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Good question isn’t it? And I bet some of you are even thinking ‘what happens when you surf in a drysuit?’.
Well today I had my first experience of both. Ocean Rodeo make this suit, it’s called the Surf Dry, and it’s designed specifically for surfing, kiting and standup paddle in waves. Traditional drysuits are OK for flat water kiting or standup, but because they trap so much air they stop you from being about to duck dive or swim underwater, and their flapiness creates drag when you are swimming. The Surf Dry gets round this with a specially designed micro-thin wetsuit that slips over the top, squeezing all the air out so you can get underwater, and keeps it all snug to your skin so it performs more like a regular wetsuit when you’re moving through the water.
Anyway I had my reservations as to whether the Surf Dry would be a good suit for the sort of adventures we get up to around here, so on this most ragged and rough of days, I donned one and went for a dip. I went to Towan with its typically questionable wave quality but the swell was humping in and closing out on a shallow sandbar, resulting in a perfect stunt wave for plenty of tumbles and several drillings down to the sea floor.
After the first one, any thoughts of water ingress, the suit damaging (I actually landed on my fins at one point, got tangled in my leash at another) or coming undone were dispelled. I’d go as far as to say today the Surf Dry felt more secure than my regular wetsuit, because when I’m getting drilled in my regular wetsuit it lets water in, or ‘flushes’ and that’s rather unpleasant in the depths of winter. At the end of the sesh, I peeled off the two outer layers and the only trace of moisture on my thermals was against the wrist and neck seals where the seals prevented the suit from breathing – it was a touch of sweat. The rest of the thermals and of course me, were bone dry. If you take a really bad tumble or go really deep, any residual air in the suit compresses and forces against any water trying to creep into the seals, but really, once you see those seals for yourself, you’ll understand why they keep you so dry.
The drysuit core itself (the middle, baggy layer) is practically industrial or military looking in its construction. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to suppose that it would be more durable than a super stretch winter wetty. Any cut or abrasion that goes through this suit will do the same at least to a regular wetsuit. The Surfdry won’t fill up with water any more than a wetsuit would either thanks to its outer layer keeping things tight. I think really though the day something goes through this suit is the day you’re going to get some good stitches in your own skin.
I got hot today. If you were around in Cornwall today you’ll know it was cold, the weather was absolutely shit house. Getting into the water, being in the water, getting out of it and walking home or driving home in your bone dry thermals, the wetsuit experience is just not comparable to a drysuit. Add to the fact that you WILL be climbing into a wet wetsuit this winter, and that can’t happen with the Surf Dry since it’s always dry on the inside. Put it like this: you’re going into a freezing environment. To keep you warm, do you choose to trap against your body a) a layer of cold water that you need to heat up or b) some nice warm air from your house / van? It’s like central heating vs crappy night storage my friend.
It’s like surfing in your pyjamas. Loose, free, noticebly less restriction around the shoulders, everything flexes as though you are in soft clothing.Very comfortable.
Getting it on and off
I can claw into my westuit in about 35 seconds. Currently I’m running about ten minutes getting into the Surf Dry, though I’m told this will come down to about three minutes after a few goes. There’s a video of a guy on the Ocean Rodeo site making it look very easy indeed; it’s more a case of getting familiar with the process rather than it being difficult to don. Taking it off is a piece of cake though.
I don’t think an extra few minutes putting a suit on a problem, it’s no worse than pumping up a kite. Considering I’ve covered what were my reservations in this post, all that I would expect to hear from people who have not tried a Surf Dry is that…well, I dunno, that it maybe looks a bit bulky compared to a regular wetsuit? And fair enough, that may be a concern if your body is so incredibly chiselled that the general public demand it be on show all the time, but I think the rest of us (especially those kiters who choose to wear shorts over their wetsuits!) might welcome a little more anatomical ambiguity.
Here then is my video. Typical back-of-a-cigarette-packet storyboarding, awful editing skills, Windows Movie Maker, it’s all here! But I think it gets the important information across. I did choose a really good song though, Soundtrack Of Our Lives. Swedish band, sniff ’em out.
And here is the official Ocean Rodeo Surf Dry vid, featuring the Erik Hanson, the man behind the whole thing. Watch this one first if you want decent production values, good surfing and stunning scenery!