So I’m going to review some gear that I just purchased for cold water surfing. I’ve been living and surfing year-round in New England for five years now. I grew up surfing in sunny south Florida where a wetsuit is not really needed. So few people understand what that contrast of shockingly cold water feels like compared to trunking it every session. I’m on a mission to stay warm and I’ve tried a lot of different combinations of rubber products to accomplish this.
Recently I purchased two items that I thought might help keep me warmer this coming winter. They’re both rather new products without many reviews. The first is a heated vest by Thermalution. It’s not a totally brand new product, this vest has been available for a couple of years now, but I haven’t seen anyone using them. The second purchase was an impulse buy… heat moldable booties. Yes, heat-activated, moldable to your feet, just like that football mouthpiece used to be. Then I scored them for twenty bucks off. Rad.
So let’s start with the Heat Molded 5mm boots by Body Glove. This company has been keeping surfers warm longer than most of the companies today that do it well. At first I was skeptical, because it was Body Glove. You can buy their stuff in Target. I did have a 2mm cap that worked pretty good in the summer, and that body glove long sleeve spring suit that I got in 1986 kept me warm all the way through college. The new heat-molded boots looked super cool on the internet with Alex Gray in the promo video. I like that dude. Click. I bought the 5mm's. I figured even shitty 5mm boots do the trick for an hour or so with water temps in the mid 40’s. If these were even average in the warmth department, it’d be worth it because they’re molded to my feet. I have skinny feet, I always get a ton of water in my boots. Maybe these wouldn’t flush as bad?
Before testing the boots out I had to mold them into my feet. I felt super cool pouring boiling water into my booties and then walking around my apartment for twenty minutes. Past that, I was excited to try them in the ocean. I wore the boots in 45 degree water with upper 40s air temps. I was plenty warm in them and they let in an average amount of water despite being molded to my feet. Honestly, there was still plenty of room in there. As for the boot itself and the overall construction, the strap buckle piece is kind of in a bad spot, it does not stay straight and pulling it tight was an issue for me when keeping it in the correct position. I just let the buckle slide around on me, whatever. It’s a design flaw for sure. But the ankles of this boot, with the red cell lining, fit nice and snug, and extremely comfortable. The outside of the boot was hard rubber, like a shoe, so if you don’t like that, you’re better off with something dipped.
Now onto the vest. I was really excited about the idea of having a heated wetsuit. The idea behind the vest is you wear it underneath your suit. This will allow you to wear thinner wetsuits in colder conditions. The science is that if your core is warm, your heart will continue to pump warm blood to your extremities. The vest utilizes waterproof rechargeable battery technology. Rip Curl and Quicksilver also make vests. I chose Thermalution because it had the most options. There weren’t a lot of reviews, so here’s mine.
The Thermalution Surf Series vest does just what it says it does. It cranks out heat in multiple settings. The batteries last longer than my surf sessions. The vest easily fits under my wetsuit. It’s basically a perfect product. But here’s why I don’t like it. I feel unnatural. I’m not sure how else to say it. I wore the vest yesterday underneath my 4/3 Rip Curl Flashbomb. It was air temps in the 40s, wind blowing, 25mph+, water around 45. I was burning up and I felt out of breath. As soon as I turned it off, I returned to normal. Was I colder? Yeah. But not by much. Wetsuits are good these days. Really good. I'm not sure you need a vest. I felt more comfortable heating the wetsuit with my own body, than adding the heat from the vest. I don’t know, it just messes with my internal equilibrium. I’ve also used the heated vest under my 3/2 Rip Curl Flashbomb on a day with 52 degree water and I had to turn it off mid-session. I was miserable the entire time. Within minutes of turning off the heat, I was under-suited and feeling cold. After a few flushes during duckdiving I decided to turn it back on and my body got all kinds of confused. I just chalked it up to not being cold enough to use the vest. I've yet to use the vest when the water dips into the low 40s and 30s. Maybe that's when I'll use it more.
So, did I waste my money? I don’t think so. I look at it like I got some more tools for staying warm. While I probably won’t wear the vest very often, I will use the boots until that buckle thing breaks or it gets too cold for 5mm. I’m still looking forward to trying the vest when the water dips into the 30s. Maybe then, it will be the right call. For now, I’ll use it as a lure to my friends from Florida. “C’mon up and surf this winter, I’ll let use my heated vest”. As for value in what I got versus what I spent… well, from a warmth perspective, I’d say the Heat Molded 5mm Body Glove boots were in line with other boots at a cheaper price point. But the look is slick and heat moldable is just cool, so that’s what I paid for there. The Thermalution Surf Series vest was more of a bust for me, and I'm afraid might only be a novelty item that hangs in the garage with my wetsuits.
Slick look with the red cell style. Alex Gray, badass.
Heat moldable is just plain rad.
Average warmth compared to other similar boots you can get at a cheaper price
Weird plastic buckle strap thing that doesn’t work right and will probably break off
RECOMMENDATION: Get a pair. I'd buy these boots again. Maybe.
Totally works, does what it says
Fits well, designed to be underneath a wettie
Different temperature settings for options
Difficult to find the right wetsuit thickness to use it with
Through off my internal equilibrium, always turning it off mid session
RECOMMENDATION: If you're an experienced cold water surfer, move along. If you're afraid of cold water and want to mitigate your fear, buy it.