BUYER’S GUIDE 2018
With the cold and windy season approaching, insulation is key and if you’re considering some new neoprene then read on as we speak to Marc Burhans, ION’s neoprene product manager, who gives us some expert advice and talks through the new ION range and check out our 2018 winter wetsuit buyer’s guide, where a selection of brands show off their latest product.
MARC BURHANS INTERVIEW
WS: Nearly all brands now offer so-called ‘front zip / chest zip’ suits, and the latest development is the ‘zipless’ wetsuit, featuring an entry system without any zip at all, so are the days of the ‘back zip’ over?
MB: Previously the ‘back zip’ was ‘the’ solution. However, over the last decade the front zip has become increasingly popular. The reasons and advantages of the front zip are obvious: the short, horizontal zip on the chest increases the freedom of movement of the user compared to a ‘back zip’, where the zip on the back is considerably longer and slightly more restrictive, especially for forward body motions. Nevertheless, the ‘back zip’ still has a huge following, mainly because it’s so easy to get in and out of: jump in, pull up the zip and off you go. What many people haven’t realized is that new, refined and more flexible materials, neoprene and linings are continuously being developed and putting on a front zip has become ridiculously easy in recent years too! Getting in and out of our new ‘Strike AMP front zip’ for example has gotten considerably easier due to a specific revised cut and a slightly longer zip, offering a wider entry. Even the most die-hard ‘back zip’ fans should give a front zip a shot. In my experience most ‘back zip’ fans are concerned with how difficult it might be… I can only recommend to just try a ‘front zip’ on in a shop and feel for yourself how easy it is to get in and out and how comfortable it is. The final decision as to whether to go for a ‘front’ or ‘back zip’ comes down to personal preference though. As I mentioned, the front zip offers a greater level of mobility, which is important to pulling off manoeuvres, that’s why pretty much all pros use a front zip these days.
The zipless design provides the maximum freedom of movement and a unique level of comfort. The con here is that it’s a bit trickier to get in and out of the suit. It’s no real issue with a 3/2mm or a 4/3mm, however, with the warmer suits like a 5/4mm, a bit of practice will make it a whole lot easier. Looking at zipless wetsuit constructions, they’re mainly targeted at surfers as these suits offer an unmatched level of freedom of movement. Getting in and out is certainly something one has to get used to though. However, we are continuously working on improving concepts further. For each new collection, we’re testing new cuts and materials. Through new innovations and designs we always strive to achieve a better wearing comfort, an easier entry and to push the envelope of what is possible. A suit should not represent any compromise.
WS: ION has two different lines of wetsuits: ‘Onyx’ for lean build and ‘Strike’ for well built. Can you explain further the differing sizing between the two?
MB: it’s not only the weight of the riders that needs to be considered in sizing a suit. That’s exactly why ION offers two different lines: ‘Onyx’ and ‘Strike’. Both have been designed with a different fit and thus the individual cut caters for different body builds. For a windsurfer with very muscly, athletic arms (in particular upper arm, i.e. big biceps), wider waist and hips and solid, strong legs, we have the ‘Strike’ range. Whereas I would recommend a suit from the ‘Onyx’ range to somebody with the same height, but who’s built leaner and smaller, i.e. smaller waist, hips, legs and less arm muscles.
The fit of each line was designed to match different body builds. Thus, on the one hand the stronger, bigger body type, and on the other hand the leaner, more wiry type. When you’re bigger built, it’s extremely important that the cut of your wetsuit has been designed specifically to suit your body type, that’s exactly why the ‘Strike’ line has such a strong following.
The ‘Onyx’ and ‘Strike’ models are available in both size categories, ‘normal’ (Euro size 46-60) and ‘tall’ (Euro size 94-106). All ‘Strike’ wetsuits feature a smooth skin neoprene in the back area as well as ION’s ‘Crash_Padz’ at the ribs and shins. The ‘Onyx’ offers great flexibility and special comfort thanks to the reduced panel design.
WS: How do you define “the perfect fit” of a wetsuit?
MB: The wetsuit should offer maximum freedom of movement, thus it should feel snug like a second skin and be super comfortable. ‘Comfortable’ does not mean that the suit has excess buckles of material or feels loose, because this would compromise the ideal heat insulation.
WS: The ‘Onyx’ and ‘Strike’ lines are available in different quality levels, namely ‘Element’, ‘Core’, ‘AMP’, and ‘Select’, can you explain the difference?
