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Beach Grit

Faux/Real: The Back-Zip Wetsuit!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Ancient technology triumphs in wetsuit design.

If you would examine your current wetsuit, you’d find it to be a chest-zip or zipper-less suit. Am I right?

To get into these suits is a melodrama. You must squeeze your heft into a little hole, push one arm into a smaller hole, shimmy it up around your chest, fix first arm, then second, throw the flap over your head and so on. Its removal requires yogi-like dexterity.

Some years ago, all wetsuits came with a long zip from ass to neck. Entry was via a hole as big as your waist, not your neck, and the transaction was completed in a minute or less. It’s post-session removal was almost instant.

But then, partly through marketing (pressure on designers from their sales departments to give something new to push), partly through the need to create so-called advancements in technology (testing showed back zips were slightly more permeable than a neck entry), the back zip faded into memory.

A few weeks ago, I saw that Need Essentials had thrown a few back-zip steamers into their range. And, yesterday, while surfing with a pal in Leucadia he loaned me a one-year-old O’Neill Psychofreak with a back zip or, as its called by O’Neill, a “Zen Zip”.

It’s been a decade or so since I’d experienced the thrill of easily throwing on a suit. It was elevating.

And after the session, all it took to loose my torso into the sun was a one-handed rip of the neck closure and a yank of the zip.

I find the back zip so superior to either zipperless or the chest-zip that this hardly qualifies as faux or real.

But maybe I’m wrong.