No smoke, no mirrors. Welcome back to Wintermission, our annual wetsuit review and on ground field test dabbling in new season neoprene.
This year’s cast sees the familiar faces of Mitch Crews and Reef Heazlewood, with Gold Coast longboard sensation Ivy Thomas and the comedic values of Lewie Dunn both tagging along for the ride.
Our location? Somewhere south of Sydney. Our goal? To candidly review 14 new season wetsuits honestly and fairly to assist with your purchasing aspirations this winter.
Tune in below and see what's new!
After a suit with all the bells and whistles, the latest in anti-freeze tech, regardless of the wellbeing of your bottom line? For years Rip Curl has had this market covered, and after giving their latest Flashbomb Heat Seeker a run, it seems like they will continue to do so.
“I chose the Rip Curl, cos they’ve been in the game for a long time,” said Lewie, who after feeling the crisp air of our first morning, chose to wear this suit first.
“When I’m going into a store, I’m not looking for fashion – I want function! Straight from Torquay, onto your body. Boom!”
While Rip Curl’s Flash Lining has been around for a few seasons now, with rave reviews, they’ve taken this model to higher levels with their Thermo Shield rubber wrapped across the arms and another groovy feature called Flex Energy.
The Thermo Shield panels admittedly give the suit a sci-fi feel. Lewie noticed.
“I was a bit tripped out when I grabbed this. I thought it was the old Raptor, with the… umm… reptile aesthetics!”
Protecting the upper arms from wind chill makes a huge difference in the cold. We’re told that as you move through water, the Flex Energy tech lining will activate and heat your wetsuit.
While it may be subtle, every little bit counts. With it’s quick dry, cosy lining and fancy innovative features, a 3x2 in this suit will match up with any 4x3 in painfully brisk conditions.
Shop it here.
The Rip Curl Dawn Patrol 3x2 Chest Zip is for the Victorian gal who rises before the sun, gives her partner a kiss on the cheek and tells them to Go back to sleep – mama’s got some waves to catch.
So yeah, you know it’s warm. Rip Curl produced the Dawn Patrol in its E5 Neoprene, which if you believe the highly accredited wetsuit scientists in Torquay, has 30% more stretch, is 20% lighter, and 10% warmer than their previous E4 construction.
“I would definitely surf Bells in this,” Ivy Thomas explained. “Even if it was the 50-year storm.”
Shop it here.
As he did last year, Mitch Crews snatched straight at the Billabong skin and accompanying accessories the moment they fell from the back of the van. He’s unashamedly a fan of the Bong’s rubber, citing all-round excellence – so much for our non-bias agenda…
“It’s a beautiful wetsuit,” he said on first impressions. “The logos are nice and minimal, there’s not too much going on with it.”
While pop colours and vibrant panels can be fun wrapped on certain people, most of us aren’t in the water to seek attention from others, particularly in a foreign lineup. Sometimes it’s best to play low key and let your surfing do the talking (or whispering).
This suit isn’t all sleek appearances, it’s got plenty of top-tier performance features to back it up, mainly its Airlight Stretch fabric, which is reportedly engineered to stretch 350% of its resting state. Wrapping your hands around and giving it a tug confirms its elastic nature. For a three mil suit, made of upcycled car tyres, the thing is super light. All it needed to secure versatility props once again.
“All in all this was the favourite suit that I wore.” recounted Crews in our suburban backyard.
“It’s flexy, warm and pretty affordable. With the hood and boots you can battle some pretty gnarly elements. I’ve got a fair few Billabong wetties at home and I wear them all the time, this new one is even better!”
Shop it here.
The Billabong 3x2 Salty Daze Chest Zip is form-fitting and fun, with a number of playful color schemes available for purchase. But wetsuit fashion is meaningless without a functional base, so we needed to make sure the Bong ticked all the boxes.
“This one felt good,” said our sole female tester, Ivy Thomas. “Nice and stretchy, and it didn’t let any water in which is sick. The lining kept me super warm. I liked it.”
