|XCEL SUIT FEATURING:
*Overhead X-ZIP Front Entry
*Thermo Barrier Ultra-Stretch Texture Skin
*Double-Glued and Blind-Stitched Fusion Seal Ultra-Stretch Seams
|The water can be cold. The bad news is you'll have to get used to it. The good news is that the wetsuits of today can fool you into thinking you're riding in the balmy waters of the Caribbean, when actually you're in the cool climbs of Clacton-on-Sea.
Here in the UK most kiters use a 5/3 wetsuit for most of the year, but there will be days in the summertime that you'll roast in a thick winter wetsuit like this. You'll be much more comfortable in a 3/2mm spring/summer suit from June to August/September. If you're lucky enough to live somewhere warm enough to not even need a wetsuit, then you may still be interested to know how far wetsuit technology has come.
Stefan Little from Xcel wetsuits in the UK says: 'Without a shadow of a doubt the most important thing to look for is the fit of the wetsuit. If it doesn't fit properly, no matter how good the wetsuit, it will not perform as it should. Besides the fitting of the suit you may want to look at the stretch and thickness of the suit. Bother of these are very important and a 3/2 summer suit from one brand may be totally different in actual thickness to another. A thin wetsuit often feels great but lacks the warmth and durability provided by a correctly graded wetsuit.'
How do you actually assess the fit of the suit? If it looks good and you can run up and down the length of the shop after a set of press ups then you're all good, right? Possibly not. Here are some of the very basics to look for:
Is the neck seal tight to your neck? If not, then you may as well have someone fire a hose straight at your crown jewels as that's where all the water will go.
Same for the wrist and ankle seals.
What about the area at the base of your spine ? is there a gap there? There shouldn't be and it will only attract cold water.
You should be completely snug in your wetsuit, but still able to move freely, bend your knees comfortably without any biting behind the knees and have all seals fitting tightly around your skin, but not constricting any blood supply. Wrist seals should be on your wrists, not over your hands and like-wise ankle seals should actually be around your ankles, not halfway up your leg.
|Don't forget about your crotch! How could you? It's important not to have too much of a sag in this area, no matter how good you think it makes you look to the girls! (Ladies ? we imagine you'd want to swerve any bagginess in this area anyway).
On the other hand you don't want to be slicing yourself in half with each step you take up the beach. There can be a lot of walking around in your wetsuit for even good kiteboarders and a bad dose of chafing is not conducive to a pleasurable session.
All of this applies to both men's and women's suits, but what about allowing for body shapes, which can be hugely different between the sexes.
Pro Limit's Edwin Honsbeek says, 'The shaping of men's and women's suits requires different panel layouts, mainly in the chest and leg-hip areas. The panels follow the shape of the women's body and also differs in the arm panels, which will have a different length and width to a typical man's suit. We also build extra comfort into women's suits with features such as easier leg entries, our Waterblock system is women friendly and doesn't have an over head system, we've made the pull rope on the zip twice as long so it's easier to reach and, in general, women's suits are thicker as they feel the cold more than men. We have women in the design team in Cape Town who help develop suits and we realise that women are of all different heights and sizes ? for example we have to look at the length of suits as there are a lot of tall but skinny girls and so on.'
What about new technology? How high-tec are these rubber outfits? Edwin believes that the material itself has come a long way.
'We can do so much more with the material now ? we've got more stretch at a lighter weight. We use what we call 'Airflex' material in most suits, which can stretch five to six times its length, providing so much more comfort and freedom than was possible in a suit five years ago. Lighter and warmer suits are now a reality with new materials such a Tricore ? a thermo glass material that is constructed with three layers of neoprene.'
Another area that's received a lot of manufacturing expertise is the zipper. This is no longer the weak link in the suit's armour, 'dry zips' are 100% waterproof and, in combination with various neoprene 'walls' that lie behind the zip adding extra warmth and strength, will make sure that you don't get too many cold shots of water rushing down your back every time you fall off.
Ankle and neck fasteners (usually Velcro) are common, although aren't as necessary on a summer suit as they are on a winter suit as they are much easier to get in and out of because of the reduced thickness of the rubber. But none-the-less are a nice luxury and prevent the wear and tear of over-stretching the tight cuffs every time you pull the suit on or off.
Something else to think about is getting a double lined suit. Particularly in the arms and legs where you're likely to get rubbing from the harness or from carrying the board. Single lined suits have a very smooth texture, are incredibly warm but also very fragile and prone to picking up nicks and cuts. Most suits usually have some single lined material on the chest and kidney areas though to make sure these areas stay as warm as possible. The rest is usually double lined ? a rougher textured mesh-type rubber and, is as it sounds, is lined on both sides.
Don't forget your knees! As kiters we spend quite a lot of time on our knees, either sorting out lines, screwing in fins or altering foot staps etc. so some good, robust knee pads are a good idea to aiding the longevity of your suit.
And a final tip, the zip usually goes at the back... except when it goes on the front! Oh, and take your trouser off before climbing in. You do get wet in a wetsuit and you wouldn't believe what we've seen on the beaches over the years.
Here's a selection of suits that will work brilliantly for kiting in the spring and summer.
PROLIMIT SUIT FEATURING:
*Prolimit's Waterblock Vest
PROLIMIT SUIT FEATURING:
*FTM Stitchless Construction
Click here to buy Theory and Technique DVD
Click here to buy Progression Beginner DVD