I started surfing in 1979, I was six years old and at that age it was just a recreational hobby reserved only for the warmer months of summer.
In Winter I played footy and only ventured down to our local beach for a stroll and to paddle my feet.
By the age of 10 having to pile into the car with my parents and head to football on a Sunday morning was torturous to say the least.
We lived in Scarborough and heading to football meant driving along West Coast Drive (or Highway as it was called back then) and more often than not the skies would be blue, the winds a crisp offshore and the swell lines were stacked to the horizon. Two thoughts would race through my mind on loop all the way to football…I need to quit footy and I need a full-length wetsuit.
At that point all the neoprene I owned was a zip front vest to wear with my boardies in the summer to shield me from the rays of the sun and the afternoon chill of the Fremantle doctor.
That vest was equally as torturous as the journey to football, the neoprene was thick and abrasive, the seams bulky, and by the summers end I had a rash on my neck that looked like I’d been sent to the gallows and survived my execution.
Fast-forward to 2019 and we live in an age of choice where wetsuits are designed for pushing the boundaries of high performance in relative warmth and comfort.
In this blog we will visit 9 winter wetsuits over 3 categories; high-end, mid-range and entry-level (with a tenth wild card suit thrown in the mix). We hope to find a suit for everybody so you can share in the froth we have at the Margaret River High Performance Centre and Margaret River Surf School.
No Expense Spared (High End)
Rip Curl Flashbomb 3/2
- Zipless Entry or Chest Zip
- E5 fast dry flash lining
- Super stretch neoprene
- Heat Seeker optional (Heat Seeking panels)
Rooted in Australian surfing tradition since the 1960’s and born in the icy waters of Torquay Victoria, Rip Curl was always first and foremost a wetsuit company.
All their hard work, persistence and undying dedication to producing some of the worlds best surf board riding insulation, leads us to the pinnacle of Rip Curl’s creation, the ‘Flashbomb’. Over 30 years of research and development means this suit is a real beauty and will keep you snug as a bug in a rug.
With super flexible, fast drying neoprene, and Rip Curl’s E5 Flashbomb lining throughout the total inside, the inside of this suit resembles your childhood teddy bear and will give you the same feeling of security and warmth. It is available in chest zip but it’s their zipless entry suit that takes the cake!
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a full body contortionist to get it on and off, in fact you’ll be in and out of this suit quicker than Jay Z gets in and out of the rap game. Easy fit aside, the zipless model really seals you in and allows no flushing.
Tracks Magazine 2019 wetsuit review reckons it’s the tighter ankle and wrist cuffs that also add to the tight sealed effect.
Throw another hundred dollars in the hat and get it in their ‘Heat Seeker’ model. This suit has panels with technology that heats up as you move and also gets warmer when hit by the sun. If you’re serious about surfing right through the winter get in to your local surf store and try one on. Yeeww
O’Neill Psycho Freak 3/2
Super seam weld
Fuze Chest Zip or Zen Zip
Techno Butter Firewall
Urethane Coated Zipper
When you head down to watch the Margaret River Pro in early June this year WCT surfer and world title threat Jordy Smith will be tucked into his O’Neill Psycho Freak.
This guarantees whilst unleashing his signature power hacks on the face at main break, he will be warmer than the welcoming smile of the staff at a Balinese Homestay.
With over 50 years of research and rubber testing in the frosty waters of Santa Cruz, the late Jack O’Neill was the grand pappy pioneer of surfing wetsuit design and innovation. The team at O’Neill, with head designer John Hunter in the driving seat, continue to evolve the dream of this great visionary.
Long time respected surf journalist and Aussie legend Nick Carroll reviewed the suit in 2018. He conducted a simple experiment and worked out that O’Neill’s T83 neoprene retains less water than other leading wetsuit brands.
Less water means less water for your body to heat computing to greater overall warmth comfort and flexibility. The Psycho Freak comes with two entry options; ‘Fuze’ being their chest zip and their ‘Zen’ zip.
The Zen zip is a small diagonal zip offset on the upper back coupled with O’Neill’s anti flush barrier and is their closest thing to zipless entry. The Fuze chest zip is tried and proven and both suits come in at the same price point. So either way you won’t be scratching your head and asking yourself where that extra money went when trying to justify the expenditure.
I’ve always believed that having a good suit helps motivate you to get out of bed early, brush off the cobwebs and get amongst it. Yeah boy!
Quiksilver Highline Plus
- FN Lite 2 Neoprene
- Infrared 8 Inner Lining
- Zipless Entry or Chest Zip
- Thermal Smoothie Chest and Back Panels
In the 80’s two times WCT world champion Tom Carroll was the first pro surfer to wear a Quiksilver branded wetsuit.
