PLEASE READ AND POST YOUR THOUGHTS, SUGGESTIONS, AND OPINIONS IT COULD REALLY HELP US ALL OUT
Okay, Ive lived and surfed in South Jersey since I was born. In high school and early on in college I'd surf on a rare occasion for very brief periods of time (if it was big and clean enough, and air temp wasnt too bad) in Jan-Mar in my O'Neill 3/2 w 3mm Split Toes booties, and 3mm O'Neill 5 finger gloves w a hood. Yes, it sucked, bad. Following that period of my life, I just stopped surfin b/w Dec and Apr (too broke too buy a good suit and not ballsy enough to just go in my 3/2), and just racked up sick days for warmer swells. This has caused me to hate the winter and miss great swells where I could be out there with little chance of surfin w kooks. Now I have a career nad have to work through the summer (part of getting older I guess). But I couldn't afford a good wetsuit that I could use in the winter months. But now, alas, I finally can!!! But, there are too many new technologies and not enough information available on which wetsuit really is the best for your money especially for around here. I am completely unbiased toward any company and know the better a wetsuit fits, the warmer it will be (I'm a Med Tall). But sizing aside, I'd like to just keep my 3/2 and find a wetsuit that will allow me to not freeze in the winter like a classic 4/3, but wont be too warm for those transitional months like a classic 6/5/4 and will not restrict my movement too much. And since this info is so hard to find, I feel it needs heavy discussion and review, without regard to sizing so everyone can profit from the info.
My first dilemma is finding a wetsuit that will have the most effective use (Mind you, I never had anything more than a 3/2, and am using research I got off the internet from several different sources for mm's to match temperatures). 6/5/4s are great in Jan-Mar, but get a little warm in Apr and Nov, 5/4/3s dont usually get too warm in Apr or Nov, but may not be warm enough Jan-Feb. I don't mind being a little cold on a few of the coldest days if I can extend my wetsuits useful life a few more months into a little warmer weather, so I beleive my best bet may be a 5/4/3, so I can extend its use into Apr and Nov and can use it for most of the winter without getting too cold and maybe limiting my time to an hour or so less in the coldest days of Jan and Feb. Do you think this is right?
Next, Do some of the new technologies merit the ability to lose a milimeter for more movement and maintain the same amount of warmth? For instance, can some of the new technologies give me the warmth of a 6/5/4 with the maneuverability of a 5/4/3? If so, would it be crazy to say if I buy a 4/3 Ripcurl F-Bomb, it could work in place of a 5/4/3, (what i thought would be my best bet for a NJ Winter)? My first instinct is no, what do you think?
Okay, now the main part, the suits and their technologies. Through my own research I have narrowed down a few wetsuits that seem to be the best to me, the Ripcurl F-Bomb (forget the H-bomb for this discussion), O'Neill Psyco Freak, Xcel Infinity DryLock, the Body Glove Vapor, and I'm curious about the very expensive Matuse wetsuits and open to other suggestions. Each features either a combination or specialization of the newest technologies. What do you beleive has the best mix of these technologies and will have a long useful life? My freind has the 5/4 F-bomb and swears by it, so thats what I'm leaning toward. But there are other features it does and doesnt have. I like the drylock, but is that lock bulky if you own it? Ive also heard they have some seam problems. The Psycho Freak seems good, but comes in weird thicknesses would you get a 5.5/4.5 or a 4.5/3.5 for an extensive useful life in an NJ winter?
What features are really the best? Fireskin, slantzip, chest zip, drainage, hooded/detatchable hood, no hood, drylock, bamboo barrier, titanium, E3, granite neoprene, double titanium, what seems are the best, taped, double taped, infused, glued? air lock (the new three layer air pocket thing that Matuse has seemed to come on the scene for but now O'Neill may have stolen it and created their own version)? What are really the best features and which wetsuit has really found the best combination of them? I am still leaning toward the F-bomb. What features do you have, that you need in any future wetsuit you buy?
Finally, I am not sure about hoods, booties or gloves. With booties, I enjoy the split toe feature to help your foot from sliding within the boot, but there are also round toe and strapless options. What thickness would you recommend? And do new features merit the loss of thickness, can a 5mm F-bomb boot be as warm as a 7mm regular boot? Like the wetsuits, which will have the most useful time window (7mm might be too warm for Apr or Nov and a 5mm might be to cold for Jan-Feb, but is it unbearable in either direction?) New technologies in gloves make you ask the same questions. But do you prefer 5 finger, lobster claw or mittens? And if you have 7mm booties are 5mm gloves fine? if you have 5mm booties are 3mm gloves fine? Or is 5mm gloves and 5mm booties using the lates technologies, i.e. fireskin, the best way to go? And how thick should your hood be? 2mm or 3mm? And will a 2mm with fireskin make it as warm as a 3mm?
I think I am heavily leaning toward the 5/4 hooded Ripcurl F-Bomb, with 5mm F-bomb split toe booties (still debating 7mm) and 5mm F-Bomb 5 finger gloves. I feel it may offer the best combination of technologies and the best useful life for an NJ surfer, not suffering being too cold on the coldest days, but not being too warm in those tranisitional months, hopefully reducing the need to buy a 4/3. What do you think? Is this what you would do?
Atlantic City, NJ (generally windy avg about 15-20 knots)
Avg Water Temps (Jan 37, Feb 36, Mar 41, Apr 48, May 53, June 63, July 70, Aug 72, Sept 70, Oct 60, Nov 52, Dec 44)
Avg Air Temps (Jan 29-41, Feb 31-43, Mar 37-49, Apr 45-58, May 55-66, June 64-75, July 70-81, Aug 70-80, Sept 64-74, Oct 53-64, Nov 43-55, Dec 34-46)