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Is there a difference in wetsuit quality?

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mikewang
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Is there a difference in wetsuit quality?

Postby mikewang » Sun Jan 20, 2019 8:38 am

Hey guys

If I'm comparing let's say a 3/2 shorty suit from body glove (ie. $80) vs ripcurl (ie. $180), is there a real difference in warmth and flexibility or is it all marketing?

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Re: Is there a difference in wetsuit quality?

Postby juandesooka » Sun Jan 20, 2019 9:04 am

There can be massive differences in build quality and materials between lines. For example xcel lowest end suit has untaped single stitch seams that are sieves while xcel drylock is so well sealed it's nearly a semi drysuit. $150 vs $500. But sometimes you see a drylock on sale for $200. So the trick is you can't always rely on prices......but msrp will show the quality range more or less.

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Re: Is there a difference in wetsuit quality?

Postby knotwindy » Mon Jan 21, 2019 1:53 am

With full suits it matters a lot more. Durability mostly. If the fit is good warmth will matter some but with a shorty it matters a lot less.

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Re: Is there a difference in wetsuit quality?

Postby rtz » Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:06 am

A cheap 3/2 shorty with stitched seams; the water will drain out every time the suit is submerged and brought out of the water. It completely flushes the water out. Okay for hot conditions and warmer water. A more expensive 3/2 shorty with glued and/or taped seams is a huge difference in warmth. It does not do that water flushing thing. It's good for cooler air temps and water.

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Re: Is there a difference in wetsuit quality?

Postby Matteo V » Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:01 pm

Disclaimer - I am not up on any suits newer than 2015 or so.

Some more expensive suits are made with much more comfortable stretchy neoprene that may not hold up as well. It seems that the fabric top sheet just does not go well with stitching-on-stretchy and so lifespan of the seams is shorter. But still, they are more comfortable.

Some cheaper suits are made with less stretchy neoprene, but this material seems to hold up better, especially along the seams. Just make sure you try them on before you buy them. Less stretch could mean less comfort in some areas, unless you have a perfect fit.

My personal feeling on cheaper/stiffer suits is that they may provide more protection from a hydrofoil wing contact.

The worst suits that I have owned - from a durability standpoint - are expensive "smooth skin" suits. Every one of those that I have owned has failed in the first year. Also, you may notice that even non "smooth skin" suits fail on the few smooth skin parts they have, such as a "smooth skin" chest panel. I know some people have had good luck with some brands of smooth skin suits, so chime in and tell me which ones hold up more than a year.

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Re: Is there a difference in wetsuit quality?

Postby juandesooka » Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:07 pm

Agree, smooth skin is terrible for wear.
Also agree about stretchy neoprene ... modern wetsuits are so much more comfortable than the old days. A 5mm suit now has the same flexibility of what 3/2s had. But it's come at the cost of suits now being an annual purchase, not 2-3 seasons. However, another weird thing: if you watch for deals, quality wetsuits now can be half the price of what they were 10+ years ago.

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Re: Is there a difference in wetsuit quality?

Postby Mossy 757 » Mon Jan 21, 2019 9:30 pm

What you pay for when you buy a primo wetsuit:

Seam construction - stitched, glued, sealed, double sealed, etc.
Flexible materials or weird pattern cutouts that improve arm/leg/neck movement
Entry system - back zip, neck zip, zipperless, hooded, etc.
Interior liner - cloth/fleece/synthetic fleece

I've found the most expensive wetsuits have fancy liners, high tech materials to improve paddling/swimming flexibility, and complex entry systems to prevent getting flushed on duck dives and falling off waves.

Since almost none of that matters for kiting I've been on a mid-grade back-zip suit with taped/glued seams and no fancy liners or materials and have done GREAT for 3 seasons without getting cold or needing a replacement.

Being on a hydrofoil and falling a lot less also goes a long way to making a mediocre wetsuit a more viable option in colder weather.

Good boots/gloves/hood do more for me to improve cold weather sessions than a fancy main suit. Most suits out there perform well enough, but elite boots and gloves are what keep me out on the coldest days.

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Re: Is there a difference in wetsuit quality?

Postby CaptainCore » Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:32 pm

Matteo V wrote:
Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:01 pm

The worst suits that I have owned - from a durability standpoint - are expensive "smooth skin" suits. Every one of those that I have owned has failed in the first year. Also, you may notice that even non "smooth skin" suits fail on the few smooth skin parts they have, such as a "smooth skin" chest panel. I know some people have had good luck with some brands of smooth skin suits, so chime in and tell me which ones hold up more than a year.
There's a reason some modern smoothskin suits are rubbish and it is primarily down to pricing, in real terms in recent years wetsuit pricing fell quite dramatically even though the quality of some of the double lines suits improved, with stretchier neoprene, polypro lining etc, but smoothskin got worse. The reason, they worked out a method to fake it.

True single lined neoprene is made from the neoprene adjacent to the mould surface and is a little more dense. Neoprene is blown in big moulds, then sliced, the middle bits get sent to be lined, either single or double with cloth, but the two bits at the top and bottom get lined on the reverse only and they're the bits we want. Surface wind sports should always require single lined, to prevent the 'wet T shirt effect of having the cloth adjacent to the foam'.

So somwhere along the line some clever cloggs, decided to try spraying one side of a middle section with a mix of neoprene slurry and additives to make it glossy and hey presto, single lined look alike and off they went. These suits began appearing shortly after the early days of kiting and a fresh influx of less experiened newbies who set about trying said suits on in store and ripping the neoprene with their fingernails, the painted on stuff not having quite the resilience of the older top layer stuff. Then UV went to work, my new Oneil lasted one season and started cracking up I haven't bought an Oneil since and I've been using them since 1979. Shops stopped stocking them(single lined). 'They're only kitesurfers, so just sell them double lined like surfers, they wear their pants out side their suits so they don't know the square root of didly anyhow', and so it went on. Stores don't really want to carry the SCU's major COREporations were involved, like Billabong with Excel, Quicksilver, RipCurl etc Surf was the fashion of the moment, so sell kiters surf suits, Surfers spend more time in than on the water so not so concerned about single lined and wind effect, but kiters were being sold short. They got away with it with advances like using polypro in the lining then calling it stupid names like flashbomb and other BS.

The last company that I was aware of still making suits with the old style top layer single lined was Spartan and I cherish both my suits and dread the day when they give up the ghost, I've not come across any other company using the real deal, if anyone knows different please enlighten me, I'm going to need a new suit soon, but sadly suits these days suck, can't help you with any recommendation Spartan folded in the last recession gave up around 2013 from memory but still making very good quality suits.


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