Last year I was gushing about Xcel's hooded 4/3mm, the solution for wintry stoke for surfers based between the 10-13 deg C isotherms.

That is, in Europe, folk who regularly seek their stoke in SW England, W coast of Ireland and alongside Biscay. If you live on Svalbard, a hooded 4/3mm is unlikely to cut it in winter, and you probably don't need me to tell you that.

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Boasting the suppleness of a high end 4/3, with the warmth of a built-in hood, it felt like the next level in winter suit performance. The warmth without the bulkiness, the flex without the chill after a ten minutes lineup inactivity.

Well guess what? It just got better.

The hooded Infiniti Comp TDC is back slightly beefed up at half a mil thicker, which seems like an inspired move given that, in SW France anyway, it's already been a harder winter than 15/16... and it's only mid January.

With morning temps regularly well below freezing this January, coinciding with brisk offshores and some clean thumping groundswell, those extra 500μm feel mighty, mighty welcome.

"Rocking up on an ultra frigid but firing day and realising you've forgotten your twat cap... is like one of those dreams where you're doing a naked poo on the High Street"

Score: 9/10

Price:  £299/$374.99

Weight: 1.4kg

Thickness: 4.5mm/3.5mm

Material: Thermo Dry Celliant (lining) / V -Foam

xcelwetsuits.com

What's New?

Aside from the extra half mil, the suit has a single noticeable upgrade in the form of a drawstring closure on the shoulder, which was conspicuously absent from the 4/3mm.

The first surf I had in the new suit was a day when the max temperature was 2 deg C, the surf was 5-6ft with a lot of paddling/duckdiving and I didn't get a single flush, once.

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What Isn't?

Otherwise it's a case of if it aint broke... They've kept the single panel between zip and knees, eliminating unnecessary seams, the Thermo Dry Celliant lining and tape, the seals on the cuffs, the chest zip and entry, all of it stands up.

Built In Hood vs Not

I can't think of many good arguments for not having a built in hood on a winter wetsuit (see about the tester, below). Unless you live somewhere afflicted by ice cold currents, like Cape Town or Chile or NorCal where water temps are unfeasibly cold compared to the air, a built in hood seems sensible.

It's true, some strange folk do shun the hood, even opting for such perverse fare as 5 mils and gloves, but no hood. Probably best to avoid these kind of people.

Carrying around a little twat cap can of course accessorise an un-hooded winter suit up to spec, but it's just another thing to lose.

And the horror of rocking up on an ultra frigid but firing day and realising you've forgotten your twat cap... it's like having one of those dreams where you're doing a naked poo on the High Street.

That's how exposed you feel. You'd almost rather have forgotten your board.

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Also

It's worth bearing in mind, before buying too much into anyone else's review of anything, the integrity of the source. Where do their biases lie? Are they reliable?

Since I've become a fully fledged 'older dude', I've become bipolar in my temperature sensitivity.

In summer I surf in shorts, and get uncomfortably warm in even a thin wetsuit, in winter I feel the cold much more than I used to. Basically, I've become hard between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, and become a wuss between halloween and Easter.

(Between Easter and the summer solstice therefore, let's say I'm just average. Which, incidentally kids, there's absolutely no shame in making one of your life goals).

So Why 'only' 9/10?

Three things.

1) You can't go giving out tens willy nilly. Where would their fire be, at the Xcel R&D laboratory after that? Their appetite to strive relentlessly ever better, warmer, lighter, looser? To pull all nighters? They'd be lighting cigars, taking afternoon naps. Plus, surely it'll get even better with time, right? You can't get a perfect score, and improve. Doesn't make sense.

2) The 4.5mm thing. Not sure if these thicknesses are internationally adjudicated by an independent rubber thickness weights and measures governing body, but you could just round it up?

3) Wax collects between the wee grooves on the zip grip (see pic). A v v minor point but hey, you asked.