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Friday, January 2, 2009
Updated: January 3, 4:58 PM ET
No Hype, Just Warmth

Today I've got a little gear review in the fom of a "feel good," story for you.

Occasionally it all comes together. And from November to May, there are always empty peaks for the hearty.

Last month, I spent nine days on the North Shore. Now, there's no doubt, Hawaii is a magical place — everything about it. But the crowds in December are almost unbearable. So, I flew back to New Jersey, where it's somewhere between freeze-your-ass-off-cold and uncomfortably-cold (today is just miserable-cold) and there's a package in the mail. It's the new Amp 5-4-3 suit from Hyperflex.

Hyperflex is a pretty small company for the wetsuit market. And unlike every other neoprene peddler, they are not located in Southern California. They're actually headquartered out of Millville, New Jersey, since 2002, a division of Henderson Aquatics.

The new Amp series from Hyperflex is legit. The 5/4/3 is warm and at $279, is a very fair price.

"East coast surfers, especially in the colder water areas, can be very skeptical of new gear. They know cold water wetsuits need to work period. For example, they know they will be using their 5/4/3 hooded suit in 35-degree water and it may even be snowing," says Scott Troxel, Brand Manager.

And because of Hyperflex's location, they can get winter suits from the warehouse to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic in two days.

A few days after returning home, we get a north blow that turns into a nice east swell. The storm sat on us, and when it moved out, the wind went offshore. Our water is in the mid-40s and while the air was above freezing, it always takes a little fortitude to take the plunge. I was preparing for the inevitable, when I looked at that nice, soft, warm, hooded Hyperflex. I tugged it on in the warm house. Then my man Danny V and I went straight to a favorite low-key spot.

This is the day I demoed the Amp.

Let's say the surf was four to six foot. The wind was straight offshore, strong enough to groom it, but not so stiff that it tore the face apart (that happens here.) The paddle out was relatively easy for beachbreak and the sets were peeling left, with a few against-the-grain rights. The barrels were wide open. And this is the best part — not a surfer as far as you could see. That's quite a contrast from the claustrophobic situation at Off The Wall.

The suit was warm on first submersion. The seams on the Amp, like all good winter suits, are both glued and blindstiched, and the interior seems are fusion heat-sealed. No water rushing in the seams.

We started dropping into the occasional cavernous rights, but while they were the size of a small apartment, the lefts were just pushing so well across the bar — so good that even a pair of average Joes could hook into a barrel, or paint the canvas, even in full winter gear. I noticed I was able to sprint paddle back to the take off zone without a ton of effort, partially because of the flex of new rubber. My boy, Chris Pfeill, was shooting down the beach and captured the magic, in all its frigid glory.

Same suit, different day. Scotty Drages slotted in full Hyperflex.

It features super-stretch panel on the hood. This used to be one of the biggest drawbacks to winter suits. It's a shoulder entry, with a flexible zipper across the front and an extra snap to prevent a dreaded zip slip. Your core is snug in a HoneyComb fleece. Most suits have some alternative material on the body now, as neoprene isn't the best insulator.

In the Northeast we sometimes joke that wetsuits would be made differently, if they were headquartered in NYC, rather than OC. Maybe if some companies did their R&D during a Jersey Shore, or New Hampshire winter, boots might not stretch from a size 10 to a 12 over a season.

"Surfers don't really care about the name on the suit as much as they care if they will be warm enough for a two hour session in January. They're open to new ideas, brands and products, but first and foremost, they need to work and be proven in the water," adds Troxel, " As our reputation grew for producing quality coldwater suits, thanks to our AMP 5/4/3 hooded suit, more and more East Coast surfers were willing to try Hyperflex. Once we got consumers to try Hyperflex, our momentum began to snowball."

When the sun comes out, it looks almost inviting.

This 5/4/3 is also a bargain at $280 MSRP. And they're not just sold in this region. You can find them in over 300 retail locations on both coasts, South America, Latin America, Europe, Scandinavia and Japan. The new Hyperflex suits have the warmth end covered. I can't testify to the durability yet. I'll let you know if I'm still toasty in April.

The moral of this story/product review is that while Hawaii will always be the epicenter, there are empty gems for those who can handle the cold, and Hyperflex is now a viable option for your neoprene needs. —Jon Coen