(Monday) 11.26.12


We are in the home stretch here with only a few more wetsuits to test, then we share the analytical portion of the test and announce Solspot’s 2012 Wetsuit of the year. But first, the task at hand – Isurus i-Elite.

Like we said in the teaser – Isurus is a relatively new player in the wetsuit market. The company started back in 2008 when Jim Brateris “started studying Da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man drawing, pondering range of motion and wondering how one could improve upon poor anatomical fit of most modern wetsuits.” Jim would take his existing suits cut them up and restitch them to his spec. Once he finally had the anatomy of the suit the way he wanted it he went to China looking for a manufacturer to make his 20-point of measure wetsuit.

20-points of measure isn’t the key differentiator for this wetsuit. The two big differences between this suit and the other suits we have been testing is 1. Compression Technology and 2. Yamamoto Neoprene.

Compression technology is nothing new, it’s just new to surf. When Isurus was constructing prototypes and building it’s first wetsuit models they looked at many water sports. They drew inspiration from oceanic triathletes. These athletes have to swim long distances in cold water. The goal of a triathlete is very different from a surfer. Triathletes are constantly moving and because of the long distances they swim they are extremely concerned with efficiency per stroke, weight of a wetsuit, and of course warmth. Pretty much every single wetsuit in the triathlete category uses Compression Technology. Which provides the correct level of pressure on a specific body part to enhance circulation, yielding higher oxygenated muscles and reducing fatigue.

Yamamoto Neoprene is the other big differentiator and another huge component in triathlete wetsuit design. Who’s Yamamoto and what makes their neoprene different? Yeah, I was curious too. Yamamoto is a Japanese company that is best compared to a smaller 3M here in the states. They are a R&D/manufacturer that’s primary focus is on rubber and synthetics. They started back in 1964 developing rubber wetsuits for workers at Japanese fisheries. Today with about $100million in annual sales they are in all sorts of arenas – golf balls, golf grips, triathlete wetsuits – of which they have 90% market share.

The difference is in the closed cell technology, that makes the suit 98% impermeable to water – it doesn’t soak. If it’s not soaked it’s lighter and dries faster because you aren’t carrying a bunch of extra water.

What’s it like to wear it? Before you even put the suit on you smell it. Yup, this neoprene has a strong wetsuit odor. Not sure why I am sharing that, it was just something unexpected so I figured I’d throw it out there. BTW, the smell softens after a couple of sessions.

It’s light and thin… noticeably so. I was a little anxious before my first surf session thinking how could this thin suit keep me warm. Well, it performed very well. Once I got some water in it (post wipeout) and the water heated, the suit was comfortably warm.

Snug. Like a second skin. I’m 5’9” 180lbs and wear a LS. It was tight (most noticeable in the joints – particularly the elbow joint). BUT Isurus’ website it explains after 4-5 sessions the suit will mold to your body – we only tested it twice so we cannot confirm. You may want to size up if you prefer a little extra rubber in your suit.

It feels different. Difficult to describe… you notice how the suit doesn’t collect water and the outside of the suit has water sliding over it. This eventually goes away but the suit never feels soaked.

Given how different the suit is constructed and how the core materials are different we are very excited to see how it stacks up against more traditional wetsuits in our performance testing phase.

Stay tuned.

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  • Jason

    Just curious. Are you guys testing one suit at a time? or switching between the suits during the testing period?

    • bcs

      Each suit gets two 90 minute sessions. We do not test the same suit on consecutive days. After testing each suit in the water for a “subjective” review we are then running all suits through an “objective” performance review and creating a total suit score. We’re in the home stretch. Couple of suits to go.

  • More Waves

    Could never give a rating in 90 min! New wetsuits are great, just not breaking them in, yamamoto, or “technobutter” it doesn’t matter. It takes 4-6 sessions to see how it “molds” or balloons, and finally feels like a second skin. The size charts are pretty good now if you don’t have the patience to try it on. Just don’t decide to break in your suit during the best swell of the season. If you gotta get all nutty in the back yard late at night with a hose, doing yoga style surf poses, do it! It’s better than getting launched on the first bomber of a session, cause your top of the line wetsuit feels really stiff, been there… :)

    • BCS

      Understood. We’ve explained our testing methodology to every manufacturer and only Isurus noted the 4-5 sessions for break in, which is why we added that note in the article.

  • More Waves

    I hated my Matuse for the first 5 or six sessions, now it’s freeking insane. Every testing should be six sessions, otherwise some people may end up thinking it’s just Xmas marketing hype like most reviews. Keep up the good work, looking forward to a follow up on each suit. I’m sure people paying retail would appreciate that.

    • BCS

      I hear you. I’ll make sure we continue to use each suit and do an update over time. FYI – we have an analytical portion before we announce a winner.

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