It’s fair to say that never before have surfers had such a breadth of high-quality options when it comes to neoprene. These days, it’s hard to make a bad choice when it comes to buying a wetsuit. And yet, in such an industry that’s awash with options, you might wonder how wetsuit makers stand out. How can you take a product that’s seemingly hit the ceiling of performance and take it up a notch?
Being in the business of writing and reporting on products, we know a thing or two about marketing gimmicks. One company’s sizzling margarine interior liner is another’s baby chinchilla fleece. And yet, when we came across Quiksilver’s newest Highline Pro suit, a 1mm performance wetsuit meant to be worn in 3:2 conditions that comes in both a goofy and regular version, we had lots of questions. Not to mention it’s the most expensive suit on the market right now and it’s completely sold out!
That’s why we hit up Tom Purbrick, global design director for surf at Quiksilver, to give us a little more detail.
So a 1mm suit that compares to the warmth of a 3:2. That seems like a bold claim. Can you tell me how that’s possible?
The Highline Pro 1mm wetsuit is all about super sessions or contest surfing. The original idea actually came from Kelly Slater years ago. He wanted a super-thin, ultra-stretchy wetsuit that he could wear at cooler water events like Bells and J-Bay.
We’re not claiming that it’s as warm as a 3:2. We’re saying that you can wear it in water temps right up to those in which you would normally wear a 3:2 — depending on the length of your session. This version is almost a prototype that we will be constantly improving based on feedback from all of the athletes who wear it.
This wetsuit is designed for quick surfs where you can be comfortable and free, maximizing your energy. It’s for going hard and fast. Getting in, getting the job done, and coming away from it happier than you were before you got wet. The Highline Pro 1mm is kind of like a Formula 1 option for surfers and anyone who wants to know what that feels like! That said, there are certainly elements in the design that make this suit warmer than any old 1mm wetsuit.
The wetsuit is made from premium Japanese neoprene. It’s warmer, lighter and more flexible than regular neoprene which is why we chose the best of the best. The seams are completely stitch-less. We were able to remove the stitching and use a Japanese tape, which means you don’t have to puncture the suit during production. This taping is also extremely lightweight and stretchy, adding to the lightness and flexibility of the suit. The left and right entry system are designed to avoid flushing.
Right, so the other first here is the suits come with a goofy and regular version. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Yes, this is a first for us and the industry. The concept is all about flushing. Generally, when you fall off your board you fall forward, meaning that your front arm enters the water first. Therefore, when you have the opening of a suit on your front arm, you get water flushing into your suit when you fall. We made two versions so that the entry can always be on your back arm. So when you fall, no water can enter your suit because you rarely, if ever, fall with your back arm going forward.
Tell me about the R+D process with athletes. How long did it take and were they skeptical at first about the thickness and the whole goofy/regular thing?
As I mentioned, the idea was spawned quite a while ago and originally came from Kelly. However, we finally put the project in motion over two years ago. Our wetsuit guru in Japan, Eiji Kobayashi, started the whole thing with our Japanese manufacturing partner over there. I think we were all skeptical about the thickness. By the end, though, we’re all blown away with how it turned out, and are excited to see the developments in the suit over the next year.
What’s the future hold for this variety of neoprene?
What’s next? Well, you could scale up the thickness for a lighter cold-weather suit or accessories. 2mm wetsuits already exist, but not in the same neoprene quality and construction. Based on the response we’ve had from our athletes, I’d say we will almost certainly get some requests for a 2mm version of this suit that they could wear in 4:3 conditions for a heat or a supersession. Beyond that, wave pools are becoming increasingly popular and offer a huge opportunity for growth in our industry. Our 1mm wetsuit is perfectly designed for wave pool surfing, creating warmth, comfort and a feeling of protection in a wide variety of temperatures. We believe that there is a future in this concept, for sure.