Tested: Flashbomb Heat Seeker 3/2mm Zip Free Steamer
The Maserati of wetsuits!
The car sections of the big papers always leave me a bit dazed. Like, you look around the streets of your town and you see a bunch of fairly normal cars driving around the joint, with something hot and European popping up every now and then.
But you look at the car lift-outs and all you ever see in there are crazy expensive mid life crisis wet dreams – half million dollar V12 Bentleys and Porsche 911 GTSs and such, born to do 300km/h on an autobahn or a racetrack, but instead being dragged around suburban Sydney by some motoring journo who can’t believe his luck.
You don’t see those bastards test driving a dented 2008 Camry wagon, with three boards and four wetties in the back, do ya? Oh no.
Well thank goodness no surfing product falls into that “oh for fuck’s sake” category. It’s hard to spend $1000, let alone $500,000, on any single piece of surf equipment.
But within our much more modest value band, there definitely exists price-on-value comparisons. And this wetsuit has both in spades. It’s damn pricey, but it’s damn valuable. You might even call it the Maserati of wetsuits.
The 2019 Flashbomb Heat Seeker is a rebuilt version of the Flashbomb model that’s been around for a number of years at the top of the Rip Curl rubber range. The Flashbomb was always a deceptively simple suit, with minimal seams and none of the silicon glue-taping so popular on other brands’ top gun rubber. It relied on excellent cut, fleece lining in legs and body, and the ultra-flexy E4 neoprene which seemed to move like a second skin.
I heard from quite a few Flashbomb buyers over time, who said the flexibility came at a cost – that the suit broke down early on them, and they had to get a replacement under warranty. This hadn’t been my experience. I wore a Flashbomb for the past three winters, took it around the world, and other than a bit of collar stretch and one or two minor wear issues, it’s still working fine.
When you look at the Flashbomb Heat Seeker next to it though, the differences are obvious. This 2019 update is way more built: tougher seams, no leak points, and hardened in every potential weak spot. The back base of the zip free entry, for instance, is locked down with a lot more stitching and a thin rubber heat shield glued over the joint. Little water leakage holes along the same area, once designed to let captured water out easily, have vanished.
There’s a new emphasis on smooth exterior rubber throughout the upper body and another kind of smooth surface has been introduced on the arms. “ThermoShield” is like a thin smooth layer welded on to the suit’s nylon surface, designed to take the place of true smoothiness. It all adds to the strong impression of a suit built more for warmth than prior models.
Everything else is classically simple Rip Curl. Glued and blind stitched exterior seams are matched internally with neoprene taping, secured here and there with an extra heat seal patch. The fleece lining is now throughout the whole suit, arms, body and legs. It’s a finer grained fleece than in previous models, but it did quickly rise and fluff on use.
My first surf was in pretty heavy SE groundswell conditions, Sydney’s biggest day of the year, on a big board, in very cold winds. The kind of day you need a Maserati suit.
Thanks to the complete inner fleece and the crazily flexy E5 step-up rubber, the first time fit is surely one of the best and easiest on the market. I know some people struggle with zip free, but the Flashbomb Heat Seeker just slides on like butter. Pop! The open side toggle tightener was one of the minor wear issues on my older Flashbomb – the string got looser over time till it was long enough to loop round my thumb on takeoff — but on this model it seems to have been solved; the string pulls naturally inside the flap, not out, so the excess can’t get in the way. A little thing that tells you they were using this suit, not just making it.
The Flashbomb Heat Seeker – maybe just my one, but I doubt it –has slightly thicker sleeve and shoulder rubber, which makes it just a tiny bit tougher to paddle in than the old Flashbomb. This surprised me a bit. I was used to the old one’s ridiculous freedom, and moving around in the suit on land felt so easy that I hadn’t even thought of stricture in paddling. Maybe the tougher seam security is making a small difference here. The suit did seem to soften a bit on further wearings and the slight paddling restriction seemed to ease as well.
Actually riding waves felt completely comfortable and unrestricted in any way.
Beyond that. it’s warm. Like really easily warm. The Heat Seeker name is derived from a feature they call “Flex Energy”, an inner neoprene lining the upper body that according to the promo, actually actively heats up during movement (ie paddling, etc) to further warm the suit. I can’t swear to this effect but I do know this is an almost incredibly warm and comfortable suit, very much a step ahead of the old Flashbomb model in that regard. This is a 3/2 that could sub in for a 4/3 without too much strain.
Unlike many super-warm suits, though, it seems to adapt to different temperatures with ease. It doesn’t over-heat on ya, which can be as annoying as not heating up enough. I wore it in a month of highly varied surf conditions, from the first very chilly go-round to a day that felt more like spring than winter, and never felt like it was a bad call. This is unique in my wetsuit experience and a big part of why I think this might be the best wetsuit on the market right now.
I do think anyone who buys this suit or one of its close relatives (you can get a chest zip one and a 4/3 too) should take the time to look after it. This is not a suit to chuck in the back of the Camry; it’s too fine tuned for that shit. De-salt it every wearing, hang it the way they suggest, all that stuff. Because at this price, you want to drive it all you can.
Label: Rip Curl
Name: Flashbomb Heat Seeker 3/2mm Zip Free Steamer
Price: $699 RRP
3mm legs and body, 2mm arms
All E5 super-flexy neoprene. “Liquid Mesh” smooth neoprene on upper body, Thermo-Skin smoothie patches on arms, otherwise d/s throughout
“Flash” fleece inner lining throughout
“Heat Seeker” inner lining in upper body
Zip free one-shoulder entry
Weight: 1.7kg (2.2kg wet)
- I’ll check back in on this suit in six months to give you an update on how it handles the real wear and tear of time. Watch for it here on CW.
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