At 10 p.m. one cloudy night, I surfed in the inky, wind-lashed, 49-degree North Atlantic. This should have been too frigid for a 3mm suit, and indeed, by midnight, my gloveless hands felt like spatulas and my hoodless noggin suffered a permanent ice-cream headache. But the Scipio kept everything it touched toasty.
Part of the credit surely goes to the Scipio’s spare-no-expense materials. The rubber not only repels water, allowing the body to heat trapped air instead of trapped moisture, but also supposedly reflects warmth back to you like a space blanket. Whatever the mechanics, the Scipio kept me so warm that a couple of head-to-head comparisons weren’t enough to determine whether it insulated any less effectively than a bulkier 5/4/3mm suit.
But it wasn’t just the Scipio’s uncommon toastiness that stood out. There were supremely nice touches, too—including a super easy to use back-zip entrance, a short inner bib that shunted water seeping through the neck during wipeouts, and tiptop construction and craftsmanship, especially noteworthy during a day canyoning up a glacier river. My Icelandic buddy was about two sizes too large for the Scipio but chose to wear it nonetheless, and because the Viking had never worn a wetsuit, he accidentally put it on backwards. Then he just left it on that way. We clamored over enormous boulders and fell on sharp rocks and generally abused our suits. No harm done. At the end of the day, the Scipio still looked like it had been plucked off a showroom hanger. The glued, stitched, and taped seams were perfect. Once doffed, it was bone dry within six hours, or half the time required by the suit I was wearing.
All in all, the Scipio strikes me as the suit for twice-daily sessions in California. For up to four seasons a year. For many years. But a word of caution: Matuse—like Arc'Teryx in the mountaineering world—sizes for athletes. If you’re chubby, look elsewhere.