Men’s Freediving Competition Wetsuit
Men’s Epsealon Abyss Review
You’ve read the freediving wetsuits specs above but, so what? What does this all mean when they’re all tied in together? Do the specs work together or do they fight against one another? Do the usual benefits of a good open cell Yamamoto rubber become realised with a stretch lining that it deserves? Do the pros out weigh the cons? Is the suit, as a whole, greater than the sum of its parts? The short answer is: Yes. And, about time. Without a doubt, the Epsealon Abyss Mens is the best non-hooded freediving suit on the market today for performance. In addition to this, it’s also the best non-hooded freediving wetsuit for men on the market today for value. What does it compare with? I’d put it side by side with the Orca FREE and can tell you that the Epsealon Abyss holds it’s own yet with a more affordable price tag. You get the performance, flexibility, hydrodynamics and comfort with Epsealon Abyss. It took Epsealon 3 years to develop this suit which addressed the challenges of a non-hooded suit and the product is a competition and performance wetsuit that won’t let you down – it doesn’t flood. If we hadn’t hadn’t tried and tested them ourselves, we wouldn’t have believed it if we read it. Flooding down the back of the neck with non-hooded freediving wetsuits is a huge bug bear for freedivers. Most of us are fully aware of the uncomfortable sneaky pour that balloons down into the necks of non-hooded suits and drags us like an over packed school bag on your first day. Yep, non-hooded suits, while they mean well, always seem to be just more baggage. The standard non-hooded flooding most apparent during freediving disciplines when the arms are extended over head or when performing the No Fins discipline. With the Abyss suit, there is no need to tolerate excessive flooding anymore that impacts on comfort and performance. In comes the flanged flap system, neck sleeve and dolphin speed collar. But, it’s not just these. It’s the seep hole that’s well placed for any sneaky water entry to make a dignified exit. It’s the ultra stretchy lining that allows the Yamomoto neoprene to mould to your body shape. It’s the cut of the under arms so the product over the arms and shoulders isn’t having to work too hard to compensate for an arms over head movement.
What else does this suit have to offer? All open cell suits for freediving claim to be a ‘second skin’. It’s the open cell’s claim to fame and why as freedivers we even look at them in the first place. But over time, and with a market flooded with options it’s become a sort of cliche or a mass generalisation that we assume belongs to all open cell suits. It doesn’t. The Epsealon Abyss IS the definitive second skin. You’ll feel it the first time you wear it and by the third time your wear it it becomes your ‘second skin’. You won’t know you’re wearing it. To emphasise the comfort factor: Location! Location! Location! It doesn’t matter what position you maintain, whether your arms be above your head or not. It’s exceptionally comfortable. If this is your next competition suit (non-hooded) then it won’t disappoint. And if this becomes your first freediving wetsuit for performance – you won’t know what you’ve got. You get the stretch of competition suit without having to resort to a suit that’s open cell inside and out – in other words, no lining at all and completely impractical and, quite frankly, a waste of your money. Besides the cut, and Yamamoto rubber contributing to this stretch it’s the super stretch lining which complements the stretch of the Yamamoto very, very nicely. It’s a pleasure to wear. Many suits have the same grade Yamamoto but the lining restricts them from realising the open cell potential. Not in this suit. The ultra stretch even behaves in such a way the the open cell feels as if it’s directly against your skin. The ultra stretch isn’t so much as a lining as it is a spider’s web equivalent. And, yes, you definitely need lubricant for this even with the lining.
What are the cons of this freediving competition wetsuit? When you consider the areas for possible improvement, there’s no guarantee that the improvements in one area (e.g. a reinforced neck line for added strength) would not detract from the performance of the non-flooding benefits. The wrists and ankles are fragile but, again, no one wants flooding down the wrists – you do want a good seal. It wouldn’t be as quick to get into as the Orca FREE (the Orca FREE keeps the back zipper for easy access but it also relies on an inner gasket and other reinforcements to keep the back zip meaning the suit seems slightly more packed in the back to keep the luxury of a non-flooding back zipper – likely, this inner gasket would add to bouyancy – how much, you would need to buy one and find out. What prices would you be looking at for the Orca FREE? $730 is the advertised price excluding postage). Again, the Epsealon Abyss doesn’t have the back zipper for access but it’s likely less buoyant than the Orca FREE because there is less neoprene in the suit.
Recommendations? Train in this freediving suit only in the lead up to competition. It’s not a throw-on freediving wetsuit but nor is it a suit so fragile that you can’t trust yourself with it all (I’ve had suits like this and they tear even if you look at them too sharply).It’s fragile but it needs to be for what you get out of it. If the neck was reinforced, stronger, thicker, I suspect (as other companies have done to address the flooding issue and not been too successful or ultimately adds to bulk) the neck line just wouldn’t seal as well as it does. So while it’s fragile in the neck, so be it. It is, after all, a competition suit. But don’t let this put you off – It’s a suit that demands respect – that’s all. It doesn’t have unreasonable expectations of you like other competition suits that behave like Christmas paper – nicely presented and over very quickly. When you bring all of the specifics of this freediving wetsuit together you do, indeed, get a freediving wetsuit that’s ‘greater than the sum of it’s parts’. Complements to Epsealon with the addition of this to their freediving range. Merci.
Getting it on? A few words of advice when pouring yourself into this freediving wetsuit. Yes, follow the instructions. But, don’t be stingy with your lubricant for two reasons: You don’t want to tear it when getting it on or off – don’t destroy what you came to enjoy. Work with this freediving wetsuit, not against it. And you want the suit to be able to find its way on your body to mould itself to you properly without resistance. Getting into this suit gets easier over a short space of time so give it time to do what it needs to. Go slowly – don’t ‘pull’ the suit – work the suit up and on. When it’s time for your arms to go in, make sure you go one arm at a time and with the right arm first (the right arm is closest to the only rigid section of the suit – the start of the zipper) Again, plenty of lubricant. Then follow with the left. Next comes the overhead work for the neck seal. Important – make sure that the velcro strap is open. Before bringing the flap over your head, feel behind your neck and check that the velcro is open. Wet you hair before pulling the neck sleeve over the head – any resistance just add a little more lubricant (this gets easier over time as you get to know the suit). Zip at the front. Boom. You’re wearing a second skin. Enjoy!
A testimonial as to this suit is Peru’s National Record holder Javier Guttierez. He broke the national record for DYN Bi fins in one of our recent Freediving Gold Coast AIDA Mini Comps 2019. “By the third time you wear this suit it’s moulded itself perfectly to you”.
Author Cristy Gearon (AIDA Instructor, AIDA Judge (Level E), Member of the AIDA Youth Commission & Co Author of the Standards & Guidelines for the AIDA Youth Programs)