SURFING WORLD'S WETSUIT GUIDE "PAINT IT BLACK"- O'NEILL
As day turns to darkness and the chill of winter sets in… A collision of art and science meets the philosophies behind making state-of-the-art wetsuits. Welcome to the new Wetsuit guide by Surfing World, “Paint It Black”
Ben Starkey – O’NEILL WETSUIT GURU
Santa Cruz, California is the birthplace of O’Neill and modern cold water surfing. It’s the proving ground for materials, features and benefits that keep you in the water longer. After 60 years of countless industry firsts, O’Neill’s commitment to leading innovation continues stronger than ever. It’s where it all starts and finishes, in the super cold kelpy water of Santa Cruz, and if it works there, it’s going to work everywhere.
The new O’Neill Psycho Freak is our top-end suit this winter and it’s key innovation is a new water wicking lining that enhances heat retention. If you think from an outerwear mountaineering kind of philosophy in the back country of the snow, you’ve always got a base layer, a light, down layer, that is all filled with air, and you’ve got an external layer of a shell, so it’s sort of taking that same philosophy into wetsuit design. Having those three components. The key feature of the Psycho Freak is our TechnoButter 2 Air Insulation material which is 20 per cent lighter, and has 30 per cent less water absorption – it’s the warmest and the lightest neoprene available on the market. The big difference from last year is the amount of air in the wetsuit, it’s also got a super seam weld which is the stitchless silicone based urethane that is now 60 per cent lighter and thinner, and it’s applied to both sides after triple gluing the seams together which basically means it’s super light and stretchy.
The basic equation in making wetsuits is: weight vs warmth vs flexibility vs cost. Cost has got to factor in there because you want the best product at a certain price for the consumer.
Fit is the be all and end all of a good quality wetsuit. Closure systems are worth a closer look too. I don’t think the general consumer understands that the zip closures are all about achieving maxiumum flexibility. The ZEN zipper is definitely the best back zip closure system on the market, and it’s patented, it has been for a long time, and the FUZE is incorporating a lot of that philosophy into our front-zip system. All that really comes back to fit as the critical part of your shoulders because when you’re duckdiving six foot bombs in the depths of winter you want to make sure there ain’t no water going down there.
We’ve aimed our Psycho Freak at being the warmest possible suit without compromising flexibility or increasing weight. We know Air is great insulation and obviously weightless, so the combination of those two attributes in the TechnoButter 2 Air makes for what we think is the warmest lightweight suit on the market. For me, when you feel the TechnoButter 2 in the water with 30 per cent less water absorption, it’s actually like you’re floating on the water, it’s less restrictive, you can throw your arms over easier, and it’s super warm. I feel like an athlete, I feel a little lighter and a little bit nimbler in my surfing thanks to the TB2 technology.
O’Neill Psychofreak Fuze 3/2 – $649.99 available here