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(Monday) 2.16.15

Billabong XERO Furnace

Wetsuit #2 is Billabong’s XERO Furnace 2mil. Yup, Billabong sent a 2mil when everyone else dropped 3/2′s. MSRP $439.50

 

Having never owned or used a Billabong suit I was pretty psyched to try the XERO Furnace. Billabong has been a staple in surfing for longer than I’ve been alive and their boardshorts are world class, so when I heard rumblings of them adding a bunch of tech into their suits I was excited they opted to participate in this years test.

Suit Tech 

The XERO Furnace is Billabong’s top of the line wetsuit. Billabong has focused on two goals with this suit – warmth and comfort.  The suit itself is made up of 5 layers, each layer having a specific role, but all bonded together working as a system that promotes warmth.

At it’s core is Billabong’s Xero Foam. The foam is different from normal foam because the foam has extra air blown into it increasing the cell size. The theory behind this is the more air in the foam the easier it is to retain heat (and stretch which is a nice little side bonus). That layer is wrapped inside and out with a thermal lining – can’t have open cell foam open to the water – it would pass right thru. That membrane then connects to the outer most – External Knit and inner most – Internal Furnace Knit layers.

If you have ever wondered how it is all put together, check out this video that breaks it down step by step.

Suit Creation Video:

 

Important to note: the Furnace layer (that touches your skin) is the purple/white layer with hexagon shape. The shape is not by accident. Billabong has engineered this to reduce surface area limiting the amount that touches your skin. This moves water away from your skin resulting in more warmth and faster dry times.

 

You’ll see in the image below that this 5-layer setup (indicated by purple hexagon pattern) is pretty much everywhere. It is not in the arms or shoulders because those typically are out of the water and a surfer benefits from having that area focused on stretch and flexibility.

 

Entry System – Typically I wouldn’t call out the entry system but Billabong’s take is unique. You still step in thru the neck. However, every suit I have ever wore you pull that internal liner from back to front, then the external piece duplicates the motion. Billabong’s XERO Dry system is different. The internal layer pulls up from the front over your head where the flap is in the back, then you pull the outer layer up and over your head and zip closed. In my first test I always suit up in the dark and it caught me off guard. I almost kooked out and put the suit on backwards – ha! Good news is, the methodology of overlapping the enclosure worked great at keeping the water out.

 

Additional smart innovations surround the suit.

Chest zip starts unattached – some suits are always partially zipped. It’s a little futzy to line up the zipper when you are suiting up but the benefit of an easy exit (because of extra wide opening) more than makes up for it.

Kneepad is solid but I was more impressed with the area behind the knee. It was pre-bent making it way more comfortable when bending. So when you duck dive, hack, or are tucking in the barrel.

Cuffs aren’t an afterthought. They have a solid one-inch seal, but also a little edge past the seal (1/8 inch) so it’s even harder for the ocean to seep in.

So how’d it do?

Surf Test 1:

The first surf test was 100 minutes long (6am-8:40am) in 2-3ft playful surf. Air temp was 57.6 at the start, water temp was 64, and end air temp was 65. Winds were light to calm and never that significant.

IMPORTANT – Billabong sent me a 2/2 wetsuit when all other manufacturers sent a 3/2. I am still testing under same parameters, but wanted you to know.

Like mentioned above I almost kooked out and put the suit on backwards – ha! Once on I loved the comfort (in and out of the water). That inner lining is so nice. Almost all the suits have them and I love it. It’s warm and cozy – luxury surfing for sure. During the entire test I felt warm. As I was taking temp readings throughout the test they came in a little lower than I expected (1-2 degrees) and I was a surprised because I never felt cold. I’m not exactly sure why this is the case, but every suit gets tested twice so it will be something I watch in test #2.

The suit has really solid stretch in critical panels. I never felt constricted in the wings and never felt compressed in the shoulders. When Billabong kept talking about warmth and comfort I thought this was an area that would suffer, but not the case at all. I never felt heavy or constricted when paddling for waves – which I loved.

Seals in the cuffs were great. Some water inevitably gets in the suit but I did not have any reoccurring issues with water seeping.

The last 30 mins of my session the tide started to get swampy so I moved inside and was riding the shore pound. Now, the surf was never very big, but you know inside there will be some occasional beatings. The suit held up just fine with only a small temp drop namely because of sand and pebbles getting into the ankles and allowing some water to come in. After a quick flush of the ankle the suit steadied it’s internal temp.

Net Net – really happy with the suit. Couple of items to watch for in test #2.

Surf Test #2 (all test #2 include booties) 

About three weeks have passed between Test #1 and Test #2. I have tested all the suits at least once and we also had a flat spell. This is very relevant because in those weeks the water temp has dropped 4 degrees and morning air temps have dropped by 7 degrees. AND – it’s noticeable. Walking down the beach and getting into the ocean you feel the difference.

On test #2 the swell was 3-4’+ and gusty offshore winds at 10-15mph. There were times it was blowing harder – I know because the wind held me up on the lip a couple times and that just doesn’t happen with a light breeze. I surfed for 120 mins (6am-8am) although the readings only reflect the first 90 minutes. The surf was very fun and lots of waves to go around. Not many instances of long lulls or just sitting and waiting.

The suit performed great. Just like the first test the seals are fantastic. Not seeping in wrists or ankles. Different from the first test I’ve added booties to the second test (all suits will use the same bootie). Ankles remained nice and tight even with the addition of extra neoprene to cover.

Like the first test I felt warmer than the temp readings. The air was cold, wind was blowing and my ears were starting to sting/get numb feeling but my core, arms and legs were all fine. In comparison to the first test the average temp inside the suit was only .5 degree difference. My average internal temp only dropped .5 degrees while the water went down 4 and the air 7 and there was a wind chill added to the mix. My gut tells me it’s the internal lining helping to insulate against that chill.

Flexibility is also one of this suits strong points. I never felt exhausted in shoulders or wings because of extra weight or constricting neoprene. I think it being a 2mm and not a 3/2 had something to do with that as well.

Overall I was very happy with the suit and it will receive high marks in the user evaluation piece. I can see this being in my primary rotation of suits because of it’s nice balance between warmth and flexibility.

Stay tuned for the next suit… up in a couple days.

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