Ok, I have to admit I'm a wetsuit snob. Not having much in the way of my own self-insulation I rely heavily on my suits to keep me warm and toasty. Up til now I've only ever bought top-of-the-range suits from O'Neill, Billabong and XCel. It was all about having the lightest, warmest, most flexible suit no matter what the price.
Then I saw the new ad for the Reef Diamond in the latest issue of the Bomb. You know - the one on the inside cover showing the ou in what looks like a G-String and fishnet stockings?? Couldn't let that go by without taking a prod at Reef - so I shot an email asking em for an interview about the porno suit! Grant from Reef got back to me pronto, and after reading what he had to say about the suit I have to admit I was interested. So I decided to drop some cash and buy myself one to try. Turns out if was a bloody good idea! Cos now I own an absolutely insane suit. Insanely good once you in it, that is :-) But more on that later....
Check out my detailed review below. No sales talk kak, just telling it like it is.
Straight out the box
Nice looking suit, and light as anything. Like really light. Which is cool for a 4:3. I always love to grab the arm of a new suit and give it a stretch to see how flexy it is, and this one has a good amount of give - which means you'll happily be able to do yoga in it if for some strange reason you like doing yoga in a wetsuit.
It's a chest zip suit which means you climb in via the neck (which is where the yoga bit comes into it). It's an interesting design with the zip being attached on the right chest, meaning you no missioning to try hook the start portion of the zip in like on some other chest zip suits. So it's like a zip on your jeans where you just pull it, not like the zip on your hoodie where you have to clip it together before you pull.
Reef stick to the traditional glued n blindstiched with tape approach cos they reckon it just lasts so much better than the liquid sealed seams. Everyone I spoke to about Reef agrees that their suits last really well, so I guess why change what works. Personally I like liquid sealed seams cos it means no water seeping in through the suit itself - so was interested to see how these compared. I was pleasantly surprised.
One hiccup - no key pocket! And no key string either. So hopefully when you buy the suit it comes with car insurance for when the ou's steal your cabby cos you gotto hide your key on the tyre!
Ok, here we have some yin and yang. It's pretty tricky to get into and out of this thing, but damn, once you in it...it's like neoprene heaven! So as the saying goes...the good things in life are worth working for!! I have to admit, the first time I opened up the neck it was "not a fook am I getting my ass in through there!" Because of the permanent attachment of the zipper to the chest on the right side, it means the neck opening isn't quite as stretchy as other neck entry suits. So, you do have to wiggle and waggle a bit to get yourself in there. The first coupla times I didn't manage to pull the shoulders on by myself, but I can manage solo now, although it entails quite a bit of squirming.
The neck part is also a bit tricky to pull over your head - again cos of it being attached on the right side at the chest. But soooo easy once you've got it over your head, just grab the zip and pull. No fumbling to try get the zipper hooked together. A small tab with a press-stud locks the zip in place once it's closed. You also have a stretch cord built into the left shoulder area to tighten up the neck seal area if you want to.
All the mission getting in is forgiven once you've got it on, cos man, this thing is laaank comfortable. As in definitely one of the most comfy suits I've ever worn. Super flexible, super stretchy. The absence of the back zip make such a big difference to your ability to bend and twist.
Ankle and wrist cuffs are snug without being too tight, so no water build up in the arms/legs when you get properly flushed. My ONeill's cuff's seal so well that no water escapes - meaning you sometimes end up looking like the Michelin Man after a good wipeout!!
The interior of the suit is a funky diamond-patterned furry material designed to keep you toasty. Does look a wee bit like fish net stockings tho....but provided you don't wear it inside out you should be fine!
Getting it off is another minor schlep, and it took about 4 surfs before I managed to get out by myself without having to get someone to help pull one of my shoulders off for me first. I'm sure it'll get easier as I get the hang of it (I hope!!) - but I have to be upfront about that fact that getting in and outta this suit isn't a simple process. And it isn't only me - I have asked a coupla other peeps that own the suit and they also admit to it being a bit challenging! But they all agree, once it's on - you're in love!
The performance test
I was worried I wouldn't have the opportunity to try this out til next winter. But then Seals very kindly dished up some 11C water, cold enough to freeze a penguin, and most definitely to shrink nuts into raisins.
And man, did this suit perform!! Far beyond my expectations. I could feel the icy water through my 3mm booties straight away, but no icy legs. No water seeping up through the ankle cuffs or through the seams either. Duckdived the first wave - hardly any water entry down the neck, and whilst my face and hands felt like they were going to fall off, my bod was perfectly warm. Took a few tumbles and no issues with water running down the neck or flushing up the arms/legs, it stayed pretty well sealed.
Did an hour-and-a-bit sesh and was still totally comfortable by the end - got out cos it I suck at lefts, not cos I was in any way chilly. A teeny, and I mean teeny, bit of water seeps through the seams here and there, but really nothing to worry about at all. And I was only aware of this on the 11C day - so might not have actually been water seeping through, but rather just being more aware of the water temp at the seam area's cos obviously the seam area isn't as warm as neoprene cos of the join.
I have had a further 3 surfs with it in water ranging between 11C-15C and it's hands down one of the warmest 4:3 suits I own. With the added advantage of being really light and really flexible. It honestly feels like a 3:2.
What impressed me was how light it stayed during the surf. Often suits can suck up a bit of water and get heavier whilst you're surfing, but the Diamond is just as light when you take it off after a surf as when you started. The new Japanese neoprene they're using in the suits these days rocks.
It dries pretty quick too. Left it in on a chair in the shade on our deck and was pretty dry within an hour. Might well have dried quicker than that - but I only went to check it after an hour.
I can see myself having a love/hate relationship with this suit. It's going to drive me nuts getting into and out of it, but it's a ridiculously amazing suit once you're in it. Whether or not the ballies will manage the wriggling in and out bit I'm not sure - but anyone under 40 should manage just fine (and if you're older than that without a boep or kak flexibility you'll be fine too!)
And at a recommended retail price of around R2800, it has to be one of the cheapest top-end 4:3's on the market. Add to this Reef's reputation for being built to last you should get quite a few seasons use out of it, which is important when you're dropping a chunk of change on a suit. No good if it craps out after one winter.
My final verdict - provided you don't have a spinal fusion or beer boep this is a slam dunk as a great winter suit (that'll also keep you warm at Seals in summer when the east blows it frigid!)
Buy it - and love it!!
Available at Surf Centre - just ask John
What's Gear Guide?
I hate shopping, but I LOVE buying surf stuff. So I'll be posting reviews of whatever new kit I lay my hands on. No sales talk fluff, just telling it like it is. If it rocks I'll say so. If it sucks I'll say so. Simple.