Oh, and you might be wondering about the specs. The Salty Daze 3x2 offers thermal lined front and back panels for warmth, tape on all internal seams for comfort, and all of Billabong’s modern performance stretch materials. Get your hands on it here.
O’Neill claims their Wintermission entrant is like ‘surfing naked, but better’ and after being put through its paces during our brief stint down south, none of us felt inclined to challenge this notion.
Once again the ultra-light elasto-skin of the O’Neill earned itself the prestigious hi-fi award. Reef singled out the grey number on day one and slid straight in (noting the ease of entry, thanks to its flex). He’d already banked a handful of clips earlier in the morning, but took it to another level in the Hyperfreak.
He literally went berserk, doing the best surfing of the trip during his half an hour in this suit. He pulled a few full rotations, lofted high above the reflective ramps, throwing a turn here afterwards – there was, after all a QS to surf in a few days.
“This one just has so much movement, it’s so comfortable,” he said peeling it off. “I reckon it would be perfect for competition, when you might not necessarily need the warmth, but really need the performance.”
Like last year, right out of the box we knew O’Neill’s suit was going to dominate the performance category. They call their exclusive ‘pre-stretched’ neoprene ‘TB3x’ with foam rubber core, “the lightest, softest material ever created”.
They also took high honours in our US-based wetty testing, "You've Got Winter" late 2018. O’Neill uses water-based glues and full TB3X taped internal seams for maximum stretch and comfort.
Shop it here.
The O’Neill Superfreak Fuze has more proprietary wetsuit features than anything we’ve encountered.
To name a few, there’s the UltraFlex DS Neoprene, which is meant to be their stretchiest yet; the GBS Seams, which are more watertight (we hope) than the Titanic; Seamless Paddle Zones, which improve shoulder mobility; and the Fluid Flex Firewall, which does something else that we’re not sure how, but must somehow be beneficial.
The thing is that buzzwords, as a rule, are designed to entice and influence potential buyers whether or not they have any basis in reality. All we want to know is if the damn thing works.
“It feels like the stretchiest out of all of them, and it’s super comfy,” said our test subject Ivy Thomas. “Despite feeling thin and light, the Superfreak is extremely warm around the torso.” Fluid Flex Firewall for the win!
Grab yours here.
If you’re looking for credibility outside of our eclectic Wintermission cast, why not lean on the The Surf Industry Manufacturer’s Association (or SIMA) to validate your purchasing behaviour?
You see, last year SIMA awarded Xcel’s Comp X the prestigious title of Wetsuit of the Year. Nowadays with the overwhelming amount of groovy tech in the suit scene, to top this list speaks volumes.
If you don’t care too much for feedback coming from people who may or may not actually surf well (they probably do), allow us to hand the mic to Mitch Crews, who spent the most time with Xcel’s flagship performance suit during our field test.
“This one for me was pretty amazing,” he reflected in the backyard of our South Coast Airbnb, the suit still damp from the morning’s session.
“It’s quite affordable. I like how light it is. It’s not super heavy, it’s nice to have a light wetsuit especially in contests. All in all, the Xcel is a bit of a badass wetsuit. In fact, Xcel always seems to make pretty awesome suits.”
Once again Xcel’s Nanoprene Lite Japanese Limestone technology has produced a suit that’s light, elastic and warm enough to fend off a moderate amount of chill. The Hawaiian manufacturers recently updated the panelling structure to enhance the fit of this suit, meaning the thing hugs tightly and feels even more comfortable than its predecessors.
Shop it here.
Xcel has opted for some of the finest Japanese Nanoprene in their Comp X TDC 3x2, which offers triple-glued and blind stitched seams for the hard-charging gurfer, and an engineered fit system that suits myriad body types.
Ever the performance-minded brand, Xcel uses Reinforced Fusion X Tape over high-stress areas, which we’d imagine increases the your torque velocity on your forehand hacks. Or something like that. Ivy Thomas chimed in:
“It’s a great suit all around. Light, warm, and I can still touch my toes. Xcel women’s suits seem to have progressed a lot over the years.”
Grab yours now.
