“ Brand: Tribord / Equipment Type: Wet Suits / Sports Type: Surfing „
The boy has a boat. His friends have jet-skis. My weekends this year that haven't been spent in the Cheer gym, have revolved around being on the water, where, in order to have any fun, you need to have the correct clothing. After a day in a borrowed drysuit, five sizes too big for me, feeling like the Michelin man and waddling all over the place, I thought I needed to get something of my own. With the choice between wetsuit and drysuit, I went with the former because it would allow me to move more freely and generally do more, especially in light of the promise/threat that I would soon be learning to wakeboard.
We went to Decathalon, my go-to sports shop, which I go-to because it's less than 2 miles up the road, and is very reasonably priced. If you're not familiar with the chain, it's a generic sporting goods superstore, so it's not a wetsuit or even water sports specialist, but they sell things for lots of sports and have a decent range of lots of items. This is the wetsuit I ended up with, from their women's range (I did contemplate kids, because most of my snowboarding stuff came from there and is age 14), and while I bought it early on this year, it is still available in store and on their website.
I actually thought this one was a Decathalon own brand, but I've since learnt that Tribord (http://www.tribord.com) is a separate company specialising in sailing, diving, kayaking, surfing - anything on water really - which makes me feel like I made a good choice in this suit, even though at the time I picked it based on fit and on price.
You are supposed to choose your wetsuit based on water temperature, but in the fickle world of British weather, this can change. The boys have wardrobes full of wetsuits of different thicknesses, and different lengths so they can dress for the weather, but in a reversal of gender stereotypes, I was less keen on this idea, so opted for a mid range suit which I hoped would cover me from spring to autumn, via those few weeks of summer we occasionally get (unless it's 2013 when we get lots and they're super hot. Halleluiah!) I knew I would most likely be in lakes or the sea, and would be unlikely to be taking it abroad any time soon, and all these things influenced my decision to some extent.
They say thickness is the most important thing to consider because it determines your comfort in the water. I'm usually too busy concentrating on staying on whatever I'm on (a towable, a jetski, a wakeboard) to reflect on how comfortable I am, but I guess if this wetsuit hurt or pinched or left me freezing, I would notice.
This wetsuit is a 4/3mm thickness which is in the middle of the scale from what I can tell. It is 4mm thick on core body areas, and 3mm on areas which require a bit more flexibility. I have never felt too cold while wearing it, either in or out of water, but it can be a bit warm when you're sitting on the dock in direct sunlight, waiting to get in the water. I guess I could solve this by wearing something under it so I can peel it down to my waist while I wait, but I invariably forget to bring anything suitable.
I find the wrist and ankle seals excellent, because they fit snuggly but only leave faint marks on my joints afterwards. I have very slim wrists and less slim ankles, so I was surprised it fit well in both areas without one being too tight or the other too baggy, letting water in. I never really feel that wet while wearing this in water, which sounds silly but is true. You can definitely tell the difference between where it covers and where it doesn't, as sometimes my feet, hands and face can be quite icy when I get out, but my body always feels fine.
Wetsuits are not known for being the most flattering of items, so even if they had come in a range of bright colours, I'd still have opted for a nice, slimming black. This one has a few details added on - to prove it's from the women's range, I guess. There are flowers in the centre of the chest, and a few more across the abdomen, but these are just black and grey swirls and quite nice and mature, so don't for a second imagine I'm swanning round with tulips and daffodils in garish colours all over my suit.
The cut is clearly a feminine one, too. Rather than being one big piece of neoprene, this wetsuit looks like you're wearing a leotard over something, if you understand what I mean. It has long legs and arms, but the centre bit is stitched to look like a different piece over the top, like when dancers wear leotards over tights. I was less bothered about the crotch area because for wakeboarding you wear board shorts over the top of your wetsuit, so my eye was drawn to the chest region. Oh, that chest region. Imagine round, perky, solid, in your face boobs, with stitching around these to accentuate the area even more. This was quite novel for me as someone who isn't large on top, not least because I don't wear a bikini top under the wetsuit, just bottoms, so I don't even have that to push me up and pad the little that is there. The official term, according to Tribond, is a "pre-shaped chest". This is just awesome. Everything you buy should have a pre-shaped chest, in my mind.
