I despise parking tickets. Emoticons annoy me. I don't like hangovers, computers that crash while I write gear reviews, or sour cream on burritos. I have a long list of things I could do without, but sitting right near the top is that clammy feeling of peeling into a cold, wet wetsuit. Fortunately, Henderson doesn't like soggy suits either, which is why the company has created Insta Dry, a series of wetsuits that dry in minutes.
You might be familiar with the scenario: You've just had a great afternoon in the water, you get home, you're ready to rinse and hang your suit, and your two-year-old starts juggling the lumps in the kitty litter. You forget about the suit entirely, until your next diveat 8 a.m. the next morning. The weather is cold and gray and slipping into that wet wetsuit is about as appealing as a December skinny dip in the Yukon. It's almost reason enough not to get into the water.
The main culprit for that damp feeling is nylon, which, along with neoprene, is a major traditional wetsuit component. Neoprene serves as an insulating material, but it's relatively static and tears easily. To compensate, manufacturers line suits with nylon (or something comparable), a more dynamic material that helps prevent tearing. But nylon is more absorbent than neoprene and takes longer to dry. Henderson's Insta Dry suits use both materials, but instead of placing nylon panels next to the neoprene, as in most suits, the patent-pending three-years-in-the-making design buries it between the inner and outer layer of rubber. The nylon doesn't get wet, so it doesn't stay wet, and the hydrophobic high-carbon neoprene on the outside of the suit sheds H2O like glaciers calving icebergs during a polar summer.
The first time I used the seven-millimeter-thick suit ($503), I was surfing on a cold, foggy morning along California's North Coast. After the surf, I tossed the suit into my uncovered truck bed. Ten minutes later I was home, and the suit was already remarkably dry. I hadn't even wiped it down with the included superabsorbent micro-fiber towel. I rinsed the suit and hung it on my porch, in the shade of giant redwood trees, next to another company's four-millimeter surf wettie, which I'd used the day before. When I wore the Henderson surfing, two days later, it was Death Valley dry. The nylon panels on my four-millimeter suit, which I hadn't used for three days, were still damp.
Taking a seven-millimeter suit surfing in 52-degree water is overkill (a four- or five-millimeter is adequate), but I wanted to test its flexibility. Besides, the swell was too big for a good dive. The seven-millimeter suits I'm used to feel more like armor than anything I'd want to recreate in, but I could hardly tell I was overdressed with the Insta Dry. I had all the range of motion I needed in the eight-foot surf, and thanks to the form-molding glue that sandwiches the neoprene and nylon, the suit began to shape to my body and create stretch memory.
The real test came a few days later, underwater. When the ocean finally laid down, I went abalone diving, and the suit performed wonderfully (i.e., it kept me warm). For the same reason the Insta Dry sheds water so wellthe outer neoprene has a slightly textured "micro-mesh" surface conducive to run-offit also kept my weight belt from sliding around, as it often does buckled around other suits. The same grippy theory should apply to a buoyancy-control device (no more messing with sliding equipment on those current dives), but I was free diving, so I didn't use one. The five-millimeter gloves ($41) and hood ($57) performed exceptionally as well.
The only complaint I have about the entire get-up concerns the seven-millimeter booties ($86). I'm not a big fan of the zipper. While the zipper makes it easy to slide the bootie on and off, in the water it acts as a sieve, consistently letting in cold water. Also, while surfing and diving, the top of the bootie, which I had tucked underneath the leg of the suit, kept slipping out. This allowed even more cold water in.
Aside from that, Henderson has created a top-notch 'fit. It kept me warm in the water and allowed for great range of motion. And, as long as I'm using the Insta Dry, I'll never have to worry about slipping into a cold, wet wetsuit again. If only Henderson could do something about those parking tickets. www.hendersonusa.com