When I heard that Fourth Element released the Surface wetsuit towards the end of 2020, one aspect in particular really caught my eye: it is completely eco-conscious. The Surface wetsuit is part of Fourth Element’s OceanPositive line, which means that it uses a 100% plant-based alternative to neoprene called Yulex Pure™. This is an important point for eco-warrior divers out there considering that manufacturing neoprene takes such a heavy toll on the environment.
Yulex Pure™ is an ultra-pure, natural, plant-based rubber harvested from trees grown sustainably in the USA. Plants are grown without artificial irrigation systems, and the waste left over from the rubber extraction process is used as biomass fuel for generating electricity. Furthermore, the seams are blind stitched, fabric linings are produced from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, and the glues and prints are water-based. Even the packaging, a reusable organic cotton drawstring bag, is eco-friendly!
This is the most environmentally-responsible a wetsuit can get, which is an extremely attractive quality for those who take environmental issues seriously. The Surface wetsuit is advertised as a multifunctional suit that can be used for multiple sports: freediving, snorkeling, stand up paddleboarding, surfing, open water, swimming, and so on. As soon as the opportunity to review the wetsuit arose, it was too good to resist. So I took it out freediving!
I really appreciate the minimal design of the Surface wetsuit, as I am not a fan of very bold or loud prints on my wetsuits. The material is very stretchy and elastic, and the front chest zipper is large and comfortable to use. The inside areas of the wetsuit near the wrists and ankles have a non-slip grip in them, which later proved to be quite useful in keeping water from flowing continuously in and out of the wetsuit and causing me to feel cold.
The fit was also true to size: I am 163cm (5’4) and weigh about 55kg (121lb) and I ordered a women’s small size. Side note: I am in love with Fourth Element’s sizing chart for women and I found it incredibly helpful!
One aspect of the wetsuit that I have mixed feelings about is the lack of reinforced stitching in the wrist and ankle cuffs. I have had wetsuits like these in the past, and my experience with them is that they usually began to fray at these locations after some extensive use, but only time will tell with the Surface suit.
This was my first time diving with a one-piece suit, and I was not very familiar with the level of difficulty in putting one on. The very first time I donned the wetsuit, I spent a lot of extra time wiggling into it, and getting my head through the flap that goes around the neck was tough because I was exhausted by the end of it. Practice makes perfect though and putting it on the next few times proved to be much easier once I learned the tricks.
I should mention that I have three herniated discs in my back that do not cause me pain in normal life anymore, but I was very aware of them and of my neck as I was donning this wetsuit. If you are someone that has a fragile back or neck and does not have a buddy to help you put on a wetsuit, I would advise trying the suit on in a store before purchasing it.
I used the Surface wetsuit for freediving in water that was 23°C (73°F), which I consider quite frigid. Initially, I was worried about feeling cold and of water slipping through the neck, arms, and legs, but I was pleasantly surprised! Upon entering the water, I felt a bit chilly, but after about three to five minutes, my body heat warmed up the thin layer of water inside the suit. I felt comfortable and cozy during the 1.5-hour session and ended up feeling warmer for longer than the other freedivers with whom I was diving.
The wetsuit is 4/3mm, which has thicker neoprene in areas that need the most warmth, and thinner neoprene in other areas to maintain flexibility. This wetsuit is super-stretchy; I had absolutely no problems feeling comfortable in any position, which is a key element for freediving. I can confidently say that I was impressed with the performance of the wetsuit in the water.
The only thing I would love to see from the Surface wetsuit is more color choices. If you are having your photos taken underwater, this particular color of the wetsuit can blend in with the ocean a bit and makes it tougher to edit photos.
The concept behind Fourth Element’s Surface wetsuit, the eco-friendliness of it, is a really big selling point, especially for me as I try my best to make a conscious effort to be more eco-conscious. For people who are looking for a wetsuit for multiple water activities, or for vacations near the water, I would say this wetsuit is fantastic! I love the minimal design and style, the versatility of the wetsuit, the flexibility, the comfort, and the fact that it kept me warm even in waters that I consider very cold.
I look forward to seeing more from Fourth Element’s OceanPositive line!
- Yulex Pure™ natural alternative to petroleum-based neoprene made from sustainable latex
- Water-based glue – no harmful solvents
- 95% lined with recycled polyester
- Minimalist branding with water-based inks
- Inner ankle and wrist seals
- Simple, minimalist design maximizes flexibility
- Front chest zip entry
- Packaged in a reusable organic cotton drawstring bag
Fourth Element Surface Wetsuit – $559 USD / €479 EUR / £399.95 GBP