WINTERMISSION: Behind The Suit With O'Neill

  • Style
posted by James Willmott

Rubber and winter go together. Plain and simple. With a heavily populated industry of both long running and pop up brands, we as surfers are constantly asking ourselves ‘what’s the difference between brands, fits, materials and the rest?’ Well, go no further and ask no longer, we’ve got the answers from the who’s who of the industry, lead designers and marketplace specialists giving us the know how on their latest ranges.

O’Neill’s Lifestyle and Wetsuit Design Manager, Will Birks certainly is no stranger to the world of wetsuits, having clocked up over 10 years’ service in the industry before finding his calling and settling in where he is today. We caught up with Will to talk all things O’Neill, including the features of the latest range, his tips for keeping the suits alive for as long as possible, what suit is for you and much more.

Thanks for chatting Will! Your key role is Men’s Lifestyle & Wetsuits Design Manager of O’Neill South Pacific. What exactly does this entail?
I design and build seasonal ranges of clothing, accessories and wetsuits for the Australian and New Zealand market. Most of the wetsuit design comes from Area 52 based around the freezing waters of Santa Cruz California, birthplace of modern cold water surfing, where engineering, design and prototyping teams work closely with O’Neill team riders to create the best fitting, most functional and innovative wetsuits on the planet.

Tell us who you are and give us a brief background to how you got to where you are today.
Will Birks, from Avalon on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Industrial Design degree from University of Technology Sydney, wanted to combine passion for creativity and innovation with love of surfing, worked in surf industry for past 10 years in Mens Design for different brands including Rip Curl, FCS and Hurley, now working for the original surf company with the best wetsuits in the world.

Give us your tips to keeping the suits alive as long as possible?
Rather than throwing them over ya fence or leaving them in your wettie bucket for a week, we suggest you hang them up with a wide plastic hanger in the shade. Also get yourself a good quality change mat for rough carparks, those things will shred your rubber.

What do the suits offer over others?
65 years of time tested performance, quality and fit.



What suits would you recommend for people living in warmer areas compared to what you’d recommend for people living in areas further south?
Warmer areas need to see the Hyperfreak FUZE and COMP (chest zip and zipless) and the Psycho One series (offered in both chest zip and our patented Zen Zip closures). Really the Superfreak and Epic can cover all areas. For the colder areas think Psychofreak, Psychotech plus check out the 3mm Superfreak boots for the snuggest toes in the winter water!

Give us a run down of the features, materials, seams, etc. What really stands out for you?
With materials you have to see and use this Technobutter 2 Neoprene to understand its low absorbtion properties. Our all new super seam weld is the lightest, strongest and flattest yet, and also the warmest way to construct a seam. We combine triple gluing and GBS seams mainly through the cold water collection, with some flatlocks through the price point pieces. At the end of the day, the O’Neill fit is what makes our suits stand apart in the market.

O’Neill’s new season wetsuits have just dropped and they look epic to say the least! Can you give us a summary of the collection? What are the key components?
This 2017 season features O’Neill exclusive neoprene Technobutter 2 combined with Technobutter 2 air in the stitchless Psychofreak. If you want the warmest and lightest suit in the market this the weapon of choice. We also have a whole family of Psychos that cater to every area around the Australian coast with all the different conditions. From the performance base Psycho One series for mild conditions right through to a hooded 5/4 Psycho for the frigid depths of the cold southern states. O’Neill offers a broad range of wetsuits like the Hyperfreak series, which includes a zipless model and a chest zip, awesome for northern states and the guys who don’t feel the cold too much, our stretchiest suit. Finally our Superfreak chest zip and Epic back zip for an all round performer and super value. Don’t forget our complete offering of kids and ladies wetsuits!