Editor’s Note: This #Radgear was done with the help of our good friends at 7TILL8 Wetsuits, who offer custom (and now, sized) wetsuits with free, fast delivery.
Wetsuits aren’t something we should skimp on if we can avoid it. Nobody likes dropping $500 on an awkward-fitting piece of neoprene, but when that suit is responsible for keeping you warm in the ocean you’re not going to complain about having a quality one.
By this point in my life, I’ve run through enough wetsuits to know you don’t always get what you pay for. Pick something up at a significant discount and I’m not surprised when it starts falling apart in three to six months. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if a wetsuit is noticeably “stretchy” off the rack compared to others — with all its new age glues and high tech neoprene — I assume I’ll be sacrificing a lot of warmth for all that “performance.” In fact, with all the advancements in wetsuits over the years it seems as if the more frills one comes with the more likely the thing is to suck after a month. The glue on those seams peels off or the neoprene loses either its stretch or its warmth. You’re almost always sacrificing one for the other. The only surefire way I’ve found to get a wetsuit I can stay happy with for long is to get something that fits well.
7TILL8 Wetsuits seems to be aiming for a quality middle ground with their newest line of suits. Traditionally, they’ve worked like a custom tailored service for surfers, known for using materials like Yamamoto neoprene and creating a top of the line status for their brand. You hand over your true measurements and sizes and they return with a custom-made, high-quality suit. It’s a unique direct to consumer model for anybody shopping at a higher price point. Now they’ve included a line of “off the rack” suits for customers as well. At $215, it’s much more affordable to the average Joe than their custom-made service, which is a good thing because they make really good wetsuits.
As mentioned, I like to think I can spot a quality wetsuit without having to surf in it; most of us can. When my medium tall, navy blue slant zip fullsuit arrived, I noticed a couple things right away. First, 7TILL8 says part of the experience for their customers is that first moment of opening up their package, which is why pulling the suit out of a box, all neatly wrapped in tissue paper, feels a bit like opening a Christmas gift. When I did the standard “feel the neoprene then grab the suit by its cuffs and see how stretchy it is” dance (we all do it first thing, admit it), I noticed that my new 3/2 actually felt a little more like a 4/3. The neoprene felt thicker than expected, so I grabbed another 3/2 of mine that is only a couple months old and still in great shape itself to compare. Sure enough, the fresh slantzip was in fact noticeably thicker. When I asked 7till8 President Andrew Park about this he told me it’s because their neoprene is measured by its true thickness, whereas most brands include the jersey liner in measuring how thick their suits are. So it turns out the odds are your 3/2 fullsuit is not truly a 3/2.
Now, I typically avoid anything thicker than a 3/2 like the plague. I would wear a 2-mill through the winter if I could get away with it in California (I really can’t). My personal preference is to simply wear less rubber and keep my back and shoulders fresh on a marathon day with multiple sessions. Comfortable and loose is how I like to keep it. So the noticeable thickness of this 3/2 actually got in my head before I ever used it. When I noticed the suit actually didn’t feel constricting after all in spite of this, I picked Andrew’s brain a bit more. He filled me in some more on wetsuit design and a few more tricks of the industry’s status quo. While some suits will feature an obscene amount of panels, all stitched or glued together, 7TILL8 actually uses as few panels as possible to build their wetsuits. From there, Andrew explained that more panels, more seams, and in some cases more glue makes for a suit that doesn’t want to stretch. Simply put, fewer panels tends to equal more flexibility.
So after a couple months of surfing in this fullsuit, I actually feel like I got the best of both worlds: a little extra warmth with that “loose” feeling when moving around, paddling, and riding. Durability is, of course, a huge thing to factor into the quality of any good wetsuit. But in all fairness that’s not something I’d be able to speak to after just a couple months. 7till8 does offer a pretty straightforward guarantee on their craftsmanship, though: “If it breaks, we’ll fix it free of charge. No questions asked.” So all in all, for surfers who can’t afford upwards of $500 on a new suit and want to make sure they still get a quality product, 7TILL8’s new sized wetsuits are a great option.