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|When it comes to staying warm this winter, Rip Curl's Flash Bomb Plus is in a league of its own.|
Last year, Rip Curl released the Flash Bomb. With a fuzzy orange lining that Taylor Knox claimed dried in 15 minutes (it did), it was touted as a breakthrough in wetsuit technology. It lived up to the hype, winning the "Wetsuit of the Year" at SIMA's 2011 Image Awards. From a workaday surfer's perspective, the suit worked. It was warm, flexible and durable. After a year in mine it shows little sign of wear, and not because I didn't wear it. I admit, it surpassed my expectations.
But the folks in Torquay have gone one better. This fall they released the Flash Bomb Plus. It should win the "Wetsuit of the Year" honors again. The West Coast has finally cooled off enough to give it a test, and after spending sufficient time in the waters of northern and southern California, it's fair to say it's a damn good suit and markedly improved from last year's.
The most noticeable change comes in the added Titanium Air Loc neoprene to the body.
"This is an air chamber type of neoprene that we have lined with super stretch Titanium," says Rip Curl Technical Products Director P.J. Elbing. "The Titanium lining act as an insulator retaining the body heat you produce. The air chamber foam insulates similar to other high end foams but is lighter and more flexible."
The Air Loc rubber has a techy, honeycomb look to it, and does seem to be warmer, but it's hard to tell. The suit's liquid taped seams, wicking Flash Lining and chest zip entry ensure an almost watertight seal when you climb into it. There was very little flushing after taking multiple waves on the head north of Santa Cruz, which is nice. (Although it provided little comfort when a headless elephant seal drifted through the lineup.)
Rip Curl upgraded the arm and underarm panels with their ES+ super stretch rubber, which helps loosen up the suit when paddling and surfing. And the warm fuzzy Flash Lining is back. Far and away that's my favorite part of the suit. It's like putting on fleece pajamas. Hang it out in the sun for 15 minutes after a session and it's dry-ish and ready for round two. Gone are the days of clammy, cold, uninviting wet wetsuits. I'm still not sure if I'm allowed to pee in it, but otherwise it's the best lining I've ever had in a wetsuit.
While Rip Curl does peddle its lines of men's and women's clothing, they're primarily known as a wetsuit company, much like their competitor O'Neill. It's where their roots lie. It's what they do best. As the old business adage goes, "Find one thing you do well and do that."
"Our key focus in building wetsuits has been to offer surfers high quality, innovative, and durable products," says Elbing. "We've challenged ourselves to raise the bar for technology and innovation once again with the Flash Bomb Plus. We're happy to say that it's even lighter, warmer and more flexible."
Getting a new wetsuit is almost as good as getting a new surfboard, especially when it works like it's supposed to. I'm a bit of a freak on the subject. I wore my first wetsuit to school in second grade, hiding it under a turtleneck and jeans. All I remember is coming home really sweaty. But in all my years of cold-water surfing and trying all kinds of wetsuit gimmicks, the Flash Bomb Plus is proven. Like all their suits, it comes with a 12-month warranty on construction and materials, as well as the taped seams. It does carry a $500 price tag, but there's no reason why with proper care this suit can't last you the next few seasons. Find out more at RipCurl.com.