You know at Surf Europe we really pay attention to what's directly linked to the shredding department. As our editor-in-chief Da Paul Evans once said to me putting on his wetsuit in Cap B: “Going surfing is the second best thing for our magazine after writing." Being in total agreement with the boss on that one, I didn't feel the need to add anything to his statement. But you can bet that anything that might make us surf longer and better is of particular interest to us in the office.
Unfortunately, with no big revolution or innovation in the surfboard or fin department, our most important tools, our curiosity turned to the wetsuit division. And there has been a few big breakthroughs lately, innovations that have translated into true benefits for the every day surfer. The new and increase flexibility & warmth of modern winter wetsuits has allowed us to keep a kind of 'summery' stretch in our surfing and also waste less energy fighting against cold water. It has also opened up new line ups in the most extreme parts of the world if you can be bothered organising a trip there instead of to Indo.
The latest innovation to date comes from the guys at Patagonia. And looking closely at their R models and the merino wool linings inside, it is a smart nod to the past... Before the invention of the modern wetsuit, hardcore surfers were braving the cold water with the good old wool pullover & beard & long hair system. Wool, unlike cotton, is able to keep you warm even when wet. And well before surfers, fishermen were big fans of the warmth you could gain from wool. So after a bit of testing involving a couple of long hold downs & 'not making it out the back' in the freezing January & February conditions here in France, Patagonia's quality neoprene and wool linings appear to be a winner combination. What's more, the actual contact with the merinos wool is very pleasant. You can almost feel the nice burning wood fire, wool carpet & glass of red around you.
But what exactly is Merino wool? Wikipedia... (and a few seconds later): It is a special breed of sheep prized for the quality of its wool with an excellent warmth to weight ratio. So now you know.
Definitely a wetsuit worth checking out (turn it inside out, it boasts a high finish grade) and last but not least, it is also a move away from the 'all neoprene' wetsuit. Surfing with a cleaner wetsuit can't hurt!
Stunned by the price? I guess, but you could be surfing in the same wetty for at least the next 3 winters, you do the math.