MB: The four levels represent different price levels. The ‘Select’ wetsuits are the warmest in the entire ION range. At the same time, these suits offer a huge amount of flex and feature ION’s ‘Plasma Plush’ on the inside, that’s why they dry extremely fast. ‘AMP’ wetsuits are the most flexible in the range and have been designed for freestylers and surfers who are after the maximum level of freedom of movement. ION’s new ‘Hot Stuff 2.0’ inside lining ensures all ‘AMP’ suits are also super cosy and warm. The ‘Core’ level offers selected features from the ‘AMP’ level at a lower price, which makes these suits very popular. And the ‘Element’ line is the more budget version of the ‘Core’, perfect for weekend warriors and windsurfers with a smaller budget who only sail occasionally.
This guide first appeared in the October 2018 issue.
Gunsails Force FZ Semidry Hood 6/5
RRP: €299.00 plus €15.00 shipping
Gunsails – “Say goodbye to being cold, the Force Semidry with frontzip is the warmest model of the GUNSAILS wetsuit collection and your partner for freezing cold winter days. This highly elastic wetsuit combines protection, warmth and freedom of movement. All seams are taped and blind stitched with an additional elastic S-Seal. Together with the 5 and 6 mm premium neoprene fabric and the integrated hood, the Force Semidry is extremely durable, shelters from cold winds and feels basically waterproof. FEATURES: Double Lined Highend Stretch Jersey, Frontzip Construction, Thermo Plush, Tatex Knee Protection, Shock Pads, Drainholes, Velcro Loops, Key Pocket and Melco Tape.”
Ion Strike Amp 5/4
RRP: £269.95 / €329.95
ION – “ION’s Strike Amp 5/4 combines great stretch with perfect heat retention. Especially rather brawny windsurfers will appreciate the Strike Amp for its wider fit. Hot_Stuff 2.0 keeps the rider warm thanks to a bigger looped fabric. This flexible lining combined with the new I_foam neoprene provides maximum stretch while the latter also reduces weight through its airy structure. Velcro Leg_Loops and Maki_Tape 2.0 on the seams make sure cold water stays outside while further contributing to the flexibility. Crash_Padz at shins and ribs care for impact protection while the Glide_Skin panel at the back shelters the rider from wind chills.”
O’Shea Cyclone 5/3
O’Shea – “The O’Shea Cyclone II is made with a fusion of 100 percent limestone based neoprene, the ultimate in stretch, warmth, fit and durability. We are one of very few companies using this material and technology in the global wetsuit market. As a brand inextricably linked to windsurfing, the Cyclone II 5/3 is a great suit to windsurf in during blustery autumn and winter winds. The Cyclone II features a fully opening front zip design, making entry and exit simple and easy, even for bigger riders who may otherwise struggle with the reality of a front zip suit.”
Prolimit Mercury Freezip Thermal Rebound™ 6/4 FTM
RRP: £319.00 / €399.00
Prolimit – “The Prolimit Mercury 6/4 freezip is the strongest and ultimate watertight wetsuit. Neoprene tape is laser cut and high frequency welded onto the inside of the wetsuit. Combined with Fluid taping method (FTM) outside seams results in a neat, strong and durable seam. Neolight Duotone 550+ limestone neoprene panels with Thermal Rebound™ layout and Zodiac plush inside lining. To complete it a waterblock seal to limit water entry and to keep you warm and comfortable during long sessions. Thermal Rebound™ lining is directly derived from survival blankets for protection against cold conditions. Extra protection layer to reflect body heat.”
RRD Fahrenheit Chest Zip 5/3
RRP: £419.00 / €469.00
RRD – “Ready to jump into icy waters? Go for the Fahrenheit, the warmest and quickest drying wetsuits in our range. Stacked with the most high-tech features such as new and improved liquid taped powerseam stitchless technology, superstretch neoprene and fully neo-taped on the inside. The hollow fibre quickdry inside lining takes up 20% less water, keeping it light and making it dry fast, by channelling the water to the back of the lining and draining it out. These features make the Fahrenheit extremely warm, strong, and flexible to suit the most demanding riders. Available in a hooded 6/4 chest zip version also.”
RRP: From £249.00
Severne – “As with our sails, the approach we take to wetsuit design prioritises FUNCTION over all else. The number of seams is minimalized, cosmetic seams are removed and material choice is strictly high-end. Each panel is considered and optimized for shape, material and stretch orientation. Dynamic stretch is factored into the shaping with forearm expansion and aerobic exertion being one of the key elements considered. The EXOskin is specially designed for colder water applications, where warmth and reduced wind-chill is paramount. Carefully considered material selection means this hybrid suit does not sacrifice flexibility by maintaining double-lined superstretch material in the arms and legs.”