I have done most of my surfing in relatively warm waters of SA. Typically the thickest wetsuit I wore was a 4/3 with my most common thickness in the winter being a 3/2 and a 2/2 shorty for the summer. I moved to the Canadian west coast and promptly got acquainted with a 5/4 hooded suit, 7mm booties and 5mm gloves. I was freezing cold when I got out and felt restricted when in the water.
When I heard of a surfing drysuit being developed I was highly skeptical, but very interested. I was one of the early adopters and got myself a Pyro Surf from Ocean Rodeo. The concept was good, but it looked a little weird, there were some issues with it. After using that for a year, I was offered the chance to use a predator prototype towards the end of last winter. After using the prototype about 6 times, I wouldn’t even go out in the Pyro. I bought a production Predator and used it last weekend. These are my observations.
It has a neoprene outer layer and a breathable, waterproof inner layer. The suit is actually 2 separate pieces that can be attached to each other. The outer layer is neoprene and very form fitting. It looks like any other cold water wetsuit with an attached hood. Unless you tell someone, nobody in the line- up would think that it wasn’t a normal wetsuit. Ocean Rodeo has also done a great job of designing a logo that is both discrete and stylish, which is the modern trend in wetsuit style.
The biggest single difference between this suit and a wetsuit is mobility which translates to flexibility and ease of paddling. It is just so much easier to paddle in. The inner suit (dry-core) is both breathable and waterproof. Because both it and the outer neoprene layer are thin, you have lots of flexibility. I think that this is what impressed me the most. I could paddle around and not feel restricted. I had 3 sessions the same day, and no sore shoulders. Because of the breathability of the dry- core you don’t sweat, which means you stay dry and therefore warmer. The other great thing about 3 sessions in 1 day—no cold wetsuit to get into. The previous Pyro Surf had quite a bit of restriction on your legs. With the Predator, I felt no drag on my legs when standing up—this is a big improvement. Because the dry-core and the outer layer are thin, the suit is quite light. Again, this just makes cold water surfing that much easier as you don’t feel like you have become a Polar Bear every time you put your suit on. I used the same undergarments or thermal layer from my old suit. It is a stretchy, thin fleece, specifically designed to be worn under these suits. It is comfortable, warm and flexible. You can also adjust your warmth by the amount of under layering that you wear, a really nice feature.
The hood is attached, which is a must for any cold water/cold climate suit. It even has a small peak to keep the rain out of your eyes—a bonus for the west coast—especially if it is sleeting.
Two huge pluses are that you can stand around both before and after your session without freezing, after all, you are wearing a windproof, waterproof outer layer over fleece that is dry. In a Canadian winter, this is huge, as is getting into a warm dry suit for your second/third session.
Buoyancy seems about the same as a 4/3 wetsuit. It is therefore easy to duckdive in. What was also impressive is that I have been over the falls a few times in this suit, yet the seals have not allowed any water in. I also tried swimming in it—-sooner or later you will snap a leash. Swimming was unrestricted. Because I Kite as well, the ability to swim in surf is important. This suit passed that test with flying colours.
The suit is easy to put on and take off—roughly the same effort as any other cold water suit. Like all of them, you get faster with practice.
I really don’t have anything bad to say about it, I’m just stoked to have one. After all who wouldn’t want to be warm and dry in negative air temperatures and feel as if they were surfing in a warm water suit.
Its all about the adventure and stoke!