Once upon a time, there was a force called Cold. This was not an honourable force, for it brought shame to surfing. Cold robbed those who rode waves of their honour, and in males, of their manhood. It mocked their explorations of water and wave. And so it was determined that Cold should be banished.
Many had fought with Cold, but succumbed because their heart was not pure, or because they were inflexible. Then came Pyro. It was mocked by many, but it mattered not, for it was supple like water, and flexible like the sapling. And so like the humble farmer who stood up to the cruel emperor to save his own honour, so Pyro vanquished Cold’s cruel grip on the oceans.
A rather innocuous thread on the BC Surfing Forum questioned whether one might ever consider surfing in a drysuit. Overwhelmingly, most people made cat-calls; I think my reply was...
"Not personally. But I think it' would be a great idea to do it to one of your unsuspecting friends as a joke. Then laugh as they get bashed around extra-hard in the white-water and slowly fill with water. Then you could razz them the whole way home as a bonus." and "Surfing is quite a bit different than playing Charlie Brown with a kite. You're in the water, not on the water, and believe it or not, that little extra buoyancy provided by all the extra air in your drysuit makes Daniel-san more like cork and less like duck when going through waves. The result is a much harder working than is really necessary. Plus it's bulkier with those extra layers. I've seen enough sad-sacks trying to surf in their dry-suits to know that you look like the white guy in Japan as compared to the functionality of a wetsuit."
In any case, most rational people that surf know better than to do so in a drysuit. I was firmly in the not-a-chance camp, until I was goaded into trying out a new "dry core" design by Richard Myerscough at Ocean Rodeo, the manufacturer of the Pyro Drysuit. They’re right down the road in Saanichton, here on Vancouver Island. I was kind of suspicious because Richard wasn’t particularly defensive about his new invention, which is often the case when something sucks. In fact he appealed to mocking me, which is usually the best way to get me to do something that I wouldn’t normally do.
I’m by nature a skeptical person. I was impressed at the quality of design when Richard dropped it off at my place of employment. We have an odd mix of surfers, divers, sailors and survival enthusiasts where we work, so while it caused a stir, its appearance didn’t help to dispel my skepticism. It looks like a drysuit but it doesn’t, if that makes any sense. Like a drysuit’s fancy-ass cousin maybe.
Taking it up northwards to the breaks, where I was assured a proper razzing from a familiar crew, it became clear to me that as I put it on, I wasn’t going escape the fact that I looked like Buck Rogers. Oddly, it kind of suits the japanoid 4X4 that I drive so it wasn’t entirely out of place. What was impressive is that it didn’t look like a drysuit at all, nor did it feel like one as I walked around in it. It felt like a pair of pyjamas. That’s probably because you have a fleece jumpsuit on underneath it. It felt different, but it didn’t feel at all bulky, in fact it felt less restricting.
Ocean Rodeo Pyro Surf Suit on Discovery channel - youtube.com
Initially, I felt that the zipper would be a problem. It looked like it would be, but it actually sits higher than where you lie on your board, only touching occasionally. Heading out into the water, the first thing that I noticed was that my arms felt lighter. Actually everything felt lighter. It was more akin to paddling around in a light set of clothes that didn’t get wet. (go figure). My biggest concern was that it wouldn’t be submergible but I was able to duck-dive the suit with only a little more trouble than a normal wetsuit. Instead of bobbing around like a cork, I did get submerged and through the wave face. Fighting off the occasional urge to self-warm with recycled morning coffee, I was able to paddle very easily. The only downside was that the interface between the Lycra and the bladder was a bit slippery, so you did tend to slide around a bit. Richard explained to me that some surf wax on the bladder will fix this and that they’re putting more slipguard (slip-not) is what he called it. These are his words…
The slip between the two layer's is an easy fix, (with wax for "on the spot") but we also have a thin rubber material called "slip not" that will be fused to the rip cage area of the dry core (outer surface). When pressure is placed on the "slip not" (laying on your board) it locks the Lycra skin in place...NO shift. The dry core you tested was a L / XL,..... one size to big, for sure this didn't help with the shift,...
In any case, that was my only problem with it. There would be more photos but my camera appropriately died on the beach. RIP.
Here’s the summary for people who dig statistics…
Estimated Performance Breakdown:
Time to put on: 8.5 minutes
Time to take off: 2 minutes
30-35% lighter in the water
20% more buoyant, but I could still duck dive
20-30% warmer (lack of flushing was great, but if you don’t move)
No peeing (boo!)
30% more flexible
Overall, if I kite boarded, windsurfed, dingy-sailed and surfed, I would rush out to buy this suit. I’d be leaning against the door waiting for them to open. I’d sell my best friend’s sister on the black market to pay for it. It offers very little compromise to your surfing performance and is lighter, more flexible and warmer. Richard isn’t even paying me to say this stuff…I’ve only met the guy twice and he made fun of me once!
That being said, I think that I am just used to a wetsuit though as you feel like you’re actually in the ocean as opposed be being surrounded by it. Perhaps that’s just a small esoteric detail. Plus, unlike the drysuit or the expensive new O’Neil H-bomb, 50 cups of coffee and you know it’s on for a long day of self-recharged warmth in an old wetsuit that no-one else dares borrow. C’mon …everyone does it…