I put Roxy's top of the line women's cold water suit under scrutiny in one of the coldest places I could imagine surfing: Maine. In the middle of January, which is scientifically proven to be the coldest of all months in the Northeast. The 5/4/3 Cypher emerged as a first-rate defender of damsels in atmospheric distress.
This particular Cypher is a ladies' hooded chest zip intended for use in 36 to 46-degree water. In other words, Roxy's toughest wetsuit. It's the culmination of many years of R&D (by women), so all kinds of super features come standard: Hydrolock seam seals and fancy, flexi neoprenes that also happen to be environmentally friendly. Did you know that gals' wrists, ankles, and lower backs tend to get colder more quickly? Cypher has extra insulation in all of those places. Plus, the flattering cut and sleek design make any bod look like a rockin' bod.
I set out to conduct my experiments in New Jersey, where the air was 39 degrees and the sea 45, but stupid Sandy foiled my plan (along with so many other things) by placing beach access in short supply. The universe was obviously urging me to put the Cypher to a more exhaustive test, so I headed north. Way north. I've seen air temps approach -40 F in Maine, but naturally, when I arrived in Vacationland, the thermo clocked a measly 39 degrees. The water, on the other hand, was a single degree warmer. So that you have a point of reference, Skallelv, Norway is just about as far north as you can get in Europe, and the water there is 41. Deception Island is 36 ... that's in Antarctica.
Anyway, I'm notoriously terrible with wetsuits. The classic story is that a decently Richtered quake once escaped my notice because I was so absorbed with struggling out of a snug wetsuit--whose maker shall remain nameless. And chest zips are usually the bane of my existence. Thanks to Roxy's Fiber-lite and Bio-fleece (made from recycled plastic bottles) neoprenes, which are up to 20 percent more limber than other neoprenes, the Cypher was fairly easy to squeeze into. One very accessible zipper made it even easier to close up -- and eliminated a mildly irksome two-foot pull flapping around in the breeze.
I charged the waves of inconsequence with nary a thought for what might happen when the sea collided with my face. Duckdiving was harsh on the face, indeed, but the rest of me was toasty. Actually, my photographer began hailing me ashore about 30 minutes in -- before I felt the slightest hint of hypothermia -- because her fingers were cold.
I don't know if you guys are runners, but I dabble in the dark arts, and I find it extremely difficult to yog through the winter months--mainly because headgear rarely prevents my frozen ears from throbbing. The Cypher's "Thermal Smoothie" hood is flexible (read: comfortable), so it doesn't impair crucial head turning capabilities or peripheral vision. It has a little visor that nicely diverts water droplets (and probably some sun) from the eyeballs. Best of all, it's wind and water-repellent. Truth be told, the majority of my hair stayed dry, even after many graceless dunks, and circulation to my ears never ceased.
As you may have gathered, the 5/4/3 Cypher is remarkably stretchy and lightweight. Essentially, Roxy makes a 5/4 wetsuit feel like a 3/2 wetsuit, which makes paddling, popping up, and packing all surprisingly painless. The aforementioned neoprenes are also really quick-drying, so you'll be ready to contend with ice floes and orcas again in a couple of hours. Or at least your wetsuit will.
Procure your own Roxy 5/4/3 Cypher at Roxy.com and selected surf shops for $349.95. You may also want to pick up some Syncro five mm booties and a solid pair of gloves while you're at it.