This is, I have discovered, quite a wonder product all round. It pushes you and pulls you and flattens you as if you're wearing full body Spanx (which you could say you are) and the result is I feel a heck of a lot more comfortable in this suit than I would in full body Lycra and, on a good day, quite fancy that I look like Seven of Nine in it, though no one else has come right out and said this yet.
Most importantly for me, I feel well protected in this wetsuit. I hate fish and will not swim while they're around. I didn't know I had the same feelings for jellyfish until I started going to Liverpool Wake Park which is flooded with the things, but there's not much choice if you want to go out on the cable. In this suit, however, almost my entire body is covered, so I feel a lot more comfortable swimming with the (jelly)fishes.
The wetsuit is quite heavy to carry around (especially when wet) but doesn't feel bad on, and is not at all restrictive. It has a surprisingly rigid shape without a body in it. I tend to hang mine in my shower room to dry out when we come back from wherever, and when I pass by it sometimes makes me jump because it really looks like there's someone standing there watching me.
Getting this wetsuit on is not that difficult, but because it is an adult size the legs are a big long for me. There are knee patches that are reinforced with what seems to be rubber, perhaps because in some sports these areas might wear out faster otherwise, but I'd rather these bits were not there. Why? Because I struggle to get them to my knees every time, and usually they sit somewhere below them because the wetsuit is long enough on me that I can pull it up and zip it without having to use all the leg length. Sometimes I even end up with bits curled under my heels, half way to it being a onesie with feet, but generally I pull these up and just have wrinkles round my ankles. I have to do that comedy sumo squat and wriggle thing to shimmy it up my body so the crotch doesn't hang down all saggy, but once it's up the body of the wetsuit fits me well, and I have no trouble getting the arms on, though this may be because the Cheer uniforms we compete in are lethal to pour yourself into too, so I've had a lot of practice.
To keep you as dry as possible, this wetsuit has a neck piece that comes over your head from behind, to seal you in and stop water going down your back. The stages are: pour yourself into the whole thing, slip this over your head, zip yourself up and then fasten the neck wrap. The zip is easy because it has a puller on it, so you should have no trouble getting it up even if you don't have the freakish shoulder and arm flexibility of a lifelong gymnast. The neck wrap, however, is a bit more tricky, because it has Velcro on and often rolls up and sticks to itself. Since you can't see what you're doing, that's the point when I usually rope someone else in to sort me out. It's not a major issue, but it does happen virtually every time I put it on. It also sticks to itself when you're not wearing it unless you carefully position it where it should be, and this is the only area so far where I can see wear and tear, from peeling the Velcro off bits it shouldn't be on, resulting in a bit of bobbling.
Taking this wetsuit off is also easier than with some other designs. I don't have to use soap to slither myself out of it, it seems to come off quite easily either wet or dry, though most often I take it off in the shower so I can then rinse the saltwater off it before taking it home.
This wetsuit comes in sizes 36 to 44, which double up as XXS to M. I have a 42 which is a S/M, and I went with this size because it fits, not because of how that translates, in theory, to dress sizes. I am a short size 10/12 so it sounds like this would be a bit baggy, but it isn't, and I dread to think what size you have to be to fit into the 36, bearing in mind this is an adults' range. My advice would be to try a few on because you can't eyeball them easily, and comfort and fit are far more important than what it says on the label.
Originally £119.99, I got mine for £69.99 which is still the current selling price at Decathalon, though it looks like it's a clearance item so stock in certain sizes may be limited.
I am very happy with this wetsuit. I have worn other, rental ones in the past but not consistently, so I didn't really know what I was looking for, but this is a good quality product at a nice price that fits well, looks good, is flexible to move in and keeps you warm enough, even in the grim north. The legs are a bit long for me, but then I am shorter than short, so this is going to happen. All things considered I think it was a good buy, and would buy the same again given the chance.
You can get further info, and zoom in on the pictures for a clearer view, here