The Orca FREE and BREATHE range has been developed in collaboration with William Trubridge, so we have all seen these great suits in action, but usually by men, in warm water, doing deep no- fins diving. I was not really aware that they have a ladies range until recently and was wondering what exactly the suits were for, other than the obvious, and would they work in other situations? The Orca website says that
“The BREATHE is a training suit, that incorporates durability to ensure that it lasts through long sessions in the pool or ocean, while still retaining the key features for performance.”
So what a lovely opportunity to put it to the test!
First impressions of the suit are that it is impeccably made. It even comes with a pair of cotton gloves to help put it on! I’m not sure I really needed them with short nails but a nice touch anyway. I had a look at the size chart on line and was somewhere between a 3 and a 4. When I opened the suit out, my first thought was it looks amazing, but I’m never going to get into it – glad I opted for the 4! Due to the internal gasket at the neck, it makes wriggling into it a bit undignified. That said – it is a perfect fit. The neoprene is extremely soft and stretchy, my only complaint is that it is really short in the leg. I know that they are based on tri-suits which have a shorter cut to allow easier access- but it would benefit from an extra 3 inches and still be cut short. Otherwise – the sizing does exactly what it says on the chart.
This may be one of the most comfortable suits I have worn – once you are in it fits like a second skin. It is made with a 2mm 39cell Yamamoto neoprene on the body making it really soft and flexible. The bit that I particularly noticed as being more flexible than other suits is under the arm in order to make a stream line position (or in my case – try to streamline). The panel under the arms is a 1.5mm, 39 cell ‘infinity skin’ so still a smooth skin, but the thinner material makes it much more forgiving, without compromising the glide. The clever people at Orca have added a couple of extra materials on to this suit from knee to ankle on the front has a 2mm ‘duraskin’, which is a bit more robust and not quite as smooth, but stronger. Finally, the shoulder panel has a water repellent stretch fabric, 1.5mm, 39 cell – so flexible but will take a bit more of a beating from sunshine and chlorine without falling apart. Seasoned warm water divers will know that the shoulders are one of the first parts of the suit to break when exposed to the sun. I was a bit concerned that this would affect its hydrodynamic properties, but actually, the water repellant nature made it pretty slippery. I do wonder how this would age though – I guess we will have to wait and see!
So how does it compare to other pool suits?
Pretty well. It is as hydrodynamic as the new Mares Horizon 10, and more notably so than the aqua sphere winter skin, which is a commonly used pool suit. I was a bit worried that the thicker 2mm neoprene would mean floaty feet and cause problems with buoyancy (yes- ladies usually do have more buoyant feet) however happily not the case. Perhaps this is where the shorter cut helps a bit – but I suspect it has more to do with the neoprene.
Last pool test – Monofin sprints to see if it flooded. The BREATHE, like the free, has a gasket that sits under the suit to protect from flushing at the neck, the zip runs from the neck down and there are a couple of drainage holes at the base of the zip. It is really designed not to let excess water flood in. Not only would that affect the thermal properties, but for dynamic, a lot of water in the suit causing elephant legs makes for more resistance. In answer to this – it did let a bit of water in, but really far less than any other suit I have tried and the reality is that we do not swim at sprint pace.
In an act of courage, or may be foolishness, I wanted to see how it performed in the sea. Down here in Cornwall the water is a balmy 16 degrees which mean really 5mm weather, with a hood, gloves, socks etc. Not ideal for no fins training, or indeed no mask training! Making a lot of squeaky sounds, I got into the sea and was pleasantly surprised. My body stayed, warm (ish) the suit did not really flood (yay to the neck seal!) and it was tolerable. A seriously strong ice-cream headache ensued though! In completely inappropriate conditions – the BREATHE held its own. Temperature aside, the diving was great. The buoyancy change is minimal and it is really comfortable, glides well and easy on the arms.
So where do you look if you want to buy an Orca BREATHE?
The website is nice looking, but you have to sign in to browse if you want a bit more info on suits technical spec and pricing. I’m probably not the most clever, tech savvy person, but this website is pretty hard to negotiate. In fact, I had to persevere to find the suit to purchase. Orca – please make that easier! When you do find the page you see that the suits are customisable, you can add your own graphics and logos etc, which is great, and actually not horrendously expensive to add the branding. They are also well set up to deal with team kit, with discounts on quantity.
Currently, the colour choice on the BREATHE is a black body with red arms for both male and female suits. It is a good looking suit, but I’m never sure that red is the best colour underwater. Without editors to colour correct pictures, red can turn brown pretty fast. The free is more colourful, with a lovely blue and silver for the men, but the ladies version has pink bits! I’m not totally sure about the gender stereotype on colour preference there- but they are very attractive suits.
The Orca BREATHE retails at $295 USD the free is closer to $500 USD. So definitely a difference in price. Personally, though, I think that if I were going to spend the money – and it is an investment – I may just go straight for the Free as it is a better suit for performance diving. I’m not totally sure I would spend the money on a training suit? In an ideal world, both would be great, use the Free for competition and the breathe for training!
BUY NOW – orcafreediving.com
- An inner gasket to prevent water entry and seal the suit
- Durable material on arms and legs makes it ideal for multiple training sessions
- Anti-abrasion panels on lower leg for extra durability
- 1.5mm 39 cell Yamamoto under arms for great flexibility
- Drainage hole on back zip to release excess water
- Shipped with 2 gloves to prevent suit damage, or tearing when taking on and off.
- Standard $295.95 USD (~€247 EUR / ~£225 GBP)
- Customisable (with logos/graphics) $345.95 USD (~€289 EUR / ~£265 GBP)
BUY NOW – orcafreediving.com
Photos by Daan Verhoeven