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Review: O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire 4:3 Chest Zip Steamer

O’Neill seems to have stumbled across a magic formula with its Hyperfreak series. Its latest Hyperfreak Fire, or Hyper Fire as it’s now called, takes that performance up another notch. We thrashed one to death, with close to 500 surf sessions, to see how it performed.

The O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire Chest Zip is a bold step in the right direction. Photo: Derek Morrison

It hasn’t all been gravy for O’Neill – their premium Psycho suits have been plagued by warranty issues – mostly relating to the liquid welded seams that would crack and pinch their user after a few surfs and abuse. But while their premium suit was dropping the ball, the way less expensive Hyperfreak Fire picked up the slack in a big way. O’Neill persevered with the Psycho’s liquid seams and I am told they eventually did get that design right – but the damage was done for the Psycho model. So, in 2024, the inventor of the wetsuit went with the flow and abandoned the Psycho Tech range for good. Instead the Hyperfreak moniker breathed life into an entire new range: The Hyperfreak, Hyper Fire and Hyper Fire X.

The Hyperfreak Fire is now known as the Hyper Fire. Photo: Derek Morrison

The Hyper Fire X essentially replaces the high-end Psycho suit. According to O’Neill New Zealand’s Jason Falconridge, the Fire X “was developed in Australia for our Asia Pacific offering”. The new Fire X comes in 3:2, 4:3, and 5:4 with hood. Oddly, it is not available in the USA. We are testing that suit in the coming months.

The transition to the new performance lineup was not exactly linear. We’re pretty sure the original Hyperfreak, that we have grown to know and love, has been slightly downgraded – the rubber feels thicker, the fit less flexible and overall the newer Hyperfreak feels like it has passed some of its best attributes to the Hyper Fire. It makes sense from a price point perspective – a 4:3+ Hyperfreak comes in at $540, the Hyper Fire is $680 and the Hyper Fire X is $780. All substantially more than the mid-$400 price of the Hyperfreak of just a few years ago.

TB4 neoprene is the next evolution of O’Neill’s TechnoButter rubber. Photo: Derek Morrison

The Hyperfreak comes with TB3 and TB3 X neoprene and is a true 4:3+ rubber, so prioritises warmth over flexiness. The Hyperfreak Fire that we tested comes with TB4 and TB4X neoprene, and a TB4 firewall that uses graphene, which we first saw on the Billabong Furnace Comp 4:3.

O’Neill claims its new Hyperfreak Fire builds on that lineage by improving performance, warmth and sustainability. Certainly the TB4 neoprene and TB4X graphene-infused liner still feel more like you’re wearing a 3:2 than a 4:3. The whole suit is lightweight and super flexible, although across broad shoulders the initial feel across your chest and neck is tight – although that seems to relax after a few surfs. Is it warmer? Probably not, but it is as warm as the best Hyperfreak it descended from. And that was pretty good.

Keo Morrison tests the Hyperfreak Fire on a chilly Catlins session. Photo: Derek Morrison

From a sustainability perspective the new suits use recycled oyster shells (yes, sounds weird and sharp), car tyres and plastics, combined with solvent-free lamination and dope-dyed yarn. They also use limestone neoprene, which was made famous by New Zealand’s very own wetsuit manufacturer: Seventhwave Wetsuits. It’s great to see sustainability concepts making their way into these high-end wetsuits from the bigger manufacturers. What percentage sustainable materials contribute is anyone’s guess, but it feels like the right direction to have our pioneer manufacturers leading the industry.

The final advances in design include O’Neill’s minimal seam design, which minimises leak points around the crotch (a few large manufacturers are struggling with this right now), and reduces rashes. The double seal collar also helps to eliminate flushing, though it does add to the initial tight fitment for bigger shouldered blokes.

Any suit that can withstand 500 surfs with this grom is a quality product. Photo: Derek Morrison

After almost 500 surfs with this suit in Otago waves and conditions, we can report that it is one of the best suits we have ever used – even with a few glaringly obvious weak points. The first of course is the de-lamination of the lining around the ankles. This appeared within the first 20 surfs and got progressively worse to the point where the red lining would hang down over your foot. We originally thought it might have been caused by the ankle cuff being aggravated by the leash strap, but it very quickly happened on both legs.

