? With modern-day wetsuit theory and construction the answer is probably yes. But we look forward to a time when we'll wear one smooth, sleek, wave catching slice of silicone.
Billabong minimizes their seams to encourage fluid surfing and wildly aggressive paddle battles. Photo: Taras
What is the number one, non-scientifically proven deterrent from early morning sessions? Sleepiness? Negative! The offshore spray that stings your little eyesies? No, you pussy! The answer is a wet wetsuit. That cold, damp seal skin that seeps into your bones without fear of reprisal. You can curse and cry and call your mama, but you’re still stuck waiting for that sucker to thaw. After all what are you gonna do, burn it? It's your only goddamn suit and it's not even winter yet!
That's why quick-dry technology is so important. The faster suits are relieved of their hydro-retentive flaws, the faster we get to surf on a more regular basis. Rip Curl has put a lot of time and effort into this particular pursuit, and it shows. Our staff has been quite fond of the Flashbomb Plus thanks to its impressive rate of return (to warm and coziness).
Xcel’s ’bout that infrared technology. And you? Photo: Taras
The major theme of this piece has been innovation, and the best place to look for technological expansion is the world of science. Two of our wetsuit brands, Xcel and O'neill, have gone above the rest to implement some scientifically proven methods to retain heat without increasing thickness or seams.
First we have Xcel, who has utilized Thermo Dry Celliant (TDC), which is a wetsuit lining that uses thermodynamics to recycle body heat into infrared energy, which in turn heats your body even more. It's using a constant, sustainable energy source (you) to retain and create further warmth. You are your own self-heating oven! Genius!
Next is O'neill, whose Psycho Tech suit utilizes small gaseous pockets in the Air Firewall to trap and retain heat. The tiny pores encapsulate warm air and keep it high and tight against your person. They also allow for increased flexibility and less overall weight in the suit. It's a win win win.