At the time, major surf clothing labels were putting a stop to sharing advertising space on the nose of an athlete’s board with other labels.
In short, the clothing companies needed to start making wetsuits and the wetsuit companies needed to start making clothing. This move saw the birth of Quiksilver wetsuits.
A lot of companies during this time simply got wetsuits made by other lesser-known brands and put their own labels on them. To Quiksilver’s credit they were the first clothing company to roll up their sleeves, get out the proverbial pad and pencils, and put together a bonafide wetsuit research and development team.
This work ethic and undying commitment to producing functional and stylish surf products is what brings you the Highline Plus, the bee’s knees and cat’s pyjamas of Quik wetties. Complete with thermal smoothie panels and Quik’s infrared 8 inner lining on the body arms and legs, this suit will get you in the car and bee lining to the beach quicker than bogans to an AC/DC concert.
Available in both chest zip and zipless entry this fine piece of surfing paraphernalia can be put on easy peezey regardless of wether you’re a weekend warrior or a seasoned campaigner.
Now rip in and rip the bag out of it!!!!
Piggy in the Middle (Mid Range)
Xcel Infiniti x2 3/2
- Ultra Stretch Neoprene
- TDC Thermo Dry Celliant Low Pile Quick Dry Inner Lining
- Wind Resistant Texture Skin
- Chest Zip Magnetic Closure
- Thermo Dry Seam Tape
- Glued and Blind Stitch Seams
Xcel wetsuits was established in surf mecca Hawaii in 1982 and yeah I know what you’re thinking, why would you start a wetsuit company in the tropics?
Well it’s pretty simple, Xcel founder and wetsuit design guru Ed D’ascoli hails originally from New Jersey. Just over the bridge from New York City it’s no secret this neck of the woods is synonymous with cold water.
Taking that in to account and Ed’s history of setting up Victory wetsuits in Japan, he’s just the right person to start a fledgling wetsuit company. Based in Haleiwa on Oahu’s north shore Ed has been at the coalface of high performance surfing and has been able to tap into the needs of athletes accordingly.
The thing that jumps out at me about Xcel is the fact that their sole focus is wetsuits both dive and surfing.
Safe to say when it comes to wetties the team at Xcel have got their head in the game. That’s why I’ve chosen their Infiniti x2 as our first pick in the mid range category.
Made with Japanese limestone based light neoprene this suit, like all of the Xcel range, is renowned for being super flexible light and gives you that naked second skin feeling. The Thermo Dry Celliant inner lining is fast drying and turns your body heat into infrared energy for greater warmth and better overall performance.
The Infiniti won wetsuit of the year at the SIMA awards 4 out of ten seasons, as stated in a 2018 review by Wetsuit Warehouse. Well worth sliding into your local store and slipping one on to see how it feels! You know It!!
Billabong Furnace Absolute 3/2
- Furnace Quick Dry Thermal Lining
- Chest Zip or Back Zip
- AX1 Premium Super Flex Stretch Jersey
- Machine Applied Pressure Bonded Stretch Tape
As the 80s became the early 90s, Billabong wetsuits started to emerge in the global surf market place and believe me you’d see a bong suit before you’d hear about one.
At the time, if you popped on a surf vid you’d see the likes of Occy, Sunny Garcia, Brendon Margieson, Luke Egan and Michael Munga Barry surfing all kinds of exotic wave locations plastered in fluorescent and bold coloured neoprene.
These were stylised similar to Billabongs boardies and clothing and I have no knowledge of how comfortable, durable or functional these neoprene creations were. Either way, they stood out like a sore thumb and you definitely knew they were there!
Winding the clock forward to today, and Billabong have had more than enough water under the bridge in terms of research and development. After working in the Sydney O’Neill warehouse and studying industrial design at night school, Billabong wetsuit design boss Scott Boot was sent to Santa Cruz to head up the research and design team at O’Neill.
Scott’s passion for wetsuit design and love of surfing shines through in the current range of suits offered at the bong and Billabong are now a force to be reckoned with in the wetsuit game. This brings us to my next mid range suit the Billabong Furnace Absolute.
This wettie screams value for money louder than a hooligan at the World Cup soccer. Complete with furnace quick dry thermal lining and smoothie panels on the back and chest, as well as liquid welded seams and pressure-bonded machine applied stretch tape, this is a cosy suit at a cosy price.
Made with Billabongs AX1 super flex stretch jersey and available in both chest zip and back zip this wetsuit is worthy of getting any winter wave-sliding warrior through the colder months. Check it out!!
Rip Curl Dawn Patrol 3/2
- E4 Stretch Neoprene
- Back Zip or Chest Zip
- E5 Flash Lining Mesh Skin Inner Panels
The Rip Curl dawn patrol has been around almost as long as Rip Curl itself.
