First impressions: I’ll just come right out and say it; when I unwrapped the Magma Hooded 5/4/3 from its pizza box and bioplastic embellage, my first thought was “It looks a little bit like a woman’s wetsuit”. Not the colour (mine is all black everything), not the logos (very minimal), something about the shape.
I should know, as my own very first foray into wetsuit ownership wasn’t thwarted by any binary gender hangups of the time. A women’s (girl’s) 3/2 overlock with removable arms and a logo misprint from the shop second’s rail was all I could afford. Whatever. It was a wetsuit, I was a surfer.
Perhaps in spite of the minimal protection afforded by that awful piece of 80’s rubber, I still am. And having owned dozens of winter suits in the interim, holding the very 21st century Manera Meteor Magma Hooded in my hands today, I couldn’t help but notice it seemed more shapely, with a curvier hip outline than is typical in most wetsuits. The pre-shaped form carries throughout the legs and arms. Even the seams have that more curved pattern throughout, there aren’t many straight lines.
Having heard really good things, and seeing that the Manera team included the likes of Dion Agius, Brendon Gibbens, Pete Devries & Justine Dupont, who ply their trades in the icy waters of Tasmania, Cape Town, Canada and Nazaré respectively, needless to say I was intrigued.
The Magma’s distinct pre-shaped form is a result of a 3D design process. Now before you roll your eyes at yet more meaningless surf wetsuit jargon, the genre that proudly serves everything from TechnoButterTM to SuperXFleXTexSpex and other alleged proper nouns as registered Trade Marks, for a start, you can actually see it in the outline, and moreover, feel it when it’s on.
“The Magma’s distinct pre-shaped form is a result of a 3D design process”
Without meaning to state the obvious, it’s more fitted than most suits. Rather than your usual sausage shapes that rely on the physical property of the materials to fit to you, Manera’s 3D design means it’s cut to do so. The patterns generated by Manera’s 3D software were so unique in the wetsuit world that the manufacturer in Asia, Sheico (who make pretty much every premium wetsuit that’s ever been surfed in), at first refused them for being too left field. Manera insisted, and the resulting suits exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Winter means different things to different folk of course, and the Magma Hooded is definitely a suit for colder winters. For surfers who feel the cold and want to rug up against it but not sacrifice on movement in more temperate winters, or for full on northern extremity winters. With thicker legs, it’s a 5mil with a little bit of 4/3. The thinner areas are on the shoulders and arms – where you need extra movement for paddling – as well as the hood.
With durability a big part of Manera ethos, the only smoothskin, single lined neoprene found on the suit is on the 2mm hood (where hopefully, you won’t experience much friction), keeping the suit resistant to wear and tear. The hood’s face aperture is small and snug, with a reinforced peak for when it’s absolutely pissing down / to keep that pesky barrel spit that’s running down off the suit out of your eyes.
Attention to detail is key to Manera’s approach, and even the leg cuffs are not overlooked in terms of innovation, which includes removable Phantom straps at the ankles prevent icy water going up your leg. With a heritage in kiting, and its much faster speed over water, Manera know a thing or two about spray and seepage. Meanwhile, a straining panel on the outside of the ankles allows water to drain and exit rather than ballooning the legs or filling up boots, the perennial curse of the winter warrior. As if surfing isn’t hard enough, trying to do it with seawater ankle weights just seems unfair, doesn’t it?
Whether talking Moneyball or winter surfing, you’re only as good as your weakest points, in the case of a winter suit, the seams. The Magma’s are taped throughout with SD2 2.0 (ok, so nobody is 100% immune wetsuit jargon), and watertight, flexible, durable seams result. How long this taping lasts dictates how long your suit functions as a suitable shield against winter. The Magma Hooded uses state of the art tech and materials to maintain the seal, season after season.
Magma+ fleece plus runs pretty throughout the suit’s interior; chest, back, legs and hood for optimum warmth. Fleece makes your suit warmer, but thicker, and getting that balance is crucial. Magma+ dries 30% quicker than conventional wetsuit fleece and is 10% lighter, keeping the wet weight of the Magma hooded down, whilst keeping you warmer.
Manera Meteor Magma Hooded 5/4/3
Price £450 / €490
Materials 90% Neoprene 10% Nylon
Dry Weight 1500g
Cover image: Dion Agius, Manera Magma Hooded, Tasmania. Photo: Nick Green