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ION now produce a staggering array of different wetsuits for all water-based action sports. Based on their Seek model, the Protection Suit feeds in for any situation where you might take some high impacts. With wingfoiling progressing both in big waves and freestyle at an alarming rate, and bigger risks being taken with regularity, it makes perfect sense to orientate a suit towards avoiding some bruises or windings.
In essence, we’re looking at a wetsuit with built-in impact protection. This primarily comes in the form of sewn-in 10mm protection foam padding which is sensibly placed on the shins, upper back, rear thighs, shoulders and triceps. On the all-important crotch area, ION have cunningly installed what can only be described as a removable ‘cricket box’, so you can bulk out this critical area at your own discretion. It’s a short-arm suit, which is a good call for tow sports, avoiding any forearm cramp. The sleeves have a band of slick skin which sits just below your bicep and seals well. Entry and exit is a 3/4 front zip affair from YKK, and the neoprene flexibility means that it’s fairly easy to get in and out of, even with my broad Anglo-Saxon shoulders. A key pocket and elastic retainer is located under the chest flap for enhanced vehicular security. There’s a final closure elastic tie on the zip flap which tightens up the entry system, and further slick skin to make a good seal and avoid any flushing, important for a suit that’s geared towards big crashes. Sturdy knee pads with a hardwearing protective layer are present, which a necessity for wingfoiling.
Internally there’s a surprising amount of fleece for a 3/2mm, with ION’s Hot Stuff lining covering your core. In the arms and lower legs, they’ve employed their complementary Silk Stuff lining for areas where you need to slide past for easy entry and exit. Key areas around the crotch and knees are taped for extra reinforcement. All seams are blind stitched externally giving a solid nod towards longevity.
For those, like me, that enjoy a minimal amount of kit to take to the beach, and don’t feel the need to accessorize with a separate impact vest, the Protection Suit makes a lot of sense. Due to the intelligent placement of the pads, there seems to be almost no compromise in mobility, and when you do take a big fall, it takes the majority of the slap out. You aren’t conscious it’s got extra impact protection built in, until you crash, and then you’re simultaneously aware and glad of its presence immediately. When foiling, the shin padding makes a great job of protecting you from those annoying knocks that can occur from the foil underwater. I also noticed a little bit of extra buoyancy in the suit.
The range of application for this type of wetsuit spans across disciplines. Wing and tow foiling spring immediately to mind with high-speed impacts aplenty, but it’s not all about the high end. Beginners will benefit hugely when making those first steps as well taking the sting out of the inevitable crashes. This type of suit would definitely cross over into Big Air kitesurfing as well.
ION also slid a wingboard-specific coil leash in for test. It’s difficult to source coil leashes that are the right size for sub six-foot wingboards, and this is a market sector that needs attention. The 5’5 7mm cord has survived well in terms of stretch after three months of both wingfoil and SUP foil in some powerful wave scenarios; where other leashes are starting to get bandy and drag, it’s still coiling up and not dangling around being irritating. The ankle cuff has a textured layer that grips well to neoprene and skin alike, and makes sure the leash doesn’t rotate around your ankle and always points backwards, so you don’t trip over it. The Velcro tab on the end is large enough to grip and control your board when you’re getting washed. It’s great to see such an evolved coil leash, and is an essential to any wing foil aficionado, but certainly don’t discount it across other foiling sports. RB