No frills suit offers lightweight stretch in an eco-consciousness package
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 26 May, 2017 - For those of us in the (relatively) colder climes of summer who won’t be trunking it this season, we’ve taken a close look at a 3/2 full suit from Sen No Sen. Based out of the peak-rich breach breaks of Lacanau, the brand is first a lifestyle brand but has made a recent foray into wetsuits. The wetsuits follow their clothes-making philosophy of making small batches of high-quality items.
In a Nutshell: Insulative, very flexible high-performance suit using eco-friendly limestone neoprene all wrapped in simple one-color front chest-zip style with a mid-range price point $290.
First impressions: The neoprene is soft with a ‘slippery’ feel to it, lightweight and very stretchy.
Color and sizing: The suits come in solid shades with no varying colour panels, meaning the suits are available in solid colours of olive, black, wine, anthracite, yellow and navy.
One unique thing about Sen No Sen suits is their sizing. The suits ignore in between sizing like Medium-Short or Large-Tall in favour of the standard XS, S,M, L, XL. For this review, the tester wore a size Large full suit. Normally they wear an Large Tall but found that the Sen No Sen Large size fit well. Should you have a unique body shape, Sen No Sen do have a custom-tailored suit program.
The most interesting thing about this suit is its choice of material. All wetsuits in the Sen No Sen line use limestone neoprene.
First noticed about 10 years ago via brands like Matuse, limestone neoprene is gaining popularity among eco-conscious consumers who want to choose a petroleum-free neoprene. Disclaimer: We use the term neoprene when talking about wetsuit rubber, but neoprene is a trademarked name for polychloroprene - so it’s like saying “Kleenex” instead of “Facial Tissue.”
Limestone neoprene uses a process to derive sheets of neoprene from, you guessed it, limestone. It’s a lengthy, labor and heat intensive process but produces a cleaner alternative to neoprene made from oil. In the green wetsuit debate some companies have opted to ditch petroleum-based neoprene and limestone neoprene all together and go with the Yulex brand natural-from-trees material. Last year Sooruz and Patagonia released Yulex wetsuit designs.
Limestone neoprene is pretty amazing. Limestone rocks are processed into chunks of gummy material that is then refined further into neoprene sheets. During the process nitrogen gas is blown into the rubber to augment flexibility and reduce weight. To visualise this gas process, we’ll exaggerate a bit and imagine rubber in something solid, like a tire tread or shoe sole, versus material with gas blown into it, something like a foam cushion. Picture these two extremes and you can begin to see the difference in weight and stretch.
For their limestone neoprene Sen No Sen claim a 23% higher closed-cell structure than oil derived neoprenes and 98% water impermeable properties. Data on oil-derived neoprene suggests a 70% water impermeable rate.
The suit is rated for water temps between 57 - 63 degrees farenheit (or 14 - 17 celsius) and the neoprene did a good job of keeping us warm. The 3/2 suit does not have the chest plush panel of fuzzy material that you’ll find in many 4/3 full suits, nor an outer smoothie material. It’s interesting, in the pursuit of lighter, stretchier strains of neoprene many companies will reduce the weight of petroleum-based neoprenes in pursuit of more stretch. However, problems arise when the neoprene is too light and begins to lose its insulative properties. We found the 90% limestone neoprene and 10% nylon suit we tested to be light, stretchy, soft and warm.
We’ve gone over the neoprene, so let’s break it down and take a closer look at the seams, design and little extras in this suit.
The seams of this suit are glued and blind stitched with stretchy, durable tape sealing the interior seams. The outside seams are sewn with stretchy thread.
Many suits use an outer liquid seam seal which creates a great barrier against water, but will restrict the flexibility of the suit. Sen No Sen’s interior tape is thin, non-porous and stretchy and did a great job keeping water out while staying flexible. Some suits on the market use a more cloth-like interior tape which doesn’t keep water out quite as well although cloth will provide stretch.
