Lack of consistent swell been doing your head in? Finding yourself yearning for a solid cold water keg? Well it’s only round the corner folks so get yourself prepared for a bumper cold season swell bonanza (yep – this writer is keeping the vibe positive – there”ll be no mention of dark nights, freezing fog or frost bite here).
At the time of writing that autumnal feel has been in the air much earlier than in years gone by so talk of thicker neoprene, well bonded seams and toasty wetsuit boots are hot topics.
Get yourself prepared for those winter sessions with a well thought out action plan. There are two broad areas that you can change to positively affect your winter performance: Body and Kit.
You can prepare your body by starting to get in to good habits now. Eat well, exercise 3 or 4 times per week, use sport specific training to focus on the areas that need to be kept fittest and cut out bad habits like boozing, pasties and cigarettes.
Preparing your kit is way more fun. Whip out that magic plastic card and treat yourself to the warmest set up that you can lay your hands on. Not only will it last longer than its cheaper rivals, it will likely fit better, flush less and most importantly of all, keep you in the water for longer and more comfortably.
The following pages will take the pain out of the shopping experience a little. Take a look at the stretchy new neoprene, the well thought out entry systems and the flush free seals. Then head to your local surf shop armed with the info to make an informed choice.
There were a few raised eyebrows when last winter’s Syncro hit the racks as it basically has all
that you’d expect from a top-end suit, but for half the price. It’s 100% Hyperstretch II for starters,
uses Hollow Fiber technology in the chest and back panels, and has Hydroshield zip barrier to keep those
dribbles out. And all for a tonne forty. £140
The Cypher’s been in Quiksilver’s range for a while now and is a hugely popular wintertime option. It’s available in chest or back zip and features Fiber-Lite, Biofleece Thermal Neoprene, and Flexmax Seal seam sealing to keep you focused on where the next set’s swinging in from, rather than which hot beverage you’re looking forward to once you’re out. £250
Just when you thought we’d gone as far as we could for now with ways of putting wetsuits together, Quiksilver pull one out the bag. The Fuseflex uses stitchless seam technology which eliminates the need for stitching seams and strips away all excess taping. The razor-thin molecular bonding process reduces the amount of tape needed by 60% (over traditional taping methods) and completely seals the seam. Combined with all the usual Quiksilver good stuff, there are bound to be quite a few being turned inside out and marveled at over the coming months. £370
Linings & Materials
Alder has used their Aerocore lining and ‘X’ Stretch fabric in the EVO Fire wetsuit to create a material that combines fantastic properties for trapping air and warming it while also offering four way stretch. Team rider Mark Boyd has been testing it in Thurso’s Arctic temperatures and rates it as the best that he’s used.
BodyGlove are using 100% Vapour flex repellent technology throughout their Vapour Slant Zip 5/4mm suit. The water tends to turn in to droplets on the neoprene and runs off rather than absorbing – just like me mums settee when she sprays Scotchguard on it – impressive stuff.
When the winters swells hit, we all want to surf our brains out, but getting in to a wet wetsuit is enough to put off the most hardcore UK Keen bean. Rip Curl’s Flash dry lining funnels the water rapidly out of the suit once it’s hung up. No more breathless moments as your toes go down your wettie leg – result!
Patagonia’s use of Merino wool creates a greenhouse effect in your suit. While the wool wicks away any water, your body heats it up.
Animal have included their A-flex pro neoprene in the paddle zone areas of the Animator series. When you’re feeling the burn on those long winter paddle outs, you’ll really enjoy the benefit.
The boffins in the Xcel design lab have introduced their new Quick Dry Fibre Technology (QDF) which reduces water absorption on the surface of the wetsuit, giving increased warmth to keep you cosy for longer.
There have been mutterings about the Flash Bomb for a while – especially from anyone who has had a three session day in mid-winter. The suit features an exclusive new weave technology with two engineered layers – the first layer is designed so that the water passes through it directly into the second layer, which then funnels the water rapidly out of the suit once it is hung up. So it dries superfast, meaning that you can get a banana and pastie down you and then slip smugly back into your dry suit. Happy days. 5/3 £300. Suit also available in Hooded version.
