Price €449 // Water Temp: < 12 deg C // Tested: November 2017

Photography by Mike Brindley

"I was blown away by how warm and flexible this suit was, and how quick it dried. I'd highly recommend it as the go-to winter option for anyone living and surfing in cold water locales"

When we were tasked with reviewing Ion's latest and greatest cold water wetsuit, the Onyx Select Semidry Hood 6/5 we were, at first, thrilled.

We'd reviewed the 3/2 Semidry earlier in the year and found it exceeded out wildest.

Surely the more wintry version of this excellent suit would only serve to further satisfy our insatiable rubber fetish.

But then the trouble started.

We couldn't rightly do it at the Surf Europe office in Capbreton, SW France, where the tuna were running, and some folk were still in short arm wetsuits. We couldn't go to Iceland, having gone on record with advice to the contrary. We couldn't even really send it to the People's Republic of Kernow, site of the 3/2 test, as we were still worried our tester might overheat like a retriever puppy in a black car on a warm summer's day.

But then we remembered: Giles. Gile-o. Gile Duct. The Gilemaster. The Wild Giled. Gile-U-wait. Walk the Gile of Style. Don't-sit-on-cold-stones-it'll-give-you Giles. Yes, him.

Our SE England based sales whiz Giles happened to have a penchant for rubbering up against the elements, and also had some secret spots up his sleeve in the frigid brown water slop of the English Channel, near a nuclear power station.

Fresh off the back of starring in possibly surfing and vacuum cleaning's greatest ever branded content collab, his stock -- and enthusiasm -- had never been higher.

So on one particularly bitter, bleak November day, the kind of day when the emotional darkness  sets in just after breakfast, and the celestial one around 4pm, Giles and his 7'3" fun shape headed through the Garden of England in search of Kentish shred. 

"One particularly bitter, bleak November day, the kind of day when the emotional darkness sets in just after breakfast, and the celestial one around 4pm, Giles and his 7'3" fun shape headed in search of Kentish stoke"

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"I got up at 5am, stretched, had 4 and half Weet-a-bix and headed to Camber Sands, a bit gutted that Dungeons (Dungeness power station) and J-Bay (Joss Bay) weren't working. It was kinda small, verging on flat-handers, but I was determined, even if Huey had got the better of me, Jack Frost certainly wasn't going to. The Onyx Select went on nice, the legs felt sturdy yet negotiable and the torso felt very flexible as I gladly slipped my rig into the welcoming clutch of its state of the art rubbery insides. Yes please."

"The torso felt very flexible as I gladly slipped my rig into the welcoming clutch of its state of the art rubbery insides"

What Giles is talking about is the Sweep_Cut and Single_Seam legs, offering optimum flex. Unbelievably, even in a 6mil wetsuit, you can have the kind of flexibility surfers of yesteryear could only dream about.

"A bitter Siberian Easterly was blowing off the Continent, sending the swell back out to sea and tears to corners of my eyes. Luckily, the built in hood was there to offer comfort and safety, with great neck flexibility to make sure you can look people in the eye when throwing shakas and positive vibes. The locals all seemed pretty stoked to see me, and I couldn't help but notice they were all pretty interested in my wetsuit. They're only human, after all.

Well, kinda..."

"After my sesh, I hung the suit up over my car door and read a couple of back issues of Surf Europe (99 and 102, classics) and a few chapters of Barbarian Days (not bad). After a restorative cup of Earl Grey from the flask, a bit of ciabatta and pecorino I picked up at Battersea market, I was ready to hit it again. Picking up the suit, I couldn't believe how much it had dried out, due to the furry inside. Crazy."

The furry inside is actually Ion's Plasma_Plush lining, a super quick drying, moisture wicking fabric that helps the Onyx Select Semidry 6/5 dry in no time. Other top draw spec includes Double Thread GBS / No Power_Seam at upper body / Water_Repellent at torso replaces CSK and Enlarged Knee Panel.

Meanwhile, the use of Aqua-α ™ in construction -- a solvent-free, water-based glue -- and dope dye (which is every bit as good as it sounds) means not only is the suit high performing in the water, but also kinder on the folk building these suits at the factory.

"Overall," Giles concluded, a few days later, still buzzing from the sesh, "I was blown away by how warm and flexible this suit was, and how quick it dried. I'd highly recommend it as the go-to winter option for anyone living and surfing near cold water locales, even if they're not as awesome as waves of Kent."

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In conclusion, the Ion Onyx Select Hooded 6/5 is a serious winter wetsuit for the serous winter surfer.

It's warm enough for any condition experienced in European waters, including the single digit water temps that besiege Lofoten in Northern Norway or Britain's brutal NE coast, but comfy enough for high performance surfing like the stuff Giles was laying down at Camber Sands. It's also sturdy enough to withstand the abuse associated with wetsuit care (forward slash neglect).

That said, if you are forking out 450 sheets on a winter suit -- or anything -- you'll probably want to look after it.

With Ion's wetsuit range, just like its surf team, going from strength to strength, it's pretty clear they are holding their own in a seriously competitive market, and are here to stay.

('What about those 6 mil Ion boots?' you ask. Read the full review here.)

"A serious winter wetsuit for the serous winter surfer"

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