OK. Reportage time.
Fri 8th March @ Rest Bay. Tide was pushing but not quite on the rocks yet. Waves were small and weak, waist high, nice on the drop but quickly into mush. Wind was very light offshore. Didn't get a chance to buy a thermometer buy the buoys were showing approx 6degrees.
As it was the first time out in the suit I wasn't looking for epic waves, just something that if the suit failed horribly I could still get back to the beach easy enough. But enough wave to test whether the suit was a hinderance to surfing.
I was in the water for 1.5 hours before the tide crapped out the waves and I couldn't be bothered anymore.
The suit has some bagginess around the shoulder blades and upper arms (from just below the elbows).
The neck, ankle and wrist seals are very good.
The knee pads look a bit fragile (could be wrong) and could maybe be a tad higher (for me).
The back zip is a struggle to open and close on your own.
I decided to wear a 2mm vest underneath just incase I had lots of water ingress into the suit making me cold. Although water definitely got into the suit (vest was wet when I got out) it wasn't noticeable as it was happening.
To be honest, I was f'ing roasting in the suit. Way warmer than my West Lotus and decrepit Xcels. So much so that the cold water on my head was making me feel nauseous as I was paddling out.
Duckdiving didn't seem an issue at first even, with the air cavity in the suit. What I found was that the air was forced through the suit from the torso and out from the leg I stick in the air to counter my weight. Whether the air actually escaped was hard to tell but I could definitely feel the air move along my leg. Maybe it wasn't expelled though, and just reverted back into the torso after completion of the duckdive.
Because of the bagginess of the suit around the torso and the piping from the hand warming system, the suit would kind of bunch up a bit and when paddling you could see both in your peripheral vision. Although I did not find it restricting my paddling.
Onto the hand warming system.
As you can see from the pictures. The piping sits around your neck ready to be lifted into the mouth when required. The piping then enters the suit behind your neck, crosses over and travels down inside the arms of the suit. It then exits the suit just above the wrists. Here it gets fed into the gloves from the outside. As some of you have noted, this means the gloves get pulled over the suit, which is the reverse of the norm in surfing. We normally have the suit pulled over the glove. With this in mind I adjusted the piping so that it no longer exited the suit at the wrists, and just fed them into the glove from inside the sleeves (covering the holes where the piping originally exited to stop water ingress).
Issues I had with the piping were:
Probably because the pipes weren't held taught at the wrists where they exited the suit before going into the gloves, I found that occasionally the pipes would retract back into the arm of the suit. This would effectively stop the air from the piping getting to the gloves. I think I exasperated this though, as before putting the suit on I felt the piping was a bit long and tried to limit the amount of piping feeding into the gloves. However, after a bit of paddling and a few pop-ups I think I should have left them as they were. It wasn't hard to fed the pipes back into the gloves though and if there was something holding them in place on the inside of the wetsuit sleeve then I don't think this would have been an issue (or if I would have left the pipes exiting the suit as designed).
A very small issue was that, because the piping fed into the suit on the top/back of the hand, you could feel it there when raising your hand to perpendicular to your forearm. A very moot point, made less so because the piping itself is quite supple and doesn't have a hard edge.
During the 1st half of the test I was trying to test the system just for functionality; seeing if it was comfortable and if it did indeed actually fill the gloves with air as per the video on the website.
The system worked fine and did inflate the gloves.
However, because the suit was so warm I wasn't actually getting so cold as to be able to test whether the system effectively managed to warm my hands up. So after a while I decided to lay off breathing into the tubes. But even then I wasn't really feeling the cold (maybe a stronger offshore wind would have helped). So in the end I ended up scooping sea water into my gloves to try and cool my hand down. Even then I found my hands stayed warm.
Eventually I did start to feel cold at the tip of the index finger on my right hand. So then I continuously breathed into the piping. I have to say that if the system was warming my hands, it didn't seem to be reaching my finger tip. After discussing this with Iain afterwards he suggests that this is down to the air escaping through into the wetsuit before it gets a chance to reach the finger tips, this being a result of my modification of the piping now running inside the suit all the way into the gloves as opposed to how it was designed. Iain did provide me with straps to help keep the glove seal tight. Unfortunately I didn't use these as I figured with the piping running inside the suit I wouldn't need to keep the gloves sealed using more than the wetsuit. It is quite likely that using these straps the air would not have been so free to leave the glove into the wetsuit and hence would fill the whole glove as opposed to just around the palm area, subsequently warming my finger tip/s. This is something for test 2.
Another point to note is that continuous blowing into the piping did result in more air filling the baggy area around the torso with air. This was a little strange and seemed to unbalance me a bit when laying prone on my board, which could be an issue paddling into waves (unfortunately by then the waves were backing off quite a bit so wave count was pretty none existent by then). The air could mostly be released by just allowing it to escape through the neck seal, although some did remain in the suit. Although not exactly desirable at this point, maybe this could be modified into a good safety feature?
As regards actually being up and riding surfing the suit. Well, I have to say my limited abilities were not unduly effected. I could still paddle into, catch and ride waves as bad as I ever could. The waves being small and slack didn't really give me a chance to work on my aerial repertoire though.
For the future, I'd like to try keeping the wrist seal tighter to see if my fingertips can be reached. Go out in waves with a bit more power and shape to test maneuverability. And test the suit for general warmth sans 2mm vest.
Hope this has satisfied any weeders curiosity. If you guys have any more questions feel free to ask. Unfortunately I'm off to Germany when it looks like the next good run of waves will hit the SW. So may not get to test the suit again until the water is a few degrees warmer. So if any of you fancy giving it a run too and see how it works for you then I'm happy to pass on the suit. If not, I don't mind sending it back to you too Iain.
Hope that was a fair assessment and not too much hyperbole.
PS. Thank God I ctrl+C that before I submitted and it logged me out and I lost another mammoth post