| REVIEW: Rip Curl Flashbomb...

Yesterday i have finally decided to get a serious wetsuit after some very interesting discussions with our local surfer guru Igor Goni. I already own an Ocean Rodeo Soul drysuit but it is not the most practical piece of equipment for surfing, especially when you need to swim a lot after your board.  I had narrowed down my search on three 2016 winter specific models; the Rip Curl Flashbomb,  the O'Neill Heat and the Patagonia R4. Although the only one i could find around here and try was the 1st one, a big thank to the guys at La Boutique Sharks for their patience and help.
Also, i needed a good break from my intense weekend workload, the temperature was perfect today at about 4ºC (39.2 F) and the sun was definitely screaming for a test ride! My neighbour and surf partner Patrick was available for some camera work (and safety). We walked to the closest shore on the St-Laurent river. That's the beauty of living 2mn from the water in Verdun :)
Now about the infamous Rip Curl Flash Bomb Hooded Chest Zip 5.5/4, it is one of the warmest, lightest winter wetsuit designed for frigid waters and it has won many Awards (3x SIMA). Guess that's exactly what i need around here.
The exterior is made out of their E4 neoprene, a very stretchy material, especially considering this thickness, they use different panels to allow for better movement (4 way back stretch, contour legs, mesh skin...etc.) and reliable stitch-less seams everywhere but the arms (Aquaban plus liquid tape, E4 + tape). This all sound like good marketing terms to say that they know how to make a good wetsuit, and the result is quite impressive.
The greatest thing must be their E4 Flash Dry Lining, it is extremely warm and insulates all the vital areas of your body, this also explains why at only 5.5mm it does the same job as a classic 7mm neoprene. They advertise it as being the fastest drying wetsuit on the market and even though i can not prove it, there are a lot of reviews/posts online to support that statement.
I live in a small semi-basement apartment with poor lighting and small windows, my other suits take a long time to dry and this one was definitely the 1st one to be ready for the next session. My Xcel Drylock 7mm booties were still soaked the day after in comparison. 
The water was pretty cold but i really did not feel it, in fact, when i took off the wetsuit, which demands some effort (more of that later), it was damp from all my sweat.
  • CONS:
- It's difficult to see any major problems with this suit to be honest but one of the main inconvenience comes from its Chestzip Entry system. There is a very tight front closure system and the very first time to try to get in, it will take ALL of your energy, no kidding. Fortunately it gets better with time and i find it easier to put it on/off now. When you're used to a back or front zip then this is going to be a big change :) the positive thing though, is that once you're inside, it's very comfy and feels like there are no zip parts at all.
- It allows you to surf in difficult conditions but unlike the summer suits, you wouldn't want to let yourself "leak" in this one, which means going back to shore for a little break or make sure you've done it before your session, this is where my drysuit and its relief zipper get an advantage :) Rip curl please add a pipi-zip!
- Like any of the high end and heavier wetsuits it is also a bit more expensive (~ $500 CAD), still it's cheap in comparison to an equivalent drysuit in terms of quality, and when it comes to protecting your life in the river i'd say they are worth the investment.
  • PROS:
- Efficiency; it does what it says by keeping you warm, allow you to move quite well, seems durable and dries very rapidly. 
- Design; it looks great, the panels are well placed to allow for your arms and legs to move well, it doesn't feel too bulky. It's definitely designed for surfing.
- I wish i had tried the 3 brand models aforementioned but hey, shit happens and i don't regret this buy. Apparently Rip Curl fits most body types when O'Neill favors thinner silhouettes, at 1.78m and about 83kgs this one fits me like a second skin but you should always try one on before buying, we all have different curves right!
#RipCurl #RiverSUP #winterSUP #astralfootwear

| XMAS trip 2015 - Part 02...

 Joyeuses fêtes  from Taos Pueblo, NM.

Denise, Robert and their beautiful family welcomed us in their home, fed us and really took good care of us while preparing for the feast, the multiple ceremonies and the dances. I won't forget those precious days spent in their company, i lost track of time and was just trying to appreciate every second in their presence. Merci, merci!
Despite the cold snowing day the crowd was growing fast and eventually everyone gathered around the numerous piles of wood to enjoy the celebration of this solstice transition, the great spirit and Christmas in this magnificent and sacred environment. After the procession of the Virgin Mary the tribal members finally lit the fires and it was quite a spectacle, the wind created some sort of smoke twisters behind the gigantic bonfires and everyone was simply in awe. There is something very spiritual at Taos even for the hardcore atheist, the weight of history and the respect of those ancestral traditions had honestly quite an impact on me.
It took a long time for the fires to fade away and for the people to leave but we all went back inside the cosy shop for the meal. They had prepared some homemade bison tamales (freshly killed) along with plenty of food and dessert, what a feast! It was an honor to be invited here, thanks to Manny and Denise and i can't be more thankful to have shared those precious hours with you all.
On the 25th we went back to the pueblo to help Denise bring her posole to the shop and attend the ceremony of the Deer/Buffalo Dance. No cameras were allowed on that day, which does make sense; you have to be there to live the moment and appreciate the cultural heritage and the performance of the dancers! There is no words to describe what i've seen and felt there, the music, the costumes, choreography and willpower of this nation is beyond what i imagined. 
I would recommend anyone to go buy their famous tamales if you visit the pueblo. Their locally-grown blue corn is amazing, it is a native plant that Robert farms (amongst other grains) in the reservation with the help of his daughters, undoubtedly the best i ever tasted and it makes for some tasty good popcorn too :)
#TaosPueblo #RobertMirabal

| XMAS trip 2015 - Part 01...

From Montreal to Austin, TX...
What an incredible trip through the badlands of New-Mexico to the plateaus of the northern high deserts. At one point, my driver decided to stop in the little town of Fort Sumner to say hello to the famous outlaw "Billy the Kid", well to his burial garden actually! After Santa Rosa, i didn't expect to see such a mountainous environment, the road via Las Vegas (NM) was very scenic and we even passed Sipapu, a local ski resort. The temperatures dropped down considerably and i could finally enjoyed some snow.
Got a good shot of the sasquatch of Sipapu!
We eventually reached the city of Taos and our hotel (Don Fernando) completely fried after a long road trip (about 12h), kudos to Manny for driving all the way without even sleeping. Little did i know that the adventure was just about to start! Especially after an unfortunate episode of finding bed bugs in our room :((( Part #2 coming up soon...
#Taos #NewMexico