Always a highly anticipated suit, The E-Bomb now features a 4-Way Back Stretch panel. The Rip Curl engineers identified the importance of stretch across the back for both paddling and body torque during turns and, by breaking the straight seam line across the back, the panel allows the E3 to do its job without the seam restriction. Also, of course, still packing all of those top drawer features that you’ve come to expect from your E-Bomb. 5/3 £245. Suit also available in Back Zip and Hooded versions.
Back for another season, the Dawn Patrol continues to fly the flag for top quality mid range suits. Now incorporating Elastomax 3 throughout 40% of the suit, allowing ultimate stretch in the critical areas. Seamless underarms and shoulders, combined with Fireskin lining offer amazing warmth and comfort. This is a quality suit from the leading brand, incorporating some high end features at an economical price 5/3 £165. Suit also available in Back Zip version.
One of the first and favourite dedicated women’s wetsuits, the G–Bomb continues to evolve and impress with its top-end feature and women specific focus. The G-Bomb combines the major features from the Flashbomb and E-bomb, and is externally triple glued and blind stitched, ensuring only one side of the neoprene is pierced, allowing high stretch and strength, and minimal water entry. Keeping women hot all winter. 5/3 £245
R3® (3mm back zip; 8-12°C) and
M’S R4® (5/4/3 Front zip; hooded; 3-8 °C)
Patagonia are now firmly ensconced on the wetsuit scene and building a solid following with their rep for stretch, durability and warmth. Suits are lined with chlorine-free merino wool – structured in a patented grid pattern to maximize heat retention – and a recycled polyester jersey in the seat and legs increases durability. All seams are triple glued and single needle blind stitched externally using nylon bonded thread. And you can minus a millimetre off the thickness too… Good maths. £499 (R4); £419 (R3) Check out the entire line of Patagonia Wetsuits and FCD Surfboards at the new Patagonia Surf store in San Sebastián, Spain or at www.patagoniasurfeurope.com.
Making a Successful Change
As you can see in these pages, there is a multitude of ridiculously amazing neoprene goods to keep you warm this winter. Suits are at the stage where the only part of your body that feels the cold is the part that is exposed to the elements – so most of the time in the UK that’s just your face. By purchasing the kit that is in this year’s guide you can actually spend most of a session without actually getting wet! The seams and fit are that good.
So in the water you are fine. But the bit in between leaving the car and being in your wetsuit or in the other direction when you have got out of your wetsuit but aren’t in the car are the truly painful bits. So make a plan. That’s when an organised surfer really comes up trumps:
First up, if you can, wear loose fitting, warm clothes. Or at least have some to get in to.
Remember to wax your board, organise what is happening with your car key, take out contact lenses, prepare your seat covers if you are driving home in your wettie or any other faff that you need to do as early as possible. Not when you are prancing around in your underpants in the snow.
Next up, have a mat of some kind to get changed on. A simple footwell mat from your local car shop will do the job. Anything to save you standing barefooted on the icey floor. As a bonus, it will save you dragging your suit across the beach car-park as well.
The second that you take off your jacket, jumper, t-shirt, you are going to be totally exposed to the elements and that’s when your core temperature will take a dive. So invest in one of the changing gown devices that are available on the market. Not got the money? Then get a massive towel and make your own (it probably won’t do as a good a job though).
When you get out of the water, if you have car seat covers and you’re not too bothered about your cars interior, get in and drive home. It’s a top tip to remember to take off your boots though as they carry loads of sand and often a good amount of water (and probably other warm, yellow fluid) so can create a big mess quickly.
Remember when you’re out of the water and you’ve lobbed your changing gown over your head and wriggled out of your suit, all you need to do is chuck your stuff in your boot and you’re ready to drive home. Only you know that you’re naked underneath so enjoy the ball-swinging freedom. It’ll be a lot easier than trying to get your half wet legs down your skinny jeans as it goes dark in the rain.
The Psycho 2
Still going strong, this winter’s Psycho 2 uses the new Super Stretch XXXDS neoprene to help keep your arms pumping all day long, and also has the XDS-Air Firewall in the chest and back panels, as well as Double Fluid Seam Weld to keep you warm and loose. Another great suit – Psycho devotees will be suitably impressed… 4/3mm – £270, 5/3mm – £280.
