Words: Joe Conway
When I first heard about Isurus, a small company making suits in Montara, California, I was pretty excited. As someone who has surfed their whole life in cold water, it makes sense to me that the people designing suits should live in a place where they actually need one.
I’ve spend a lot of time surfing north of Monterrey, most of it freezing my *ss off. Starting a wetsuit company on that stretch of coast is like selling sweaters in Scotland — it just makes sense. So I got in touch with Isurus, requested a test suit, and did a little reading.
In addition to their geographic advantage, this company is clearly willing to think outside the box. They use a lot of Yamamoto — hardly groundbreaking there — but they also looked beyond surfing to tweak subtle but important aspects of their design. Personally, I’m never going to swim and then bike and then run anywhere, but the Isurus guys weren’t afraid to turn to the highly competitive realm of triathlon to mine some insights.
If you’ve watched any swimming in the Olympics in the past ten years, you probably noticed the proliferation and then sudden disappearance of full and partial-body swimsuits. That’s because the suits, which streamlined the swimmers bodies and provided pressure and support to optimize body mechanics, were banned. Too many records were smashed — the suits actually worked too well and amounted to an unfair advantage.
The triathlon industry apparently followed that revolution carefully. Triathletes are absolutely obsessed with efficiency, and the notion that a wetsuit could actually improve athletic performance inspired some major R &D. Isurus built upon some of the resulting advancements and designed their panels so that the seams limit exertion.
In most company’s literature, a bunch of tech talk like that usually turns out to be mumbo jumbo. So when Isurus’ i-Evade 4-3-4 showed up on my doorstep, I was excited to get it out in the water to see what it was all about. This was in December, before things get really nasty here in Maine. The 4-3-4, which the company aligns with its competitors’ 5-4-3 suits, was just about right for the 45-ish degree water. Any later in the year and it wouldn’t have cut it (the I-Evade 4-5-4 winter suit wasn’t available at the time).
The main thing I noticed as I pulled the suit on was that it felt absolutely bulletproof. With minimal bulk, it was lightweight, but it somehow felt strong (like, “Bounce across the reef? Don’t mind if I do!” strong). The seams were buttery — the best I’ve ever felt — and it snugged up like a suit of bionic armor. The test suit was short on me, so the fit wasn’t perfect, but still — no rashes, no leakage, and no sloppy flush points, either.
Considering the fit issues, I was a little worried about the warmth, but that’s probably the most remarkable thing about Isurus’ design. I’m not sure what it is, the closed-cell Yamamoto, the panel design, or something else all together, but this thing was a real steamer. The chest and the back soaked up my body heat and didn’t let it go — which is a good thing in 40 degree water.
Over all, I’m anticipating big things from this company. They have the brains to look outside of surfing and they’re not afraid to call out the industry status quo. In the mid-$400 range, the price is reasonable, and I’d bet the bar on their durability.
Here at Drift, we’ve always had one policy about goods: spend more, less frequently. That means you’re getting a better product, and if you take care of it, it will last longer — costing you less over the long run. Every wetsuit you buy is brutal on the environment — no matter what — so we should try to buy fewer of them. If you’re into that concept, and into being warm, Isurus is a great option.