The pattern of this suit has very few seams and is one of the reasons we believe it was so flexible. Remember that a wetsuit will be more flexible (especially along the back and shoulder paddling areas) if it has fewer seams since neoprene stretches better than stitching. It’s also a good looking suit with stylish understated screened logos on the back, chest, calf and forearm.
Another thing we liked was the entry system to this suit. It’s front zip, but without having one side anchored to the suit. The side-anchored front zip suits don’t open as wide and are therefore more difficult to get into. This detached-on-both-sides front zip was easy to get into. We were skeptical when we first saw the suit as this type of entry system is known to flush easily when surfing, but during test surfs we found no flushing through duck dives or wipeouts.
What we liked best about the Sen No Sen 3/2 fullsuit:
Good insulation for a 3/2 despite not having a thicker, plush material chest and back panel
Seams did a good job keeping water out despite not having an outer liquid seal Limestone neoprene is more enviro-friendly option to petroleum.
Nylon lining felt soft and slinky We liked the front zip entry system - easy to get in and out of and didn’t flush.
The suit has good stretch thanks to the combination of stretchy thread, inner tape and no outer seam seal.
What could be improved on the Sen No Sen 3/2 fullsuit:
Size options now include S, MS, M, MT, L, XL. Would like to see more mid-sizes offered like LT and XLT, that said, the size Large fit the suit tester who normally wears a size Large Tall. The brand does have a custom sizing option.
While the brightly coloured suits look good on models and web pages, a lot of surfers don’t want to stand out so much in the lineup. Although having the entire suit in an intense color does look better (to us at least) than having flouro coloured panels.
Overall, at 290 Euros we’d recommend this suit. It’s well made, performance-oriented, stylish and uses a more environmentally friendly option than traditional neoprene.
Need a refresher course on what makes a good wetsuit? Check the below Wetsuit Basics article covering neoprene, seams, lining and fit
O'Neill's Technobutter 2 neoprene
Neoprene is amazing. At its most basic level it’s just synthetic rubber with little gas bubbles blown into it. (There's more to it than this, but we'll keep it simple for now). By blowing more or fewer bubbles into the neoprene one can control things like warmth and flexibility. More gas injected into the suit means a lighter, stretchier but ultimately less insulative and weaker neoprene. Less gas used in making the neoprene means it's heavier and more insulative and stronger. Each major wetsuit brand has its own top-shelf neoprene, which is to say their own secret recipe for what they value in performance.
Rip Curl Flashbomb inside taping along seams
Wetsuit seams at the basic level are glued and blind stitched which, while strong, does allow some water to seep in through pinholes in the stitching. This is the type of seam you’ll find on your not-too-expensive suits or warm-water suits.
The next level up is interior-taped wetsuit seams. This means the suits have flexible tape glued along the inside seams. This type of seam provides a good water barrier and plenty of flexibility and strength.
The top-shelf method for preventing water from seeping through the seams is having interior tape and exterior liquid tape. This pretty much means the suit’s seams are waterproof - at least while the integrity of the inner and outer tape material stays pliable and in tact. The only drawback is that heavy taping can decrease a suit’s flexibility.
3. INTERIOR LINING
Three different types of insulative interior lining on the XCEL Revolt wetsuit
Neoprene interior-lining is the new frontier in performance as companies create innovative ways to insulate the interiors of wetsuits. Previously it was just a nylon polyester stretchy material. Then companies started using textured interior linings for improved insulation. This works on the premise that the body heats air more easily than it does water, so most suits today have some type of ‘fluffy’ interior neoprene for your core areas.
Sadly this is the most overlooked component when purchasing a wetsuit. When we hear complaints from surfers about a particular suit that flushes or wears out prematurely in one place, most times it’s because the suit didn’t fit correctly in the first place. Extra strain placed on seams and materials due to an incorrect fit wear out that suit quicker than a proper-fitting suit. To ensure your hard-earned money is spent well, take the time to try on several suits at your local surf shop and find the best fit.