O’Neill has turned the technology dial right up with the material used in its Hyperfreak range and if this zip less 4:3 suit is anything to go by then they’re on to something. We’ve thrash tested ours for more than two years now. This is what we discovered …
When we first got our O’Neill Hyperfreak 4:3 Zip Less Comp wetsuit we were skeptical about how such a thin-feeling suit could, a) keep us warm through winter, and, b) last the torture of a brutish surfer getting in and out of it with all the care of a bull at canter through the streets of Pamplona.
Turns out this wetsuit lives up to the hype – and not just for the competition surfer, who it’s aimed at, but for anyone who wants to shed rubber without sacrificing warmth. Technically it is a 4mm and 3mm suit, but it just doesn’t feel anything like it. The Technobutter fabric is incredibly light, super stretchy and just feels way thinner than normal neoprene laminates.
The design is also striking in the fact that it has the least seams possible. We really liked this as we’ve been prone to rashing up – our previous suit felt like it had a floorsander wedged under the arms and around the neck. So very few seams sounded great, but in fact we didn’t get any rashes at all with this suit.
At first climbing into this suit just feels wrong. You climb into the body cavity through a neck hole. Yep, it’s like giving birth in reverse. However, with the super stretchy fabric it is actually far easier than you might think. There’s a knack to wiggle it into place fully, but once you’re in this suit fits like a glove. It actually feels like it is clinging to you. I’m on the cusp of XL and L for most wetsuits and for this one I went for the large – the fabric is so stretchy that it fits perfectly.
Surfing in this suit is very strange at first. It just doesn’t paddle like a 4:3 usually does. It feels like a very good quality 3:2 or even a 2mm suit, yet it has the warmth of a 4:3. That can only be down to the stretchy material, the fact it’s so lightweight and its neoprene construction, which feels very different with an inner and an outer fabric layer instead of the usual neoprene rubber outer.
From a performance perspective this material is just incredible. There are no negative forces on your body movements like those a traditional suit construction will give you – the heavy arms when paddling, the inflexibility when surfing and stiff feeling. We experienced the occasional flushing, but with cuff grips all round the legs and arms were never the culprit. Usually it was when I had an arched back while duck diving under particularly big waves.
For cold water conditions this is about as close as you’ll get to feeling completely unhindered. It’s no surprise then to discover that this is a competition-focused suit. For comp surfers I reckon you’d be hard-pressed to find a more forgiving wetsuit on the market.
I’ve had a competition suit before and it was awesome right up to the point when I got too excited by a promising session and put my leg right through the knee. It was a performance suit, but not munter proof. So I had my concerns about the durability of O’Neill’s Hyperfreak 4:3 Zip Less Comp suit. Two winters later and the suit is still in one piece. But there have been some non-catastrophic casualties along the way.
Firstly, the taped seams around the chest shed their tape in a few places after about the first 18 months of use. I actually just peeled them to the nearest junction, cut them off and the glue has held everything together without issue ever since. All the seams are still glued tight and in good condition.
The second area of the wetsuit that gave out quite early was the cinch cord. With the zip less design the last section of neoprene fabric pulls over your head with a cinch cord to tighten it. But this is almost redundant because the neck is so well sealed – it’s more of a final flush proofing. Unfortunately, our cinch cord never maintained its integrity after the first six months.
Over the span of our Hyperfreak’s life the gradual loss of warmth in the surf has been more progressive in the past year. It is still our go to for a quick surf in the shoulder seasons of winter, but in the middle of a Dunedin winter it’s finally undergunned this season. We still think that’s a pretty good run considering the amount of time this wetsuit has been immersed in the water.
Living with this suit has been a pleasure. It dries super fast, doesn’t absorb too much water (especially in the first 24 months) and just makes your surfing feel easier, faster and smoother. We’d definitely buy another one and applaud O’Neill for pushing the boundaries on technology that will ultimately improve the experience for every surfer.