We know winter is about to end, but you can’t run a series of road tests on wetsuits and not include these guys. Rip Curl, in my opinion, have been at the forefront of wetsuit design for a pretty long time now so expectations for the Flash Bomb E4 were pretty high…
The suit we Road Tested was Rip Curl’s Flashbomb 3/2 Chestzip. Which apparently is the ‘…world’s fastest drying wetsuit. For the surfer who wants the best wetsuit possible. No compromises. Constructed with the most advanced neoprene and loaded with the latest ocean technology.’ – That’s straight from Rip Curl’s Flashbomb page.
Probably the easiest entry system on the market, three steps and it’s pretty much on/off. Rip Curl run with an open ended zip (meaning you have to connect it to zip it up) which gives the zip space to breath – so to speak. Basically, an open ended zip has a larger angle to which it can open and allow you more room to move when unzipped – as it doesn’t have the zip at the end to limit it (like close ended zips). The materials (E4) combined with the open ended zip really allow for a smooth, easy entry/exit.
The way they’ve cut around the entry is also spot on. You might be asking why this matters? It matters because you don’t want to get flushed up the side entry and a smart design avoids this – obviously if you fall directly onto that area of the wetsuit you’re going to get flushed, and it’s going to be cold. But generally with this suit, there’s no flushing.
Yep, this is a strong point, E4 is real stretchy. If I was actually as flexible as the suit allows me to be I’d probably be winning Gold in Gymnastics (or so I tell myself). It’s kind of at the level of comfort that all other suits are held against, you seriously don’t know how comfortable a Rip Curl suit is until you have tried others. Seriously, this isn’t blowing smoke, it’s just fact – you wear a Rip Curl for a few seasons and then jump across to another brand, you’ll notice a huge shift. And while one or two brands are up around that level now (hello Bong and O’Neill) the Rip Curl level of comfort (in the top end suits anyway) is still where it’s at.
They used to run liquid tape on the initial Flash Bombs, which was amazing. I had one way back when, and it was a dreamboat. So I was left scratching my head when I saw that my beloved liquid tape had been left off this newer model. On the inside tho, is E4 taping – the same E4 material in the suit – which gives the tape some crazy flexibility to maintain seals.
Unfortunately this suit kinda failed the seams test – where we walk out up to our neck to feel for leaks. I got to the knees and copped some hits, then again at the kicker and highly sensitive sack region (I was in the pool!) Bummer too, good seams on this suit would have had it best on ground for the season.
One thing to note here about the seams, the leaks generally occur due to the thinness of the neoprene used. I’ll try to explain as it was explained to me-
I was running a 3/2 – so, imagine if you can, trying to stitch 2mm of neoprene without accidentally poking the needle thru the material (which causes a hole = leak). And then let’s say that you do accomplish that, you then have neoprene tape applied to the flash bomb lining which is fluffy. Have you ever applied sticky tape to carpet? Yeah, so you get the picture. Running neoprene tape (it’s E4 tape, so it’s actually a lot better then regular taping) against fluff was always going to be a tough gig on a thin suit.
It’s a hard one to describe, yes the suit keeps you warm, but it’s hard at the start with the leaks. Once you’re up and running and have that warmth generally happening, you should be sweet -if you’re not fussed by the leaks. And if you’re running a 4/3, you’re extra toasty (see seams). But yeah, the overall warmth is let down a touch by the seams/leaks…
The flash lining, which has been promoted as quick drying, also acts as an insulator of sorts and really adds warmth to the suit (Two engineered layers that funnel water rapidly out of the suit making it the warmest and most comfortable lining available.) And then all these suits come with that godsend known as smoothie – so you got flash lining and smoothie. Quinella of warmth elements. Could’a been the trifecta…
This is a subjective topic I think, what’s your definition of dry? – the Rip Curl Flash Bomb is promoted as the fastest drying wetsuit on the market. Does the suit dry real quick? Nope. It don’t dry in Flash Gordon like speed. But it does dry a whole lot quicker then any other wetsuit I’ve worn lately – but the others are catching up quickly . Anywhere there is red fluff, stuff is dry to touch in about 30 mins, the rest of the suit is normal (normal for E4) neoprene – so that part dries in the normal time it take neoprene to dry. And the outside will stay wet/damp/cold – but if you’re worried about that, you’re a bigger idiot then I am…
Comes in at $550, so kinda bang on the money with O’Neill, a touch cheaper then Billabong and a lot cheaper then Patagonia. Which suit you get is up to you, but expect to pay $550 or upwards for the top dogs we’ve tested. And while it seems a lot of money, it’s probably equivalent to a big weekend in the city – hangover or warmth?
Flexible, very flexible.
Super easy entry, easiest on the market.
Flash bomb lining – quick drying and warm
Leaky seams from the get go.
It’s a Rip Curl suit, history shows these guys know how to make suits and the only bump in the road is the leaks. The suit dries quicker then the suit your currently pissing in, it’s really comfortable (the red fluff is pretty neat against your skin) and it’s warm. If you’re more of man then me (which lets face it, wouldn’t take much) and you can handle leaks – then you should really consider the Flash Bomb. The fit is great, the material is amazing and the overall feeling you get from wearing it is amazing.
The main thing that baffled me was that the US has the Flash Bomb Plus – which has liquid tape and titanium airlock E4 – two things, that if the Aussie Flash Bomb had, would make this suit a clear winner, hands down. So if you’re in the US and looking for a new suit, you should really take a look at the Flash Bomb Plus. The FB+ looks loony, best suit of the season would be a toss up between this one and Bong’s Furnace I think…