02 June 2011

Leash, Wetsuit and Other Stuff Review

OK, so I've gotten a bit behind on my gear reviews. Here they are, all at once.

I bought a Creatures of Leisure leash online when my custom surfboard arrived last fall, mainly because the cuff features my initial, "C'. Unfortunately, the leash had permakinks from the packaging wrap that resisted all attempts to remove them. It was constantly tangling around my legs, sometimes both together, at inopportune times such as during popups. I tried straightening it with heat, tension, and time, but to no avail. Showing good customer service, Tactics gave me a refund. Although I've never before had such trouble with a leash after an initial breaking-in period, I decided to give the XM Tangle-Free Leash a try. While I can't say it never gets underfoot, the slider weigh does seem to keep the leash out of the way most of the time, better than a typical leash. From limited testing, my concern that the XM would get hung up in kelp appears to be unfounded, as it's no worse than other leashes. And since Liquid Peace was out of 7' standards, they convinced me to try a thinner comp leash, which has thus far worked out fine as well.

After my Pentax Optio W80 waterproof camera flooded, I got a Pentax Optio W90. The W90 added a separate compartment for the computer connector, but sad to say, that port corroded within the first month of use. Since then, I've been meticulous about cleaning sand from the seals of the battery/SD card compartment after every session, lest it suffer the same fate as its predecessor. Needless to say, my next surf camera will not be a Pentax. I tried using an Eye-Fi card with the W90 so I wouldn't have to open that compartment so often (about half as often, since the rechargeable battery generally runs down by the end of the second surf session). But the Eye-Fi caused the camera to malfunction, getting stuck on until I removed the battery, or just freezing up. Nice idea, but failed in the execution.

When I started having some wear issues with the first generation, Golden Hour sent me a new Wrist Pod case (formerly called Wrist Shot) to keep my camera secure and handy while I surf. They've definitely improved the design, and I continue to recommend it. The original review has been updated and you can read more here.

Since late fall, I've been wearing a 4/3 Rip Curl Insulator wetsuit, and did not break out my bulky 5/4 Hotline at all. Not that I wasn't tempted, particularly when the water temperature dipped to 50 degrees last week. On the whole, the Insulator has kept me warm enough. Although I'm starting to notice a little more leakage of late, and repairs take longer since the suit has to be sent out, I'd still pick it over my admittedly cheaper and local Hotline 4/3. The fit is also better than the Hotlines, even though the Rip Curl is a size 4 and the Hotlines are size 2. It's a chest-zip, which I prefer, and comes with a removable hood that tucks under the pullover flap, frequently resulting in partly dry hair at the end of a session. The zippered key pocket is conveniently on the outside at knee level. Thumbs up, and thanks to Luke for nudging me into the Rip Curl purchase. (Update 8/17/12: The Rip Curl got too leaky and cold within a year. It's so bad, I can't even use it as a summer suit. I've heard the men's suits are more durable.)

Tired of standing out in a crowd for my appearance rather than my surfing (ha!), I recently purchased a wetsuit-black Gath Surf Convertible helmet to replace the red one (although I may still wear that if I want my buddies to find me at a crowded break). I ordered it with a Peak visor to provide some shade from the sun, since I find myself wearing my SeaSpecs sunglasses very infrequently. (In the cold water of NorCal, the SeaSpecs fog up far too often, leaving me blind at bad moments. They're still great in Hawaii though.) The helpful folks at U.S. distributor Murrays told me the visor didn't fit well on a medium Gath surf helmet, but so far it's been OK, although I have to push it up after I get slogged by a wave and it would be really nice if it was easier to remove (it attaches with screws, so yeah, it's staying on). And sadly, I haven't surfed yet on a sunny day where I could use it for its intended purpose. Hopefully soon. Update: The visor was indeed a poor fit. And after twice getting whiplash during a wipeout, I believe made worse by the helmet, I've stopped wearing it regularly, reserving it for the most risky times.

My latest purchase is a 1 mm Roxy vest. If I don't have a little padding between me and the board when I'm surfing in warm water, my ribs get bruised, but I don't need the long sleeves on my other neoprene rashguards. Now to plan another trip to someplace tropical...

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