Short arm fullsuits are a staple in many wetsuit quivers when the summer season means shedding a 4/3 full suit
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 6 June, 2017 - “Summer wetsuit.” It just doesn't sound good. But a good chunk of the globe is not trunk-able during the summer months. Northern California has water in the mid-50s throughout summer while Southern California can be as much as 15 degrees warmer. Some areas in the UK see water in the mid-to-low 60s, making it a good choice for a 2/2 short sleeve suit (depending on your personal cold threshold). For surfers in those areas where summer doesn't mean trunking it, we reviewed three short arm full suits for the "easy season."
In this review we tested three short arm fullsuits (an oxymoron, we know, but it's how the companies list them). Prices ranged from $190 to $450 and covered all levels of quality. Yes, you mostly get what you pay for, but often times evenly priced suits vary quite a bit in material, seam construction and overall quality.
Rip Curl Aggrolite 2/2 short arm full $190
Glued and blind stitched, which is standard for a short sleeve 2mm fullsuit. However, the suit uses interior tape along the stress points: under the arms, along the crotch and at the ankles and wrists. Great option as most suits give over time at these high stress points. The neoprene is average in stretch and not a high-end performance material. The entry system is a slanted, fixed-at-one-side zip design with a pull tab to tighten everything up. On this suit the colourful panels may use stitching that is not absolutely necessary for performance, but it looks good. This is suit has a low price point, and as such it’s a good option for surfers who will only use the suit a handful of times or who are entry-level surfers and don’t want to shell out a lot for a high-performance wetsuit.
Pluses: Low price point, colorful, solid build.
Minuses: Very basic quality neoprene with average stretch.
Body Glove Pr1me 2/2mil short arm full $190
To reduce the overall seam area on this wetsuit Body Glove got creative with their zipper design and placement. They reconfigured the upper half of the suit and used fewer seams through crucial paddling areas. The neoprene on the Body Glove Pr1me short sleeve full suit is what Body Glove brands as EVOflex, a composite blend of materials. The EVOflex is also covered with a 100% water hydrophobic print. We found the hydrophobic exterior print did allow less water to be absorbed by the exterior fabric than traditional neoprene. The seams are glued and blindstitched with Body Glove going as far to say the interior seams are triple sewn with two-thread stitch that automaticaly ties itself off if the stitch is broken. To keep water from rushing in at the neck, arms and ankles, the suit has blunt cut edges with a smoothie panel of neoprene to keep the openings secure. The suit performed well and we had no flushing during test surfs.
Pluses: Solid construction at a good price with very stretchy neoprene and smooth inner seams (no thread).
Minuses: Bulky fixed-at-one-end zipper system that feels like it has more material than is necessary.
7 Till 8 Custom 3/2 short arm full $450
The 7 Till 8 3mm custom fit short sleeve full suit is the gold standard for arms-free full suits. Out of all the short arm full suits we tested for this article, this one featured premium neoprene and a premium custom fit. Of course it came at a premium price.
7 Till 8 is a forward thinking company that custom sizes all of their suits. It works like this: The website has simple video clips customers can follow to take measurements. Once completed, buyers just plug in the set of numbers and credit card info and a new custom suit is shipped out. We found the custom fit on the suit we ordered to be spot on. The initial difference one feels is that there are no places that feel too tight or pinch in places.
The company also uses Yamamoto limestone neoprene, although customers have the option to opt out of Yamamoto limestone neoprene which knocks roughly $100 off the price. Limestone neoprene is gaining popularity among eco-conscious consumers who want to choose a petroleum-free neoprene. Please note: We use the term neoprene when talking about wetsuit rubber, but neoprene is a trademarked name for polychloroprene - so it’s like saying “Kleenex” instead of “Facial Tissue.”
Limestone neoprene uses a process to derive sheets of neoprene from limestone. It’s a lengthy, labor and heat intensive process but produces a cleaner alternative to neoprene made from oil. The limestone-to-neoprene process is pretty amazing, as limestone rocks are processed into chunks of gummy material that is then refined further into neoprene sheets. During the process nitrogen gas is blown into the rubber to augment flexibility and reduce weight.
Pluses: Custom fit feels much better than off-the-rack sizes and is a great option for us "odd sized" surfers. Yamamoto neoprene is soft, stretchy, hydrophobic and basically the Rolex of neoprenes.
Minuses: The cost of the suit. But for surfers who have the cash to spend, it's a good choice
Need a refresher course on what makes a good wetsuit? Check the below Wetsuit Basics article covering neoprene, seams, lining and fit...
O'Neill's Technobutter 2 neoprene
Neoprene is amazing. At its most basic level it’s just synthetic rubber with little gas bubbles blown into it. (There's more to it than this, but we'll keep it simple for now). By blowing more or fewer bubbles into the neoprene one can control things like warmth and flexibility. More gas injected into the suit means a lighter, stretchier but ultimately less insulative and weaker neoprene. Less gas used in making the neoprene means it's heavier and more insulative and stronger. Each major wetsuit brand has its own top-shelf neoprene, which is to say their own secret recipe for what they value in performance.
Rip Curl Flashbomb inside taping along seams
Wetsuit seams at the basic level are glued and blind stitched which, while strong, does allow some water to seep in through pinholes in the stitching. This is the type of seam you’ll find on your not-too-expensive suits or warm-water suits.
The next level up is interior-taped wetsuit seams. This means the suits have flexible tape glued along the inside seams. This type of seam provides a good water barrier and plenty of flexibility and strength.
The top-shelf method for preventing water from seeping through the seams is having interior tape and exterior liquid tape. This pretty much means the suit’s seams are waterproof - at least while the integrity of the inner and outer tape material stays pliable and in tact. The only drawback is that heavy taping can decrease a suit’s flexibility.
3. INTERIOR LINING
Three different types of insulative interior lining on the XCEL Revolt wetsuit
Neoprene interior-lining is the new frontier in performance as companies create innovative ways to insulate the interiors of wetsuits. Previously it was just a nylon polyester stretchy material. Then companies started using textured interior linings for improved insulation. This works on the premise that the body heats air more easily than it does water, so most suits today have some type of ‘fluffy’ interior neoprene for your core areas.
Sadly this is the most overlooked component when purchasing a wetsuit. When we hear complaints from surfers about a particular suit that flushes or wears out prematurely in one place, most times it’s because the suit didn’t fit correctly in the first place. Extra strain placed on seams and materials due to an incorrect fit wear out that suit quicker than a proper-fitting suit. To ensure your hard-earned money is spent well, take the time to try on several suits at your local surf shop and find the best fit.