I remember a model back in the mid to late 80s that was so fluoro in colour you needed a pair of polarised sunglasses just to look at the thing. Complete with a thermometer on the arm just up from the wrist, this was the coolest wetsuit you could wear when I was in my first couple of years at high school.
This particular model has been constantly refined over the years and the new generation Dawn Patrol is a suit worthy of getting you through the colder period on the calendar. This suit combines some of the top model features including E5 flash lining back mesh panels and E4 stretch neoprene.
This wetsuit is the perfect compromise between durability and performance. It’s available in both chest zip and traditional back zip and if you wash it out after every surf should see you through multiple cold water seasons. There you go!!!
Not So Hard On The Hip Pocket (Entry Level)
Peak Climax Pro Zip Free
- Stretch Neoprene
- Zipless Entry
- Available in 3/2 or 4/3
It’s well known that Rip Curl owns Peak and so you’ve got peace of mind with that knowledge when grabbing one of their great value for money wetsuits.
We’ve all travelled and lived on a shoestring budget at some time and if you want a great suit that’s big on performance and flexibility with some of the mod cons of high-end suit, you can’t go past the Climax Pro.
With zipless entry and super flexi neoprene, this will lock you in toasty warm when you’re ready to wage war on the wintery wave faces of our great southern continent. Get amongst it!!
Billabong Absolute Comp 3/2
- AX2 Super Flex Jersey
- Back Zip
- Smoothie Panels Back and Chest
Coming in just under a cool 200 smackers, this bong creation is a back zip wetsuit engineered for quality and affordability.
With AX2 super flex jersey neoprene this suit has got the lightweight flex as well as the toughness and resilience to go the distance. Its got some smoothie panels to catch the rays of the sun and ward off the wind chill factor.
Why not whack one on, wipe off some speed and weave through some winter tunnels. Wicked!!!
Quiksilver Syncro Base
RRP AU$150.00 – (Only at Margaret River Surf School and High Performance Centre)
- Durable Free Max Neoprene
- Robust Flatlock Stitching
- Huge Size Range
So let me paint the picture… You’ve just had your first lesson with Margaret River Surf School and you’ve picked it up quicker than Jimi Hendrix picked up the guitar.
You’re totally hooked and wanna grab yourself a wetsuit and board so you can practise in your own time. Here’s the dilemma, you’re travelling on a tight budget but need to get started in the game. Too easy!
Our friendly and helpful team have got you covered with a brand spanking new Quiksilver Syncro Base. Its equivalent in sister suit Roxy is also available so we can get all you fresh frothers up and running (or should I say surfing!).
At just 150 bills this great value for money back zip wetsuit made by tried and trusted surf merchants Roxy and Quiksilver means that all there’s left to do is grab a board, jump in the drink and get cracking!!!
Why not hire one first to see if you like it. Yeeewwww
**Wild Card Suit Super Mega High Performance Personified**
Rip Curl E Bomb 2/2 Zip Free Short Arm Steamer
E6 Super Stretch Neoprene
E6 Stress Point Taped
Smooth Skin Collar and Stash Pocket
Anyone who’s ever surfed a heat from your local board riders club right up to the elite QS or CT level knows to get a result you’ve gotta paddle around like a headless chook.
Yes the task of obtaining a two wave total of numeric significance can be described as somewhat labour intensive to say the least.
Described by Rip Curl themselves as the ultimate in high performance wetsuits this is the rig that’s gonna get you over the line.
Complete with the Curl’s E6 super stretch neoprene, zipless entry and streamline fit, this little ripper is not only a great comp surfing suit but also a good one in between seasons.
We’ve all had that surf where we’ve over heated, either because we’re doing the pre work mercy dash for waves, or the conditions aren’t quite cold enough to warrant wearing a full winter layer of warmth!!
A great suit not to be overlooked, whatever your level of surfing! Shaka
I’ve constructed this blog with ten suits that might tickle your fancy. Please bear in mind that we are really spoiled for choice in this day an age.
The suits I’ve listed come down in price gradually but in between the price points I’ve mentioned there are many wetsuits too countless to list. All our great surf companies have many options for men, women and kids and I hope I’ve given you some insight into the hard working history and current state of wetsuit progress and technology.
We really do sleep, eat and breathe surfing at both the Margaret River High Performance Centre and Margaret River Surf School. We’re sure many people out there share our passion and enthusiasm for the deep blue sea and we’d love to hear about your favourite suit and cold-water realities experiences on this forum.
Maybe check out our coffee blog and hit one of our coffee hotspots while you decide what move to make next in terms of your next neoprene purchase. Keep surfing, keep frothing and stay happy.
Author – Matty B