The balance in purchasing a fresh wetsuit can sometimes straddle a knife point. On one side, there's the question of, do you want more flex? And on the other, would you prefer more warmth? It's difficult to dial in what people really want and that's really a decision you have to make up your own mind about. But this season's range from Rip Curl has made that process easier than ever.
You see, there's clear cut suits for different environments. You surfing cold, frigid waters? Easy – go for the Heat Seeker. Are you someone who doesn't really feel the cold but favours performance and flex? Slip into the Curl's E-bomb 4/3 coupled with a hood and some booties.
And perhaps something you didn't know about Rip Curl, is the brand own their own facility for testing and making suits. This means they can incorporate feedback from their team, into design, at a rapid pace and get a prototype together just a few days later. Now that's some serious infrastructure.
To talk us through the latest range, we checked in with Adam “Brisso” Brissenden, Rip Curl's Technical Products Sales Manager and a general Wetsuit Guru.
When we’re talking about tech, E6 is relatively new to the market, only around since 2018, I think? Back then I remember it was an incredibly flexible suit – how has this been innovated on since then?
AB: We believe that innovation is key and we’re always trying to improve on products and materials in a lot of different ways, and in relation to wetsuits it’s more specifically in regards to warmth, flexibility and weight.
This year we obviously released our Ltd Edition E7 E-Bomb which is the evolution from the E6 E-Bomb and one we worked in close conjunction with three of our world champs, Mick, Tyler and Gabe in regards to fit and seam placement as their feedback is incredibly important. The key innovations in the E7 was the increased stretch at 25 per cent greater than E6, and being 10 per cent lighter also. It also incorporates a Thermo Lining for increased warmth and comfort.
And, talk us through the E6, what’s under the hood here? Because that's going into the Flashbombs, right?
It’s about innovating and always improving on what we already have, and really aiming for what all of us at Rip Curl want in our own personal suits. And obviously it gets cold during Winter here and we surf in Flashbombs a lot...so we have had the E5 Flash Lining in the market for a few years, and essentially we love the warmth and quick drying properties, but we really wanted to get more stretch into the Flash Lining.
So after a lot of development and testing we are stoked to be introducing E6 Flash Lining into the new seasons range of Flashbombs. It’s our warmest and most flexible Flashlining we’ve put to market.
For surfing the cooler months in the winter, there’s always the trade off – do we go for a more flexible suit, or more warmth? How do you balance the two and which route lends itself better to surfing in general?
Totally, there’s always going to be differences between suits and especially surfers themselves and whether they’re a surfer who ‘gets cold easily’ or a surfer who doesn’t. Some crew just don’t get as cold as others, and can handle a 3/2 over cold winters but they may wear boots and a hood. Other crew need a 4/3 but don’t wear boots and a hood, and then there’s some crew who get super cold and need a 4/3, boots and a hood. It’s pretty subjective.
For us we segment our Ultimate range of steamers (full suits) into ‘Ultimate Warmth – FLASHBOMBS’ and ‘Ultimate Performance – E-BOMBS’. So if you’re surfing in colder water temps or get colder – you should be looking at the Flashbomb range.
If you’re surfing in ‘warmer’ winter water temps, or someone who doesn’t get too cold, you’d look into the E-Bomb range. And in saying that, wetsuit thickness is also key, hence we offer from 2/2 – 3/2 – 4/3’s (both Flashbombs and E-Bombs) but we offer additional thicknesses at 5/3 and even 6/4 in the Flashbomb range for super cold water locations.
An epic suit in the range which a great hybrid for surfers who want some of both (warmth and performance) is the Flashbomb Zip Free, which has E6 super stretch neo in the arms and shoulders (key paddling and movement areas) and then the chest, body and legs are made up of E6 Flash Lining (key areas to help keep the core warm) it’s an amazing suit.
If people are looking for a high end suit, where does the Flashbomb heat seeker sit?
The Flashbomb Heat Seeker is our pinnacle suit at the top end of the market, which is our warmest suit in the range. It has the most features and benefits and technology suited to cold water temps and is now more flexible than ever before with E6 Flashlining.
And how does that differ from the E-bomb?
It’s really that difference between extra warmth in the Flashbombs and the reduced weight and flexibility in the E-Bomb which is about performance.
Essentially you get what you pay for in wetsuits, and the higher the price, the more expensive the materials and manufacturing costs are and that’s reflected in the difference between the Heat Seeker and the E- Bomb.
Gotcha, ok, so, if I’m a surfer in, say, Norway – water temp is barely above freezing (maybe) which suit do I want to go for?
Well firstly, epic that you’re surfing in Norway in water that cold [laughs] super core. But that’s an easy one. it would be the Heat Seeker 6/4 Hooded wetsuit (built in hood) I’d probably be going for some 7mm Flashbomb boots and some 7mm Flashbomb gloves too.
What if I’m a surfer in the middle or European winter? The water’s cold, like 8 degrees Celsius, what would you recommend for that?
For that, I’d be going for a 4/3 Heat Seeker with a 3mm Heat Seeker hood and 3mm Flashbomb boots so you have a bit more flexibility when the water gets a little warmer and you don’t need hood or boots.
What’s the feedback been like from your pro roster?
We get a lot of feedback from our team, we’re pretty fortunate actually. We’re the only brand that actually owns our own wetsuit manufacturing facility (located in Thailand) and also having our Global Wetsuit Design, Development and R+D team here in our Head Office in Torquay that also has our own R+D lab and factory and Service Centre, it means we’re able to make suits for team and our ‘test pilots’ quickly and alter them from feedback from team and testers and alter them based off their feedback.
It also helps we have John ‘Sparrow’ Pyebyrne, who is our Head Pattern Maker and the original Pattern Maker for Rip Curl wetsuits since we started in 1969, I think he is employee number four or number five behind Brian and Claw, Rip Curl Founders.
Sparrow still works (and surfs) every day, and has been making our suits for more than 50-years now and can literally make a proto suit in a day or two
Sparrow still works (and surfs) every day, and has been making our suits for more than 50-years now and can literally make a proto suit in a day or two, and then you can surf in it, give him feedback, and he can alter and tweak the pattern and fit of a suit so you surf in it the next day.
So come Easter and the Rip Curl Po, Bells Beach, we get all our team in for feedback sessions, as well as any other time they are down throughout the year (which is quite a bit, outside of the new COVID norms). We also send out test suits to a lot of team and get them testing and providing feedback to the team consistently, especially when we’re working on new innovations. Pro surfers are in the water more than most surfers, so their feedback is super important and relative.
Do any surfers give feedback to the design team? If so, who gives the most and what do they say?
Majority of surfers give feedback to the team, definitely more so the older crew who have been on the team longer and have that experience.
I think a lot of the younger team don’t want to offend us or be too critical of Rip Curl product because they’re young or new to the team, so the feedback from them is often super positive [laughs] but the older crew don’t hold back, and we don’t want them too either. Like I said earlier, they surf more than anyone really, and they’re professionals, and wetsuits are tools of their trade so the feedback we get from them is really important to making better product.
Mick, Gabe, Tyler, Connor and Owen are actually all really good at giving pretty articulate feedback, things that normal surfers like the majority of us wouldn’t easily pick up on, but they are just so in tune with things whilst surfing that it’s pretty impressive. Mason also gives epic feedback that is so unique and just textbook Mason that makes it a really fun feedback session.
Last question, would you ever think about pushing some of those Matt Wilko novelty suits into full production?
[laughs] YES, we definitely get asked that a fair bit. Not too sure about full production runs, in particular the one he used In France, but you never know...