The Psychofreak scored the SIMA wettie of the year award a couple of seasons back and is still pushing the envelope (as they say in mathematically circles). This year’s uses an all new XDS- Air material – which is warmer and better at ‘wicking’ than ever before – on the chest and back, and has XXDS stretchy joy in the arms, shoulders and lower legs. Time for some psycho moves then. 3.5/2.5mm – £320, 4.5/3.5mm – £340.
After the success of the F.U.Z.E entry in the Psycho RG8 series in 2010, O’Neill’s design team elected to bring the technology to their mid-range Superfreak suit. So it’s got a tidy zip system as well as all the stretchy and warmth giving joy that you’d expect from those knowledgeable bods over at O’Neill. 4/3mm – £140, 5/3mm – £145.
Quiksilver’s Fuseflex suit has a Hydro-lock dry chest zip which gets the zipper off your back to increase flexibility, but also locks out water leakage through the zipper for maximum warmth. It’s easy to climb in to and effortless to get out of.
Suits You Sir
A made to measure service isn’t something that you hear much of these days but it still has the unique appeal of a comfortable fit, no rubs, no flushes and more flex in the right areas. Snugg’s service also has the bonus that if you happen to change shape (perhaps after one too many mince pies at Christmas) you can have your suit altered. Tailored to perfection.
O’Neill’s super seam weld is 60% lighter than other seams available. The new seam is low profile so it offers greater comfort, stretch and durability. Less is more in this case for sure.
Billabong are utilising a new stitchless welded seam construction in their SGX Xero model. Less seam restriction, more warmth, all good!
Circle One are offering a unique easy entry system. You don’t appreciate how easy they are to get on until you try them and zips are a thing of the past!
Last year’s Drylock really was a beaut and scored the SIMA ‘best wettie’ award. This year it’s back with Thermo Bamboo heat retaining lining, an airprene chest panel, and uses 100% Ultrastretch and Ultrasoft neoprene reinforced with fusion seam technology. And this year’s headline grabbing innovation is the Quick Dry Fibre technology (QDF). This absorbs less water, which reduces both weight and windchill. Basically – you won’t even realise you’re in the water… Available in 4mm £330, 4mm Hooded £350, 5mm £350, 5mm Hooded £360.00
Kind of Xcel’s mid-range suit, but essentially a top-end suit by any normal standards, the XFlex has a front entry zipper on an outer flap attached at one shoulder for a more watertight fit, Thermo carbon inner chest insulation with a wind resistant textured chest panel, Ultrastretch upper body with 4-way stretch Duraflex knee panels, and a host of other technological marvels to keep you smiling through winter. £196.00
The original front entry fullsuit is still going strong. It features Thermo Bamboo heat retaining lining, is 100% Ultrastretch, and uses pressure bonded fusion seam technology. The suit is also designed with minimum seams to maximise stretch and performance. A truly enviable piece of wetsuit joy. Available in 4mm £250, 5mm £270, 5mm Hooded £290, 6mm Hooded £310
How to Buy
When you hit the surf shops, make sure you go in with a game plan. Speed the process by knowing your height, weight, where you will be using the suit and during which months. Be well researched on the features that you like. Is it a front zip entry that you’re looking for? Do you require single lined material on your suits lumber panel? Know what you want rather than going in blind.
Your standard sales assistant will be well versed in the suits that they’re selling. They’ll have likely had some sales training from the manufacturer and they’ll be ready to translate your info in to a suit sale as quickly as possible.
You shouldn’t need to be trying on more than three suits. If you are, then either the sales assistant aren’t doing their job properly or you have changed your mind too many times. By the time you’ve tried three winter suits on in a hot changing room you’ll be a hot, sweating mess.
Remember, knowledge is king, so enter the shop armed with your trusty Carve winter wettie guide rolled up in your back sky rocket!