The thermal Firewall lining of the O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire steamer was quick to delaminate around the ankle area. Photo: Derek Morrison

When we tested the C-Skins Rewired 3:2 a few years back, one of our only real criticisms was that their heat-retaining lining did not go all the way down to the ankle. It stopped instead at the knee, which we were told later that it was because their testing unearthed durability issues with the lining in the lower part of the leg. It seems to hold true for O’Neill’s attempt as well. We consider this build quality flaw to be uncharacteristic for O’Neill who are usually on point, even when pushing the extremes of flexibility.

Overall, apart from the tardy look of the lining, the issue doesn’t actually affect overall performance too much. But it certainly has an affect on the score it achieves in our review.

When you first start wearing the Hyperfreak Fire it feels tight across your chest – we are broad through the shoulders, so this has to be considered. That tight feeling starts to go after a handful of surfs – almost like the suit adjusts for your body. From that point on the suit feels comfortable and moves nicely throughout paddling and surfing movements.

The Hyperfreak Fire retains its lightweight feel and dries quickly. Photo: Derek Morrison

The suits are very lightweight and don’t easily hold water when surfing. That light feeling remains. They dry relatively quickly when new and this slowly becomes longer as the neoprene/lining ages.

There is a trade-off for having a suit that feels like a 3:2 as far as comfort and flexibility goes and that is in the durability – they just aren’t made to last. That’s okay if you can get a full year or even two winter seasons out of a suit, which with 500 surfs under the belt of our youngest tester, seems very likely.

Eventually the neoprene slackens off and some of the thinned out areas – where they’ve stretched for longer periods of time – become less warm. We also had holes develop around the knees and taping de-laminate from the seams. Various rashes started to emerge – particularly the anchor point joins on the shoulders and under the armpits. Our feeling is that the suits start to lose their shape towards the end of their life and possibly some of their stretchiness subsides.

Our O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire got the full Kiwi treatment – or abuse – at the hands of our testers. Photo: Derek Morrison

It should be noted that we do real world testing – the suits are used daily, hung up and dried usually without a freshwater rinse, and dried in a mixture of direct sunshine and shade. Probably exactly the way all Kiwis treat their suits after the novelty of rinsing them each time wears off. For sure, you will extend the life of any suit if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and rinse it in freshwater and dry it in a shady place.

We have to commend O’Neill for being one of the few global wetsuit manufacturers to take women’s surfing seriously and actually make a proper women’s cut wetsuit for cold water – their Hyperfreak 4:3+ has been a game-changer for female surfers. They’ve built on that and offer all three Hyper models in women’s specific cuts. That’s great leadership.

The O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire is one of the best wetsuits we have ever tested here at NZ Surf Journal. Keo puts the suit through its paces in Dunedin. Photo: Derek Morrison

Overall, the Hyperfreak Fire 4:3 is an amazing performance wetsuit – it is the best 4:3 we have tested here at NZ Surf Journal. It prioritises flexibility above all else and we’re okay with that even if its durability is a little compromised. There are plenty of wetsuits that will last forever but paddle like a gumboot. The pricing is a little disappointing. At $680 that’s a real step up from the Hyperfreak it was born from that came in the $450-$540 range and was purposely priced in that lower bracket. That was always the great thing about it – the highest performing suit on the market at a fraction of the cost of its competitor’s “top-of-the-line” offerings. Yes, it’s worth $680, in comparison, but it is so much easier to commit to at the lower price point. We guess that Hyper sub-brand is behind the pricing increases.

Aside from the cost and the niggly de-lamination issues, this suit is a standout and continues to improve the surf experience for all cold water surfers. It’s perfect for New Zealand conditions and is destined to become a bestseller.

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Claire Jackson June 20, 2024 at 1:50 pm

Was tossing up btw the Psychotech (have owned before – warm, hard to move) and the Hyperfreak Fire …and after reading this I went with the Fire. So helpful – thank you!

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Derek Morrison June 21, 2024 at 3:16 pm

Stoked we could help you out there, Claire. Enjoy that Hyper Fire.

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