Welcome to The Inertia’s definitive wetsuit review where we rate some of the industry’s best rubber so you can feel informed before purchasing your winter skin. We used a five-star rating system to rank each of our suits’ features. Here, we look at the Buell RB1 Accelerator 4/3 Float Suit
Testing Location: Oregon’s north coast
Average Water Temperature: 52°F
Average Air Temperature: 55°F
Warmth: 4 Stars
Buell has certainly done a stellar job with its suits of late, led by the marketing semi-genius that is Ryan Buell, who has leaned on Jamie O’Brien and a solid roster of A-List surfers to get the word out (he recently signed a collab with Dane Reynolds). Buell suits are extremely comfortable and affordable, which gives them credence right off the bat – along with Buell’s extensive experience in the waters of Northern California as both a lifeguard and lifelong surfer.
The Buell RB1 Accelerator 4/3 Floatsuit is probably not going to be an everyday suit for the average surfer. It’s a specialty suit for heavier waves, foiling (where I tested it), surf photographers, lifeguards, and people who like extra float (the thing works) – part of what Buell has talked about as an overall wetsuit quiver. The 4/3 is perfect for places like Santa Cruz, or winter in Virginia Beach, thanks to what Buell calls its “Ninja Neoprene” on the outside of the suit and “Ultraspan flex-fabric material” that lines the inside to add warmth (it’s super comfy, BTW). In places like the far Northeast or Pacific Northwest, it’d be best to bug Buell to make a 5/4 version for proper warmth.
Durability: 4.5 Stars
These gems are hardy. I personally enjoyed the Float Suit for two reasons: the extra float (obviously) so I could avoid a lifejacket while foiling, and the extra padding (more on that later) to protect against foil bang (the mast or wing banging against your body during wrecks). The suit took several hits and held up well and has shown little wear during a month of testing. Wetsuits naturally wear as they’re laid out to dry, day in and day out, though, so keep that in mind.
Comfort and Flexibility: 4.5 Stars
Buell suits are generally easy to move in. I love the flexibility in the brand’s cold-water protection and this suit was easy to move around in. The seams are triple glued and blind stitched for added durability and an over-the-top chest entry makes the Float Suit easy to get in and out of. It’s a really comfy suit and has a natural “ergonomic” feel when you slip it on (not unlike a good pair of pajamas).
The most notable feature of the suit is obviously the float panels that have been designed and improved by Buell and Jamie O’Brien – who has said that the suit saved his life at Pipeline after he was knocked unconscious. Foam padding, or panels, were sturdily sewn in on strategic locations in the suit including the arms, thighs, shins, back, and upper gluteus maximus, creating both protection and extra float. I used it kiting and definitely felt an added sense of security when floating in the water a half-mile offshore. Along with adding to your physique, the suit had one other unintended benefit: when I rode a prone board, the protective foam seemed to add pop to the pop-up (that may have been my imagination, though). The Float Suit is also an extremely good value at $270.
Solidly researched and developed protective suit for bigger surf, foiling, and water photography at an affordable price.
Again, the Float Suit is built for Northern and Central California. Colder locales will require thicker neoprene. And if you’re insecure at all about the way you look in the water, this might not be the suit for you.
Overall: 4.5 Stars
Buell Wetsuits are not only creating solid protective gear, they’re doing it from the right place: Ryan Buell is a good human and designer who cares about the surf industry. The Buell Float Suit is a solid piece of gear for protective situations like surfing waves of consequence in cold water situations, foiling (simply as protection), water photography, even lifeguarding if the situation calls for being in the water for long periods of time. And the price is certainly right ($270). Buell suits in general are super solid and this specialty piece is worth the affordable price of admission.
Find out more at BuellSurf.com