carapace wetsuit review
By Glenn Sakamoto
Winter in California brings colder water and that usually means it’s time to start thinking about a new wetsuit. So when the folks at Carapace Wetsuits asked if I could do a review of their latest suit back in November, I jumped at the chance. We’ve done other tests and reviews on wetsuits (Patagonia Yulex, Billabong, Excel, etc.), but the Carapace Exo had a unique premise – you custom order the suit by inputting your body measurements online.
Traditionally, most wetsuits are purchased at your local surf shop. They are the usual brands and if you are fortunate, you can find one that fits right off the rack. But does one size truly fit all? Let’s say you are a size large, but you may have put on a few pounds since the last time you bought one. Will that same size still fit you? Do you move up to an XL? Most of the people I know are not off-the-rack size-wise. They may have long arms, a sizable middle, short legs or a perhaps a combination of all three. This is where the beauty of a custom tailored wetsuit shines.
There are a number custom wetsuit makers here in California. There is Axxe (based in Japan), Reunion and Jonesea in Costa Mesa and Seal Beach, respectively. And they do beautiful work and presumably use Japanese premium rubber and take your measurements in person. But what if you aren’t local to these custom makers? Carapace allows you to take your measurements using their patented algorithm in the comfort of your own home (or anywhere as long as you have a credit card and wi-fi) and sending those measurements via the internet. This is an example of technology making your life easier.
What this means for you is no embarrassing try-ons at the shop (I actually spoke with a salesperson at an unnamed shop who told me that one woman could not remove a suit, so she decided to pay for it and drive home in it – talk about awkward) and having a suit that fits like a glove delivered to your home in 3 weeks.
How easy was the process? Ordering online was simple and took less than 20 minutes. You will need a friend or partner to help measure you (my wife did the honors). Later I filled in the forms and clicked a button to send. I ordered the 3/2 Exo 2 back-zip. 3 weeks later, my custom-tailored suit arrived in the post.
When I unboxed the Carapace suit, I particularly noticed how new and fresh it seemed. The finish of the suit – taped seams and stitching – were clean and precise. This was a top-of-the-line build.
Alex Wang (Founder of Carapace) tells me that most standard off-the-rack wetsuits have been sitting in containers and warehouses for months (and maybe years) before it spends a few months at your shop before you purchase. This means that your “new” wetsuit’s neoprene has been exposed to both time and UV, possibly degrading the material. That clearance $100 wetsuit you got on sale? Probably not such a great deal.
But what does surfing in a Carapace custom wetsuit feel like? It feels amazing. The smooth lining inside slides on easily. The ankles and wrist areas are snug and don’t allow water in. Movement in the arms and legs are free without any loose bunching. In short, a perfect match or second skin for your body. And because you stay warmer, you are free to concentrate on your surfing – not on whether your suit is filling up or flushing you with cold water since your last duck dive.
Pros: 100% Premium Yamamoto limestone-based rubber, easy online ordering, amazing fit and finish, warm, lightweight, and quick-drying. Relatively affordable price compared to other custom-made wetsuits. Good customer service.
Cons: I experienced a sticky zipper midway on my back zip suit (the issue has since resolved itself), The material that goes over the head and fits like a collar to prevent flushing is a bit of a nuisance. Imprinted logos on leg and arm are too flashy for my taste.
Conclusion: Would I recommend Carapace custom wetsuits? A definitive yes. The ordering process was easy, the suit arrived on time, and the fit and finish was perfect. If you are used to the hassle of buying the corporate brands off the rack, you are in for a treat. This was my first custom suit and it won’t be my last. To learn more about Carapace custom wetsuits and their unique process go to www.carapacewetsuits.com.
Update: Carapace has changed their name to 7TILL8. Find them here at www.7till8.com.