We are pretty stoked with the North Seas wetsuit from Vissla but don't take our word for it. Heres a review from Stu of Nelson Shapes surfboards whos rolling into his 2nd winter with the North Seas suit
Lightest, warmest, most flexible... words that you will see on the website of pretty much any major wetsuit manufacturer at the moment. Not to mention numerous other grand phrases such as ‘unparalleled’, ‘superior’ and ‘pinnacle’. So who is telling the truth, and who is full of shit? I have worn a lot of wetsuits over my years of surfing; some of them good, some of them OK, some of them absolutely useless. All of them have more or less the same descriptions written on their manufacturer’s web pages. So, I tend not to put much faith in what anyone writes about their products online. No manufacturer is going to tell you that the stitching on their £400 wetsuit falls apart after a few surfs and you might as well throw the whole suit in the bin after one season of use, as has been my experience with some other industry leaders.
Last winter ECS hooked me up with a 5.5mm hooded North Seas wetsuit from Vissla, who are relative newcomers to the wetsuit game. Their description of the North Seas wetsuit on their website is fairly matter of fact, but does [obviously] include the words ‘lightest’ and ‘warmest’. And to be fair to them, at first fondle it did indeed feel incredible light. The suit is as thick as any other heavy duty winter suit and is covered everywhere apart from the arms in a quick drying fleece material. Despite this, it still feels inexplicably... well, light. It also looks pretty cool, with a subtle flash of colour round each wrist and stylish mid-grey through the rest of the suit. As for warmth, the first few surfs in any new wetsuit should be warm. The neoprene is brand new and the seams are all still intact. The real test comes once the suit has been left at the bottom of a wet, stinking plastic box for weeks at a time without a rinse, been torn off in a frenzy by it’s freezing cold owner in muddy beach car parks, and has generally been treated like shite.
Last winter was a particularly vile one for weather in the UK, with the two back to back ‘Beast from the East’ storms dropping the mercury as low as -15 in some areas. At the same time, it was probably the best few months of surf on the east coast that I can remember. If ever there was a season to test a new wetsuit, this was it. And, with a record number of surfs at my home break, some short weekend missions up the coast and a wave filled trip to cold and snowy Northern Spain in the middle of winter thrown in, the suit had a lot of use.
So, how did it hold up? Well, I don’t tent to piss in my suits (not good for your skin), but I’m not generally the most caring wetsuit owner. After several months of abuse, the North Seas suit still looks and feels pretty much brand new. The seams are all in one piece, the fleece is still attached to the the neoprene, and there is no visible sign of degradation anywhere on the wetsuit. With a price tag of £369.95 it’s not the cheapest option on the market (although by no means the most expensive), so to know that it’s going to last easily more than one winter is reassuring. For such a thick wetsuit, it feels incredibly light to wear in the water. However, I personally feel that sacrificing warmth for flexibility (as some manufacturers do) is a false economy. Ever tried being loose and flexible while your teeth are chattering uncontrollably and your hands have begun to involuntarily curl themselves into claws? So, the best test of a winter wetsuit for me is how warm it is, and how long it maintains that level of warmth throughout it’s life. As you can see from the photos accompanying this post, I surfed in this wetsuit with a significant amount of snow on the ground, on more than one occasion, and still felt warm. I had several surfs in January and February that pushed on towards 4 hours, and still came out feeling warm. Dawn sessions, evening surfs into the dark - I felt warm. It also fits well. No baggy or excessively tight spots anywhere, and the hood forms a good seal around my face, minimising flushing through the rest of the suit.
To summarise my thoughts on the North Seas suit; it genuinely is warm, light and flexible. It feels good to wear. I like the way that it looks. It has kept me warm through an entire winter of freezing cold east coast surfs, and will do so for another winter, if not two. It is reasonable priced. To be honest, I can’t really fault it. If you are looking to invest in a top line winter wetsuit for the 2018-19 season, you could do a lot worse than looking at the Vissla North Seas suit.