Kokatat Semi-Dry Suit: Here I come Winter!

Monday, October 19, 2020

After a significant amount of research, I decided that I would get a drysuit. There are a lot of good sites that discuss the merits of a wetsuit versus a drysuit. Here are a few of the ones that I enjoyed the most: Paddle MonsterSUPBoarderStand Up Paddleboard WorldStand Up Paddleboarding Guide.

After all my reading I concluded that I wanted to get the SUPSkin suit. But I was on the fence as to which suit within their line I would get. My rationale was that I wanted a suit so that I could be more adventurous with my winter paddling. Essentially to be more comfortable continuing to work on pivot turns with the ultimate goal of being able to do a nose 360 turn and not being worried about how cold I would be in the ambient air afterward. Vancouver doesn’t get so cold that you couldn’t end up in the water. But I don’t like being cold.

The other major factor in my rationale was the discovery of downwinding. Since I had only gotten a taste of it before the arrival of the colder weather I wanted to be able to pursue this activity through the winter. In pursuing downwinding as a new activity, I figured that I was going to be submerged often but not for long periods. And then I would (hopefully) be back on my board in the ambient air. The idea of being in a damp wetsuit with a breeze did not sound appealing to me.

[Though in fairness, now after being out downwinding with friends in wetsuits who have reported that they were not cold at all I realize my assumption was in error. I think I failed to realize just how hot you would get paddling in either a wetsuit or a drysuit for that matter.]

But one thing that has come from experience is that getting in and out of a drysuit is a hell of a lot easier than a wetsuit. The other thing that I have now come to realize is that some surf-like activities would require a wetsuit. I was recently reminded of Skookumchuk Narrows. I had been there years ago on a hike and knew that people would kayak the standing wave. But now the idea of SUP surfing the narrows has been introduced to me and I have to say it looks enticing! Though I have a steep learning curve ahead of me before I even consider this. At this point, it is one of those shoot for the stars and even if you come up short you will achieve great heights. The idea of doing “the tour” sounds pretty horrific and for sure I do not want to be in anything loose-fitting for that (if the day ever comes).

I am 189 cm (6’2″) tall with a wingspan of 206 cm (6’9″). My ape index is 1.09. That was great for my undersized basketball career (I needed to be a whole lot more athletic at 189 cm to have been successful) but not so great for sizing clothing. So, when I found out that SUPSkin suits were customizable I was intrigued. Luckily when I reached out to contact them they did not reply. That gave me more time to mull things over. I realized that having an EU-based product might not be the best thing in case things should go wrong.

After discussing the idea more with my brother I decided that the best thing to do was to go into a local shop, speak with a sales representative, and try on some gear. So, I headed over to North Vancouver to check out Coast Outdoors. The sales rep I work with was great. He convinced me not to add in any additional thermal layers since I would be roasting in a dry suit anyways. And he recommended going with a semi-drysuit rather than a drysuit. The difference between the suits was a neoprene neck sleeve versus a latex gasket for the former and latter, respectively. A trade-off of more breathability for less waterproofing.

While at the shop I did try on a demo version of a Starboard drysuit they had on-site. It was very comfortable and was discounted. But there was no warranty and it did feel flimsier than the Kokatat suit that I tried on. Interestingly, I learned from the sales rep that Kokatat also does customizable suits. I decided to go with the off-the-rack version of the Endurance semi-dry suit (this model is no longer in production but here are Kokatat’s current semi-dry suit models). But perhaps for my next suit in the distant future, it is something that I will opt for.

Messing around in my new Kokatat semi-drysuit. Photo by Annie Jekyll.

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