Say hello to Isurus - California designed compression wetsuits made from 100% Yamamoto rubber. Welcome to wettie heaven. Took the plunge and dropped a chunk of change on an I-Elite 434 last week, and couldn't be happier that I did.
You get what you pay for, and Isurus delivers. Super warm, super light, and a 4/3 that feels like you're hardly wearing a wetsuit. Worth every cent if you're after a high-end technical suit which let's you think you're surfing in boardies, well, almost.
I love a good wettie. And am an absolute sucker for Japanese rubber. And nothing is more gooey buttery than Yamamoto neoprene. So buttery you wanna spread it on your toast. It's the Ferrari of the wettie world. Fell deeply in love with the stuff ever since buying a Matuse wetsuit years ago, and been on the lookout for wetsuits that are made from it ever since. So when Twiggy brought the brand over to SA at the end of last year I knew it wouldn't be too long before I succumbed.
Let's start with the basics. If you like high-end wetties you'll have heard about Yamamoto neoprene - made from limestone mined in Japan, instead of petroleum. It is lighter yet warmer than other standard neoprene, thanks to it's closed cell structure. This means it repels water instead of schlurping it in - which is what makes open-cell suits get heavier and colder as your surf goes on. So closed cell is the go. The suit is super light to start with, and barely changes weight once it's wet. Almost the same weight wet and dry. Lightest 4/3 I have ever owned.
The air pockets in the Yamamoto Aerodome neoprene keep you warmer cos self generated body heat is stored within the closed cell material. Yamamoto neoprene is the stuff used in over 90% of the high end tri-athletes wetsuits because of its superior weight to warmth ratio - ie thinner suit that keeps you warmer. Trust the tri ou's - cos they need the optimal warmth/flexibility ratio to allow 'em to perform at their peak.
The suit is lined with stuff called Heat Fibre Core membrane. Which is a slick soft covering, not the furry jersey you get it other top end suits. This keeps things really light, whilst still keeping you toasty. Wind chill is dealt with by the Yamamoto SCS Nano Skin coated shoulder and back panels, which increase solar heat absorption and provide some serious wind protection.
So far the coldest water I've surfed in it with has been 16C, combined with a howling west, and it handled that like a champ. No doubt it'll handle colder than that without a prob. It's rated for 11C and upwards.
Not only were triathlete's the inspiration behind Isurus's choice of rubber, but they also inspired the actual design of the suits in a big way. Tri-athletes worked out you need form fitting suits that stretch where you need it, yet still fit tight in the right places. The anatomical design includes a one-piece panel from the hip all the way to the elbow joint. I went and had a look at all my other suits, and the underarm panel generally terminates anywhere between the bottom of the rib cage to the waist area, so the Isurus definitely has a unique pattern.
This design ensures unrestricted flexibility and maximum paddling power. Zero resistance to paddling, seriously. Most amazing feeling to reach forward on your paddle stroke and feel....nothing. No resistance, no pull, no nothing. Like you paddling in a rashie, not a wettie.
The whole anatomical design thing that goes a long way to helping you stay in the water longer cos you aren't getting tired just fighting against your suit. Don't forget the majority of your surf sesh is paddling, not surfing. So it makes sense to have a wetsuit that has taken that into account.
Compression technology used in high performance sports gear was incorporated into the suit design as well. The seams are specifically placed to provide muscular support.
What's interesting is that the rubber isn't crazy stretchy like some of the suits these days. Like the one's where you grab the wrist and just yank the arm until it's like double the length of your own arm. It makes sense cos basically your arm doesn't ever need to stretch to twice it's own length so no reason your wettie has to do that! And the more stretch it has the more prone the neoprene is to breaking down. So the Isurus rubber is stretchy enough for sure, combined with the excellent cut of the suit, means you don't need the hyper crazy stretch.
The chevrons on the arms are referred to as the Forward Propulsion System, and are meant to improve your power output per stroke. Gimmicky? Probably. But they certainly don't do anything negative and look pretty cool.
The suits is glued, blindstitched and taped. Now to be honest I have only bought liquid seal seamed suits for ages, as love the totally waterproof seal they provide (before they crack and die - which is inevitable). So it was with a good degree of trepidation that I decided to try the Isurus GBS/taped set-up. Turns out I needn't have worried. The Isurus comes with some pretty rad looking tape - otherwise known as Yamamoto Titanium SCS silver taping. Which their website says is the lightest, most flexible water repellent tape available.
