You don’t get deeper into the depths of winter than the middle of February. The days are still vanishingly short, water temps in the mid-teens still many moons away. There’s nothing sexy about the winter surf scape here, like those featuring Norwegian influencers or burly men with frozen beards, just an expansive palette of greys, shifting in tone only where the mizzle meets the sea.
The waves have been solid though and the winds generally howling offshore with enough strength to pelt you with a downpour of freezing salt spray after each lip pitches. There have been long waits between the sets, forcing you to spend much of your session huddled over your board, hiding from the wind chill. Basically, the sort of conditions where a quality suit makes the difference between a bearable surfing experience and a miserable stint of brain-freezing attrition.
To be totally honest, even before I pulled a brand new Volte 5/4 hooded wettie out of its box last week, I was already pretty convinced it was going to be good.
I’d just got off the blower with co-founder Patrick Leahy, who with his mate Phil Corbett, developed the brand’s range drawing on knowledge gained over his 40 years of experience in the wetsuit industry. The central principle of Volte, he told me, was a commitment to using only the best materials available. He also explained how the brand started out being distributed solely through core surf shops in Australia and California, with partnerships developed through his own longstanding relationships.
I thought it unlikely that this pair of highly experienced surfers would be able to look each other, the shop owners and their local surfing mates in the eye if the suits they were making weren’t top-notch. Then there was the fact that Phil’s sons happen to be certified hellmen Mick and Dan Corbett. Could he really have got them to wear wetties on their jaunts to the heaviest waves on earth that weren’t warm, flexible and entirely resistant to even the most brutal flushes? I figured not.
And so, when I finally slipped into the suit and paddled out into a freezing Cornish lineup a few days later, I was overjoyed to be not only warm and comfortable but also proved completely right. This was a really good wetsuit.
The first thing that struck me on the paddle out was the stretchiness. I’ve worn several hooded 5mms that feel like straight jackets after the fifth or sixth stroke, but the flexibility across the back and shoulders on the Volte was superb. The added rubber panelling around the torso and hood, with its soft fleece lining, made the whole suit feel extra cosy. When caught inside, the hood’s rolled seam and adjustable sinch string helped keep the freezing water out, and unlike some new wetties, there were no stiffness, niggles or overly tight spots around knees and groin.
It was also fantastically easy to get off and was dry to the touch after a single overnight stay hanging in my bathroom. Examining the suit out of the water, you can instantly feel the quality the company prides itself on, with tough foam, a durable zip and solid feeling seams.
The hooded 5mm will set you back considerably less than the big name brand equivalents and comes with the added peace of mind of a 12-month warranty on all stitching, glueing, taping and materials. There’s also a hooded 4.5 zipperless version which boasts the same high-quality construction but costs considerably less, making it, in our opinion, one of the best value winter suits on the market.
Both are built with eco-innovations that don’t compromise on quality, including solvent-free glues, limestone-based foam and recycled fabric, so you can purchase safe in the knowledge you’re shredding lightly on the planet too.