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Emily Reviews the Patagonia Yulex R4

Words by Secret Spot

on 18/10/2019 12:03:22

The North Sea gets a little chilly, so a good wetsuit is absolutely essential to make the most of our beautiful, but freezing, winter swells. Last winter I made the rookie error of trying to scrimp on a wetsuit - I ended up surfing the whole thing in a 5/4 comp suit without an attached hood. Needless to say, I was pretty bloody cold. Now the decaying seams make the suit barely passable for our summer.

This winter, wiser and perhaps softer, I took the plunge with a hooded 6/5mm from a reputable brand. To be honest, it didn’t really live up to expectation. The quality is not amazing, and despite the thickness of the neoprene, water seemed to get in pretty quickly. Not ideal when you want to surf all day but your feet feel like stumps after half an hour.

Anyway, I survived, just. At the seasonal end of winter, Secret Spot hooked me up with a Patagonia Yulex 5.5/4 suit. My intention was to save it for next winter, but I was too intrigued to try it out. I don’t know an awful lot about Yulex, but I do know that I am pretty fond of the planet, and any simple step I can take to be mindful and create less waste is a positive. Yulex is made from natural plant material, and as such, the carbon footprint on the production of the suits is much lower. More than that, if the quality lives up to expectation then I’m going to have a lot less waste, in the form of wetsuits which just aren’t warm enough for our water.

The first thing I noticed when pulling the suit on was the fit. It fits like a glove, which I know to be essential for maximum warmth. I had just got back up north from a trip south, I think I had become disillusioned by the warmth down there. Our water temperature was still firmly below double digits, but thanks to the Patagonia, I was verging on being too warm. I can assure you, that is a beautiful feeling as a North East surfer.
Extra warmth normally means forgoing a little flexibility. At least, that’s what people say. I would agree that it feels a little less flexible when you first put it on, but it didn’t have any impact on my surfing. My shoulders did not feel restricted when paddling. The only time I noticed the reduction in flexibility was when taking the suit off. I do have quite a big head, so getting the chest zip over can be a challenge at the best of times. With a bit of a wetsuit jiggle and jive, I managed to get it off. It is a little tricky, but totally worth it for the extra staying power afforded by the warmth. What good is a wetsuit that comes straight off if you’ve got hypothermia?

Now to the part where I put the suit away and save it for next winter. Except, that hasn’t quite happened. I put my other suit back on for the next session and remembered just how cold the sea is. I’m a bit hooked on the Patagonia. It lets no water in, to the point where I've been warm enough to shed the boots and gloves early (by North East standards). The seams are going strong, I’m warm, and my take-off-the-wetsuit dance is becoming pretty refined.

All things considered, this suit is a winner. Yes, the initial outlay is a bit more, but the suit lasts - good not only for your pocket but also the environment. Patagonia are leading the charge when it comes to an environmentally conscious alternative to neoprene. I noticed that most of the crew I surf with up in Northumberland are wearing the Yulex Patagonia’s - their gushing reviews mirror my own, a testament to the suit’s quality. I look forward to next seasons long winter sessions, knowing that my armour is fit for battle.