[The Wavelength shop features the very latest and greatest in performance wetsuits, for the chilly brines of home to lower latitude protection. Shop our hand picked wetsuit range here]
Water Temp: 11 – 14° C
Construction: Limestone Neoprene, I-Foam, Fever Fiber, Ridiculous Rubber
Timing, they say, is crucial. As in life, as in love, as, of course, in surfing.
Knowing when to leave a party is a crucial timing skill. Getting pasta off the heat and drained, just before it’s finished cooking, so that it steams in its own entropy to perfection by the time it hits the plate, too.
Relatively easy written down, yet, still a major stumbling block for so very many. (Right, babe?)
Then there’s comedic timing. An old comrade, Matt the Nause, was legendary for his. Half Plymothian and crucially, half Glaswegian, sure, he had his foibles; stealing rent money from his friends to buy cocaine, among them. But he sure had great comedy timing. The Nause instinctively knew, to the exact millisecond, when to interject after someone’s else line for the best effect, or to volley home his own set ups. His poor Mum was often the butt of his jokes. “She used to look like Twiggy…” (referring of course to the Swinging 60’s London model, not the South African big wave surfer, creator and innovator kept very warm and comfortable by the Vissla High Seas 4/3) as she delivered cups of tea to the boys in the front room – somehow gauging the precise among of pause – “…….. Now look at eeer!”
But perhaps more than any of that, the dedicated North Atlantic surfer will know the importance of the exact timing of winter wetsuit deployment.
Looks wise, the High Seas hooded is badass. Minimal logo noise, muted, fast looking charcoal pallette, modern up close, timeless from twenty paces.
That is, that crucial moment when the 3/2 (with boots, or even hood) just isn’t cutting it, and the switch to legit winter rubber must be made. But how to know when to step up in thickness? Do you hang on too long, maybe ruining the best autumnal sessions by being chilly? Versus deploying the winter gear too early, then, as many a friends’ mum (not just the Nause’s) would say about not taking your coat off indoors “not feeling the benefit of it” later. As if getting used to being warm in late November would somehow make you relatively colder come Feb?
I decided, against a couple dozen years’ experience of delaying, that in fact last week, early November, marked the official start of my surfing winter.
So, the Vissla High Seas 4/3 Hooded and I set about it.
Fans of Vissla’s wetsuit oeuvre will already be familiar with the brand’s favourable lightness to flex to warmth ratio; they make some of the lightest, warmest suits in the game, in other words. And now the High Seas range, a step up in terms of performance from the popular Seven Seas line, offers further supreme comfort and performance for a few extra shekels outlay.
Money well spent if you ask me.
To find out why, let’s start inside out.
New for 2021, the High Seas features fewer panels. Fever Fiber lining runs throughout the inside of the suit, from the knees to the chest/shoulder blades, providing your main insulation and quick drying layer. South of that, a bespoke ’Eco fiber stretch thermal‘ lining in the legs ensure that fine balance between warmth and roundhouse kick to the face freedom of movement.
Slipping into to it, everything feels softer, lighter and less is morer than what you’re expecting it to feel like, based on the fact that it’s a hooded winter suit.
Most notably, the arms. Extra stretchy rubber with what feels like a new kind of external jersey, one that wicks moisture away in transverse lines in the jersey, makes paddling feel like that first time you drove a car with power steering. They’re calling it Ridiculous Rubber, carrying on that proud tradition of wetsuit brands capitalising a noun and an adjective, so as to make them proper nouns. I don‘t hate it, my arms and torso have never felt so liberated in a hooded suit. As for the hood itself, an upper neck portion of the Ridiculous Rubber before transitioning into the smooth skin hood means you can whip your neck in the most vicious of backside snaps, or better yet, turn your head around quick to see who you’ve dropped in on, allowing you to make that crucial decision whether or not to flick off.
(L) In a post-apocalyptic beach scene, you’ll need all the protection you can get. The hooded High Seas shoulder feature highly on ever prepper’s list. (R) SW France, home to sandy tubes that require basically every bit of surf gear ever invented, from trunks to hooded winter gear.
Fully taped triple GBS seams throughout the inside of the suit ensure your seal against death by a thousand icy trickles.
Once on, you’ll notice the relative lightness for a full winter suit. Thickness is often a relative, rather than an absolute. One brand’s four three is another’s 4 point 5, etc, etc. How that thickness translates to warmth is relatively relative too; essentially a function of how much air is blown into the neoprene, thus how insulating it is. Seeing as nobody at the end consumer level is really measuring wetsuit thicknesses with calipers to check, the significant part is how much you can surf unrestricted, compared to how warm you’re actually kept.
The High Seas 4/3 feels like it’s right at the cutting edge of that balance; the lightness and flex of a much thinner suit, the insulation of a thicker. Everybody wants the best of both worlds in their surf gear, boards that paddle yet still turn, suits that are toasty yet supple. The High Seas delivers on the latter.
In all honesty, if you study the subject long enough, you’ll notice a lot of the modern wetsuit brands boasts really similar component parts, construction, alleged eco-credentials, materials, etc.
What really sets them apart, isn‘t marketing spend, team riders, how good their edits are, it‘s how these components all come together. To that end, Vissla have been getting it right for a number of years, and the High Seas feels like it’s right at the very top end of contemporary high spec equipment for winter surfing.