The conscious surfer’s suit has had an upgrade. Last year’s Wintermission field test saw Patagonia’s Yulex suit praised for its environmentally gentle footprint.
The green perks lay in the suit’s neoprene-free construction. Their Yulex natural rubber is sourced from forests given the tick of approval from the Forest Stewardship Council and the Rainforest Alliance. Basically, there are no petroleum derived materials, and the plant-based ingredients come from sustainable plantations. Double win.
So what’ve Patagonia changed since last year’s model? Well, there was a slight performance tradeoff by going sans petroleum, the suit felt a little stiffer and a little heavier than the less-green alternatives. This time around however, they’ve returned their mix and the suit now can proudly stand up to its toxic counterparts in the performance category.
“I think it’ll be the warmest,” said Ivy Thomas. “Feels stretchier than the last ones they did.”
Ivy’s assumption of warmth was confirmed upon testing. Despite the fact that Patagonia suits are neoprene free and “Planet Positive”, they remain outrageously balmy. We wondered if this might be due to the rumor that Patagonias are made from actual seal skin, but they vehemently deny this claim.
As with their top tier surf team, Hurley have always placed their suits in the premium category. They’ve run quality construction and materials with the price to match. This pitched them season after season up against the best in the biz. It’s the tough end of the market, where buzz words and revolutionary tech are continually required to justify the spend.
More recently, however, Hurley has shifted their approach. They’ve managed to slash the RRP on their suits, earning them entry into the sub $500 club, without taking any hits on quality.
Don’t take our word for it, Mitch Crews has been wearing suits for decades (in fact, he once rode for them), so we’ll let the man speak. “It’s a great all-round suit", said Crewsey of Hurley’s steamer.
“I wouldn’t choose it for the most freezing conditions. I think if you’re here knocking about somewhere like this on the south coast, this is something that you’d get. It’s the perfect suit for any bloke that has a low bank account and wants to throw down for a decent suit.”
What are the features of this bad boy? A hollow fibre fleece lining to trap in the heat, chill-blocking smooth neoprene, and an insulating interior.
Resist judgment of a book by its exterior, that’s what we’re told. But we humans are visual based creatures, we dig things that look good, and Adelio’s aesthetic is one we’ve always backed.
Sleek, black, minimal, no buzz words, no eye catching features. Just understated cool. Move in a little closer, or turn the Connor inside out, and you’ll see why Adelio has low-key found themselves in the uppermost echelon of the suit-making scene.
Adelio spent years refining this model. Some manufacturers relentlessly create new designs, leaving behind the years of R&D spent on previous suits in favour of the latest trend. Adelio is all about iteration and subtlety. Last year’s Connor found it’s way into high rotation for our friends at Stab HQ after Wintermission 1.0 had wrapped. It was promptly archived once the water warmed to prevent heat stress.
For their 2019 Connor, Adelio has rethought the seam lines and panelling, they’ve reinforced some of the weaker zones and are confident they’ll remain at the top of the pile. “I’m going with a warmer looking one, cos it’s cold this morning,” said Reef Heazlewood on the first morning of testing.
“It’s got this nice lining on the inside, it feels nice and warm. Looks like it has a solid chest zip system, that should keep out the water.” Reef then proceeded to bank a handful of the best clips of the trip, restriction and chill-free.
Shop it here.
The NCHE 3/2 Chest Zip, with its limestone neoprene, bamboo/charcoal lining, and minimal seams makes it the slickest rubber of the bunch. “This is definitely my favorite-looking suit,” said Reef Heazlewood, who sported his own NCHE prior to its inclusion in Wintermissions (and Reef’s new Hurley contract).
“I like how clean and simple the aesthetic is. I guess ‘sleek’ would be a good word to describe it.”
The NCHE suit isn’t the warmest of the bunch, but it’ll hold up through the strongest winter storms. Limited as they may be, its seams are all glued and blind-stitched, ensuring there will be no accidental blow-outs.
As a minimal approach brand, NCHE also has a cheaper price point than most. So if you’re looking for a suit that’s easy on the eyes and not overly-taxing on the wallet, you’ll find it here.