The Animator series offers the committed
surfer pretty much everything they need from
a winter suit, and brings plenty of Animal’s
top-end features down to their mid-range
offering. It’s got LSS sealed seams, A-Lock
barrier zips, and uses A Flex super stretchy material throughout the suit but with A-flex
Pro neoprene in paddle zone areas for extra flex. Another great offering from those well respected bods at Animal. £170
All new for this season is Animal’s Amp V2
series. You can pick it up with a back or a front zip option, and it’s packed full of features, including Aflex neoprene and a batwing watergate barrier system. The summer version of the suit proved really popular, and it looks like the winter version will be flying off the shelves too. £140
ICON LQS 5/3
Built to meet the demands of the modern surfer and intelligently thought out, the Icon boasts strategic seam placement, anatomical panel design, and Ultra-stretch neoprene for maximum flexibility and comfort. This suit has all the features you’d expect from a top-end winter garment but at a price which allows you to have a smug grin as you glance up and down the line up this winter… £140
5/3 & 6/4
Circle One reckon they’ve discovered the holy grail of wetsuit design with the Noir: a truly zipperless suit. It’s got bullet-proof build quality, an anatomical fit, and is a truly unique design. The ‘double barrier’ ergonomic entry system makes getting in and out of the Noir swift and with zero fuss – a real boon on those Arctic days. Plus with poly-plush chest lining and Kevlar knee pads, you can be assured that the Noir Zipperless revolution continues apace. 5/3 £220, 6/4 £240.
Alder are surely one of the most committed of wetsuit manufacturers and never cease to amaze with their well thought out and UK tested range of suits. This year the Evo Fire is packing an all new panel pattern with less stitching over the shoulders, Aerocore lining to give you those extra few degree when you need them most, and is 100% "X" stretch. And it has been thoroughly tested at Thurso East – who’d want that job hey?!
5/4/3 – £220
The SG5 is one of those ‘upper/mid’ range suits that makes you wonder if you really need to reach for your credit card and spend that extra hundred quid. It uses ZG400 Superflex Neoprene all over, with a furnace lining and that o-so-clever Solar Mesh material which ekes ever last possible degree out of that March sun, and delivers it back to you. A super-nice suit at a super-nice price. 543 CZ and BZ with a Modular Hood £260, 403 CZ and BZ LS Steamer £240
The SGX Xero is right at the top of the market where, let’s be honest, there is some pretty staggering sh*t going down. The SGX uses a new stitchless welded seam construction – to guarantee a dribble free session – super lightweight Japanese thermal materials (nicknamed silk touch), and has a new Xero chest zip entry system. So another significant step forward – and just when you thought things couldn’t get any better… 543 CZ with a Modular Hood £330, 403 CZ LS Steamer £310
You wouldn’t have thought that C-SKINS would need to change much – they have an enviable rep for top quality, durable suits that serve a significant percentage of the UK’s surfing population. But this winter sees the arrival of the Hotwired, a new no-holds-barred suit featuring C-Skins NEW Enigma Chest Zip fitted with Dri-Crypt Water resistant zip, triple fused HotWired seam technology and QuickDri Channel Polypro. Dripping with the latest technology and features, it will be on many surfer’s Christmas list £324.95
The much respected Wired is back for another season of thrashings in grey UK waters. As ever it’s been further developed and is packing a huge number of surfer driven features; NEW Enigma Chest zip, 100% C-Flex Ultra Stretch neoprene, FireCore Polypro front panel, Lock Down wrist Cuffs, and 100% external LQS Liquid Seam System. Surely one of the ultimate weapons in the war against winter. £239.95
Laughing in the face of ‘mid-range’ suit expectations, the Legend is fully GBS, uses C-Flex throughout the top half and also has a solid back wing system to keep you coming back for ‘just one more’ even when you’re facing a 10 wave paddle out. And you’ll still be able to afford to buy your girlfriend a bottle of Lambrini this Christmas. £119.95
HOT ONE EXTREME
The “Hot One Extreme” is a made-to-measure wetsuit with a fitted hood. It is constructed from mega-stretch neoprene with a titanium cell inner. It also has aero zirconium hollow fibre fleece yarn on the body and the upper leg, and uses limestone based neoprene as the ultimate thermo barrier. A truly staggering piece of wetsuit technology, and made just for you. What more do you want from life? £369