No frills suit offers lightweight stretch in an eco-consciousness package
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 7 December, 2016 - For this most recent Surfersvillage Hard Test we reviewed a stylish, user-friendly suit with eco friendly claims - the Sen No Sen 4/3 front zip full suit. In a nutshell: It’s a stylistically quirky mid-level priced wetsuit made with Japanese limestone neoprene. The suit has a surprising amount of stretch for a 4/3 and retails for around 350 Euros (for 500 Euros you can get a custom fitted suit.)
The company behind it, Sen No Sen is a core French brand that is best known for their sensible, hip clothing. “Sen No Sen is not a wetsuit brand,” says founder Mathieu Desaphie. “We are a clothing brand, so I design and think of wetsuits like I do for garments. We always use the finest fabrics to make quality products. For wetsuits we use the best limestone neoprene.”
So how well did Sen No Sen (the words are Japanese for anticipation and response in combat) do by approaching wetsuit design as they would clothing? Let’s find out.
Out of the box the first thing we noticed is the 4/3 is lightweight, soft, slinky and colourful - Sen No Sen suits are made in one solid color with shades like wine, olive and navy. Yes, suits are available in black, but they sell out quickly.
As a reminder, Neoprene is a trademarked name for polychloroprene which is a synthetic rubber produced by the polymerization of chloroprene. But the term is generic when talking about wetsuits, like Band-Aid or Kleenex, so we’ll use “neoprene” when talking about wetsuits here.
The 4/3 test suit we tried is 90% limestone neoprene and 10% nylon. Sen No Sen’s combination is a good choice as we found the suit to be very stretchy, soft and water resistant.
Limestone neoprene is currently at the centre of the green wetsuit debate. To make limestone neoprene companies use acetylene derived from the calcium carbonate found in limestone. By comparison traditional neoprenes use butadiene derived from petroleum and are quite toxic and harmful to the environment to produce. The energy process to make limestone neoprene is still much less than the energy required to make petroleum-based neoprene, but is still more energy intensive than Yulex-made natural rubbers.
Companies like Sooruz and Patagonia opt to use Yulex natural rubber tapped from hevea trees as a way of avoiding petroleum use.
However we found that while both alternative neoprenes are good, Patagonia’s Yulex lacked proper stretch and the Yulex used by Sooruz was a bit heavier in weight to limestone.
Enough chemistry for now, how did the Sen No Sen suit perform?
As mentioned, the nylon lining on the suit is very slinky and soft. The company uses 4mm through the core and legs and 3mm through the shoulders and arms. The suit is very stretchy and flexible and in the surf it did not feel restrictive. We noticed water beading off of the neoprene and it took nearly 20 minutes of surfing for the outer nylon of the suit to become entirely wet.
The interior chest panel is made of polypro, or polypropylene, a thermoplastic polymer used in a lot of wetsuits on the market. Why? Because it’s a good basic insulater.
On a side note, it’s interesting that each wetsuit brand has their own version of a plush-textured chest panel or interior lining. A few years ago wetsuit makers discovered that your body heats air more efficiently and since then we’ve seen linings such at Rip Curl’s Flash Dry, XCEL’s TDC, Body Glove’s Red Cell and Sooruz’ Polar Dry, just to name a few, come to market. The polypro Sen No Sen uses in the chest panel is extremely hydrophobic. We poured water on it and watched it bead off in the same manner water would be repelled off of a plastic bag.
Seams: The inside neoprene is taped while the outside seams are sewn with stretchy thread. Many suits use an outer liquid seam seal which creates a great barrier to water seepage, but restricts the flexibility of the suit. Sen No Sen’s interior tape is thin, non-porous and stretchy. It did a great job keeping water out but still maintained a lot of stretch and flex. Some suits on the market use a more cloth-like interior tape which doesn’t keep water out quite as well although cloth will provide stretch. The only drawback is that the interior rubber tape is quite thin, so we can’t vouch for durability and lifespan of the material.
Design: It’s a really simple cut through the back and core with very few seams. Remember that a wetsuit will be more flexible if it has fewer seams as neoprene stretches better than glued and stitched seams are able to stretch. It’s also a good looking suit with stylish understated screened logos on the back, chest, calf and forearm.
Another thing we liked was the entry system to this suit. It’s front zip, but without having one side anchored to the suit. The side-anchored front zip suits don’t open as wide and are therefore more difficult to get into. This detached-on-both-sides front zip was easy to get into. We were skeptical when we first saw the suit as this type of entry system is known to flush easily when surfing, but during test surfs we found no flushing through duck dives or wipeouts.
What we liked best about the Sen No Sen 4/3 fullsuit:
Suit is hydrophobic with good insulation.
Little to no water seepage through the seams.
Limestone neoprene is more enviro-friendly option to petroleum.
We liked the front zip entry system - easy to get in and out of and didn’t flush.
The suit has good stretch thanks to the combination of stretchy thread, inner tape and no outer seam seal.
Suit is not an overly “fluffy” wetsuit on the interior. It feels more slinky, whereas some of the plush-interior suits on the market can be scratchy and even chaff.
What could be improved on the Sen No Sen 4/3 fullsuit:
Size options now include S, MS, M, MT, L, XL. Would like to see more mid-sizes offered like LT and XLT.
While the brightly coloured suits look good on models and web pages, most of us don’t want to stand out so much in the lineup. That said, having the entire suit in an intense color does look better (to us at least) than having flouro coloured panels.
Overall, at 350 Euros we’d recommend this suit. It’s well made, performance-oriented, stylish and uses a more environmentally friendly option than traditional neoprene.