Gul Viper 6/5/4 Hooded Winter Wetsuit

, February 7, 2011

Founded in Cornwall 40 years ago, Gul is a British wetsuit manufacturer which has become one of the most well-known and respected brands in the surf. Their top of the range Viper winter wetsuit includes some core features that ensure absolute warmth in cold waters whilst maintaining flexibility. Thermospan panels are positioned on the suit for ultimate insulation whilst Powertex is used on the knee for flexibility and durability. They have also put some thought into producing the Viper by using a non petroleum based neoprene.

I found perfect conditions to test a winter wetsuit: The North Sea on the east coast of Scotland in January. The water was 5°C and the air was 6°C with 28mph winds. The suit was incredibly warm. I have worn a number of winter suits and this is the warmest so far.

There was very little flush, with the neck seal in combination with the hood keeping the cold water out of the suit and away from my body. The hood design ensured that my chin was covered unlike others where the edge of the hood goes under the chin: this kept the wind off and helped reduce flush.The Thermospan panels in the chest and back kept my core noticeably warm, even inducing a sweat after a couple of paddle-outs.

Even when paddling, the suit was surprisingly flexible. I was worried that the 6mm of rubber would restrict my movement, but Gul have used super stretchy neoprene on the upper body and thigh panels which really makes a difference.  I was a little concerned about the seams across the back where the hood and neck seal system are attached and liquid seamed: when I first put the suit on I could immediately feel these across my back. However, when I got in the water I forgot about it and wasn’t aware of any restriction of movement.

The zip is quite fiddly because of the neoprene flaps used to make it waterproof but you ultimately sacrifice a few seconds on the beach for longer sessions in the water. The neck entry system is well designed to prevent the suit tearing in this high stress area, a problem which many other suits encounter. The Powertex kneepads and high quality blindstitched liquid seams make this a very durable suit that should last a long time.

This is an excellent winter wetsuit:  combining warmth, flexibility and durability it will keep you surfing all year round. Considering that it is made in Britain and uses petroleum free neoprene, making it more environmentally friendly, this is the suit you need.  It also gives you great value for money; £100 cheaper than some of its rivals.

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