Sunday, September 1, 2013

A New Wetsuit For Shelley (or A Visit To The Seventhwave)

Sourcing a perfectly fitting wetsuit can be tedious business. And if your shape is anything other than what's considered middle of the road, it can be downright disheartening. In the past I've always bought my new wetsuits off the rack at a surf shop. But, especially living in Dunedin where the need for good insulation is paramount to a good surf, I haven't always been satisfied with the options.
A correctly fitting wetsuit is integral to enjoying my surf session, especially in colder temperatures. The suit needs to insulate and protect me from cold water, wind and rubbing. And in winter especially, an ill-fitting wetsuit is risky: it can lower my core body temperature, or at the very least be uncomfortable to wear for very long. If it's too big or loose around the arms, neck, torso or legs, water flushes through the suit. And chaffing can occur around the areas where there is too much rubber. Or if it is too tight, especially in torso length, I can get pressure points and extra stress areas on the suit's seams and panels. The wetsuit will not be as flexible as it can be, which may make it harder to surf.
My wife Shelley has been surfing for the past couple of years, but has struggled to find a decent suit. This discourages her from getting out in the waves, especially during winter. Shelley is of slight build, and the suit she owns is baggy in a number of areas. But there have been very limited options for finding her a new, and warm, suit.

Two friends recently had new wetsuits tailor-made by Christchurch company Seventhwave, and they both raved about how comfortably fitting and warm their news suits were. Finally I convince Shelley that maybe we should pay Seventhwave Wetsuits a visit.
100% Kiwi owned and operated, Seventhwave Wetsuits has been providing topnotch wetsuits for the surfing public since 1987. Its manufacturing plant and headquarters are based in Bromley, Christchurch, and the cold water temperatures of the South Island are its proving ground.
Wandering into the shop, the first thing I notice is a friendly face. A few Autumns back, I went on a surf trip to the Catlins with the perpetually smiling Tom Owens and a few other keen souls. Tom bears a striking resemblance to Australian icon Wayne Lynch in his younger days, complete with the hefty dark mop of hair. I'd forgotten that Tom worked at Seventhwave, and relax when I recognise him. I know Shelley will be in good hands.
Tom starts taking Shelley through the Seventhwave custom-fit process – a unique 22 measurement record used to providing the most comfortable and warmest wetsuit Shelley is likely to ever own.
Seventhwave boss Paul Zarifeh turns up, and Tom introduces us. Discussion drifts to recent swells hitting the East Coast, before switching back to which model of wetsuit might be best for Shelley.
Then the brains trust is called out. Janet and Charyn are 'the custom team', and start assessing Shelley's body shape, taking particular note of the fit of a suit Shelley has tried on for size. Their educated eye for cut and form is quickly apparent. Even Shelley is starting to think that maybe she might enjoy surfing in winter again.
Eventually measurements are recorded, photos taken, second handshakes completed. We hand over a decent chunk of cash, but given the service and quality of the product, not to mention supporting New Zealand made, this is certainly value for money.
A week or so later, a box from Sevethwave turns up in the post. She tears into the cardboard box and quickly tries on her new suit. She is very impressed with its fit and cut.
And finally a field test – the next north swell Shelley and I head to our local break. The smile on my wife's face confirms what our friends in the know had told us. A toasty suit = fun times in the waves. And I know where I'll be getting my next suit from.

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