I did feel the teeniest bit of water seepage through the seams on the calves as I walked into the water - which you don't feel on a liquid seam sealed suit. But it was fractional. And after 5 more steps into the surf you didn't even notice it anymore. I felt nothing coming through the seams on the rest of the suit.
GETTING IN & OUT
I have never owned a chest entry suit that is this easy to get into. Normally chest entries involve all sorts of wiggling and contorted yoga poses. Not with the I-Elite, This thing just slides straight on. So easy it's ridiculous. It's actually easier to get into than my back zip suits!
Before buying the suit I'd done plenty googling about it, and lotsa peeps had said how tricky it was to get into to start with, and felt a bit tight the first few surfs then fitted like a glove after that once it'd molded to your shape. Might felt super comfy from the get go, and was so easy to get into.
Once you're in you just yank the neck panel over your head and fasten the chest zip. My best experience with a chest zip to date. Cos often the zipping it up part also entails a bit of a struggle, but not so with the Isurus. Nice chunky easy to use zip. There's a lil toggle on the shoulder where you can pull the shoulder seam tighter if you want.
Probably one of the best fitting suits I've ever owned. Gonna say the the sizing might run a tad small, as I am usually an XS in guys suits (Billabong and O'Neill) or a 16 in Boys suits. I took a Small in the I-Elite. I didn't actually try on an XS cos the guys couriered the suit down to me to try on as no-one stocks them in PE, and they didn't have an XS in stock at the time. The Small fitted me perfectly.
If you are wanting to try out the suit it might be worth getting them to send you your normal size and one up, then you can just send the one you don't take back to them.
Neck fitted nice and securely and I didn't get any flushing through it at all. Admittedly the surf lately has been really small, so no serious duck dives or thrashings yet. Seals on the ankles and wrists stop flush. The only time I did get some flush up the one leg was when I screwed up a cuttie and somehow managed to go feet first into the wave at high speed.
Can't comment on this yet cos only had the suit a week. But it certainly looks like a suit you'll have to look after properly. The buttery gooey neoprene wants extra love and care. So if you hard on your suits then this ain't for you. This one you treat like a king - you use a changing mat (don't go stomping it all over the rough tar as you take it off), peel it off nicely instead of the usual stand on the leg with your other foot as you yank it out, and you rinse it after every surf, and then hang it to dry by folding it in half over a hanger. If you love it properly then you should expect at least 2 winters from it, maybe more.
Seems like there are quite a crew of guys in Northern Cali and Southern Aus that swear by these suits, and they're getting good wear outta them in harsh conditions. With guys saying 2 to 3 seasons is the norm. So let's see how this goes. I look after my suits really well, so I expect them to last. If they don't, I don't buy them again. Easy.
SHOULD YOU BUY ONE?
If you want one of the best wetties money can buy, then absolutely. It's light, warm, and ridiculously comfortable. But you'll have to look after it nicely to keep it happy. Because you're going to be dropping some serious coin. My I-Elite 434 cost me R4500. For that price I expect to get at least 2 years outta it for it to be good value. So holding thumbs that it's as durable as it is awesome. Cos if it is, then it's a slam dunk. And once you've worn top-end Yamamoto rubber you'll be hooked for life. Be warned.
WHERE TO BUY
Unless you live in Cape Town, where the Isurus agents Mike Schlebach and Twiggy Baker are located, you're gonna have to drop em a mail and get em to courier a suit to you (which they do at their cost). You can get hold of them via their FB page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Isurus-South-Africa/532403376905106 or shoot Mike an email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Ran into Brett Hoppe in the line-up a few days after getting my suit and was raving to him about it. Musta tweaked his interest cos he ordered an I-Elite 232 the next day...and has this to say about it after his first few surfs:
"This thing is on another level. The cut is great, warmth 10/10 and the lightness is ridiculous. The claimed compression tech? Maybe it’s just in my mind but I swear it seems to work! I have had plenty wetsuits in my time, and after a few sessions in this I can conclusively say it's a great suit – super stoked!!"
Brett got an I-Elite 232 (R4000)
I love wetsuits. Own a lot of them. More wetties than shoes. Cos who likes getting into a wet wettie? And staying warm wins. And being comfy and warm wins more. Suits currently in my PE winter rotation include a few O'Neill Psycho 3's and a Billabong Solution SGX. Great suits too.
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.