As Q-Tip once said: "Ain't no Parkay, ain't no margarine, strictly butter, baby."
This hasn't been much of a winter on the East Coast. Last week with people lounging on beach chairs at Long Sands, Maine, some folks were making global warming references. I am a firm believer that humankind is screwing up Earth's climate, but it's totally natural to have a warm year. The past two winters were brutal. Maybe Old Man Winter is just throwing us a bone over here.
But as warm as it's been, the coastline from the Outer Banks up to Nova Scotia is still one of the coldest surfed from January to April. The ocean temps haven't dropped to the Arctic Sea ice of recent years, but you still need some good rubber. And this winter, I have been thoroughly impressed with O'Neill's 52/12.
What it is:
To celebrate its 60 years in business (1952-2012, hence the name "52/12") O'Neill released a limited edition suit that makes use of the Santa Cruz, Calif., outfit's latest gift to the surfing world -- Technobutter. Never has such a strange name been able to accurately describe such a product. It's specially developed neoprene that simply feels like butter to the skin.
The neoprene has basically been aerated with thousands of tiny holes and then sealed on either side with half a millimeter of rubber. These tiny pockets fill with air -- the lightest insulation you can get, much like the technology behind a double-pane window.
Why it rules:
As I mentioned, we've gotten away pretty easy this winter, but the water is still down in the low 40s where we surf in New Jersey. I've been regularly wearing this latest release from O'Neill. It's not a hooded suit, but combined with O'Neill's 1.5 mm Guru hood, I've been a toasty little soldier out there.
The 52/12 is a 4.5/3 mil. It's 17 percent lighter than O'Neill's RG8 and has 30 percent less water absorption.
"I weighed it and it's nearly a half pound lighter than the Psycho 1 with Ultraflex," said O'Neill's Shane Skelton. He added that everyone from team riders to shop owners have been very enthused about "da butta."
Pro surfer John John Florence claims it's like wearing trunks back in Hawaii. While nothing's quite like wearing trunks, it does allow an awful lot of flexibility. That has to do with the fact O'Neill implemented its SuperSeam, which uses about 60 percent less material and has become standard on their serious suits since 2010.
The 4.5 features the FUZE (front upper zip entry) entry, while the 52/12Z is a 3.5/3 mil with O'Neill's Zen zip entry. Always one to be skeptical of wetsuit construction (none of the major wetsuit brands are made in the United States), I must say the suit is holding up very well.
Where to find it:
O'Neill works with a slew of online retailers. Another option in Northern California is Wise Surf Shop in San Francisco. On the East Coast, try New Jersey's Heritage Surf and Brave New World. Of course, the best place to feel the butter would be the flagship O'Neill Surf Shop in the heart of Santa Cruz.