(yet another) drysuit/wetsuit question

6 days 1 hour ago #37709 by DrA5
I know we have several of these going concurrently.  Can I post one more with something  I was checking into? 
Being a bigger guy in weight, not height (5'10"/ 240 lbs), finding a well-fitting suit is near impossible  I have a Level 6 Emperor suit, NRS Grizzley 3.0 neoprene pants, a Level 6 Dry top, NRS 1.5 and 3.0 pants, and Vaikobi and NRS neoprene tops in 0.5, 1.5 and 3.0.  Paddling a ski in thicker neoprene pants has just not worked well. 

I am thinking of ditching the Emperor drysuit as it has a rear zip entry and after my fourth shoulder surgery, I tire of struggling to get in and out.   What are the thoughts on the Level 6 Breakwater Bibs with a dry top?  Will that have enough sealing to avoid getting completely soaked if I have to reenter more than twice in a paddle, or spend more than 3-5 mins in the water?  I understand going to a two piece from a 1 piece suit will have more availability for water to get in, but if I can't even be comfortable, I am not paddling anyway.  Or should I just stick with the sea kayak in colder conditions knowing that swimming is a less frequent possibility. 

I am not associated with Level 6 in any way.  I just like their range of tops and suits.  Seems to be good value for the money, especially with the CDN/US exchange rate. 

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5 days 20 hours ago #37713 by JonathanE
Im new to Surfski but I've been paddling at a high level in whitewater for the last 20 years (just to give you an idea of my experience with basically every combination of drywear that exists). Looking at the level six breakwater bibs, I don't see that they have a tunnel to mate with the tunnel on your dry top, meaning I cannot see how you would have a dry connection. They look like level six' take on a wader, which will not keep you dry even with a dry top. It will limit water intrusion, but I can tell you that you do not want water to fill up those waders. The dry top/drypant combo is what a lot of whitewater beginners will use to save some money and get, basically, a drysuit. However, the mating between the pants and the top should be seen as a safety concern, and must be done properly. If your pants filled up with water, you'd be in trouble for sure.

That being said, I'd recommend taking a look at the Kokatat whirlpool bib (https://kokatat.com/hydrus-3l-whirlpool-bib-with-relief-zipper-and-socks-ptuhwbr). It has a tunnel  that mates with the tunnel of your dry top, and creates a near water tight seal between the two. Given the nature of a swim out of a Surfski, you'd have nothing to worry about. I've seen some beatings in whitewater where someone got some water intrusion into their pants, but Im talking about the equivalent of taking a series of waves on the head in a break zone. 

Bottom line: find a drypant that has a system to actually mate with your dry top. I think level six should be more detailed about how that pant does not create a dry connection with a dry top. They do state you can pair with a dry top for "superior protection from the elements"   which may be true for wading and fishing, but as soon as you start submersion, you're gonna have water intrusion. 

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5 days 2 hours ago #37721 by SpaceSputnik
Don't go the two piece route. I had a friend doing that, he was soaked a lot and went with the full suit as soon as he was able to.
Most suits on the market have a diagonal zipper that goes across chest. With some practice you should be able to don and doff without too much strain.
Another option is a suit with a zipper at the waist that Kokatat makes (Icon? Can't recall). That one basically separates at the waist.
Myself, I am pretty happy with my Stohlquist Amp. Used on a ski as well as, lately in a sea kayak. When it falls apart I will go with either the same or some middle the road Goretex Kokatat with diagonal zipper.

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5 days 2 hours ago #37722 by mrcharly
What are the thoughts on wetsuit bottoms paired with a sleeveless vest for summer paddling? (water temps of about 13-15C)

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4 days 23 hours ago - 4 days 23 hours ago #37727 by Arcturus
If you prefer drysuits, another possibility is to pick an oversized size of Kokatat and have them make a custom suit with shorter legs and arms. Their drysuits are excellent quality, and priced accordingly, but the customization doesn’t cost much extra, or so I’ve heard. Also, their suits are pretty baggy already.

My GMER (Gore-tex fabric, Meridian design) has a long front zipper. Their simplest design (without the sprayskirt tunnel that you don’t need on a ski) also has a front zipper. It is easy to get in and out of, but some people complain about the reach required to get at the top end of the zipper.

Oh...and get the pee zip option.

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4 days 23 hours ago #37729 by JonathanE
My advice to everyone who is starting into whitewater here in the northwest (where you need some kind of dry wear) is to just buy a Kokatat if you can afford it and, if you can’t, find a used Kokatat suit. You could take a look at the Kokatat icon which has a zipper at the waist that separates the top and bottom. As soon as I wear out my current gmer (which is 9 years old and going strong) I’m switching to the icon. Also, they can make literally anything you want size wise, and the custom option results in an incredible fit. Also, the breathability is second to none, and over the last 20 years I’ve used dry suits from most major manufacturers. 

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4 days 20 hours ago #37733 by Epicpaddler
Hey Jonathon, 

Welcome to the forum. I'm one of those folks who loves paddling year round, but haven't found the perfect combination of weatherproofing for cold northeast winter paddling. My drysuit experience was not good-- I felt like I was in a ziplock bag. The latex neck and wrist seals kept the water out, but because surfski paddling is a high energy sport, I quickly sweated through my base layers. I usually wear a NRS 3/4MM farmer john and a thinner wetsuit top. If I get hot I drag my arms or legs overboard to cool off. Recently I found out about Giantfish paddling pants, so I'm going to give those a try. 

I'd be interested to hear how your Kokotat drysuit works out on your new surfski. I know the brand is well made, but I haven't tried one of the newer models. Keep us posted.

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4 days 20 hours ago #37735 by JonathanE
So I've had about four workouts so far in my new ski, all using my whitewater drysuit. I sweat an abnormal amount which only seems to increase when I am in a peak of fitness (which I am right now after a lot of road and mtb miles in the last 8 months) so the drysuit is definitely a sweatbox...but! I have found the best combination of layers for me is a light wool layer with a light fleece layer on top. I definitely heat up and Im wet from sweat after about an hour, but I think the tradeoff of safety given the conditions here in Seattle right now (45 degree water, 45 degree air) makes it worth it. As I get more confident that I wont take a swim, or its unlikely Ill take a swim, Ill probably switch to a dry top/paddling pants combo. My drysuit is also a whitewater expedition version, so it has very heavy cordrua on the legs and seat to deal with wear and tear while scouting/portaging. 

Looking around, it seems there is a Surfski specific drysuit called the paddleskin or something which seems like it may be a good option. I may buy one in the next month or so and if I do Ill report on it. 

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4 days 19 hours ago #37737 by Epicpaddler
Sounds about right. I tried every combination of polypro/wool/synthetic base layers and couldn't find the right warmth (immersion) to exercise layers in my drysuit.   Wetsuits are not as comfortable, and probably work better when soaked. I've paddled the last several winters without taking a spill, but it's always better to prepare for a swim. 

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3 days 17 hours ago #37743 by DrA5
It was a Level 6 rep that told me about the Breakwater Bib to use with a dry top.  So, my thinking was that the set up they recommended would be ok for use in surfski, as they even asked me what kind of water I usually paddle.

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