When it comes to high-end hooded wetsuits, Billabong might not be the first name that comes to mind. Brands like O’Neill, Rip Curl, and Patagonia have cornered the high-end hooded wetsuit market and have been our three best selling suits year after year. In fact, the only Billabong suit to crack our list of Best Selling Wetsuits of 2018 was the affordable Furnace Absolute X Hooded Chest Zip. I can say with certainty this is going to change for 2019.
My eyes were first opened to Billabong’s new Furnace Carbon line of wetsuits back in September when I was invited to partake in Billabong and Surfline’s Wetsuit Field Testing. Scott Boot, Billabong’s global director of wetsuits, and his team of mad scientists have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to develop a high-end wetsuit that rivals top brands by combining the desirable attributes of each; warmth, flexibility, comfort, dry time, and durability. Billabong’s new Furnace Carbon line of wetsuits not only addresses each of these, but the attention to detail within each specific feature is remarkable.
The first main feature of Billabong’s new Furnace Carbon wetsuit is the Dry Max exterior jersey. This is a micro-thin jersey on the outside of the suit that sheds water, rather than absorbing it. This hydrophobic jersey radically reduces the weight of the suit while simultaneously eliminating wind-chill. This allows you to move freely and stay relatively dry, while keeping you warm hours into your session.
A second important trait from this new line of wetsuits from Billabong is the minimalist paneling. Essentially, bigger panels equal more flexibility. The X-Panel on the back is not just for aesthetics–it actually helps increase the lateral movements of your arms as you paddle. Furthermore, there are no seams on the shoulder of the suit which gives you greater flexibility throughout your arms. Less paddle restriction equals less fatigue which translates to longer sessions.
Another great new feature Billabong introduced this year is the interior of their neoprene is comprised of “Smart Foam” which is made partly from upcycled car tires. As surfers, we have a responsibility to protect the ocean that provides us with so much enjoyment and this is definitely a step in the right direction. Smart Foam provides 300% stretch while maintaining the highest level of thermal retention. The foam is oxygen-blown and is comprised of pockets of air which insulates heat better while also reducing weight. This new technology gives these suits one of the best weight to warmth ratios on the market. The fact that you’re lessening your carbon footprint is just icing on the cake.
I think one of the coolest features of this suit relates to the name. The ‘Carbon’ part of the name actually comes from Carbon Fiber yarn being weaved into the base layer of material lining the suit. Carbon Fiber is extremely efficient at holding body heat. The top layer is covered in a pattern that is comprised of only vertical lines. This funnels any water down to the bottom of the suit and allows it to dry extremely fast. You can dawn patrol in the morning, work a 9-5, then have a dry suit for the evening glass off.
Finally, there are a few features from this suit that Billabong doesn’t necessarily advertise that are very appealing. The main feature being the lack of smooth skin paneling on the chest and back. Smooth skin was initially introduced on wetsuits because of its wind blocking and heat insulating characteristics. However, as many people who have used suits with smooth skin are aware, it is a fragile area that is more susceptible to nicks and tears.
The heat insulating properties of the Smart Foam and carbon-lined interior combined with the wind blocking characteristics of the Dry Max exterior jersey make the need for smooth skin on the Furnace Carbon obsolete. You no longer have to sacrifice durability for warmth.
Another standout feature I like is the chest entry with a completely dislocating zipper. Prior to meeting Scott and the Billabong team, I used to think a non-dislocating zipper (pre-fed) was the ultimate entry system. From a convenience standpoint, it is nice knowing that you never have to fidget with getting the zipper to feed into the teeth. However, as Scott points out, a fully dislocating zipper allows you to stretch the entry as much as needed without having to worry about snapping off any teeth or breaking the zipper itself. For someone who fluctuates in weight like me, knowing that a few extra winter pounds won’t be detrimental to my gear gives me peace of mind.
What’s the difference between the Furnace Carbon Comp and the Furnace Carbon Ultra?
With the ‘Ultra’ series of these suits, the Furnace Carbon lining covers 100% of the suits interior. With the ‘Comp’ suits it covers the torso and legs, giving you more flexibility in the arms. This equates to 75% furnace carbon coverage in men and 80% coverage for women.
Billabong offers these suits in a variety of different constructions and thicknesses to suit any surfer’s needs. The Furnace Carbon Ultra (100% Furnace-Carbon Lining) is available in both a hooded 6/5mm and 5/4mm as well as a hood-less 4/3mm and 3/2mm. The Furnace Carbon Comp is available in a hooded 4/3mm as well as a hood-less 4/3mm and 3/2mm.
For all you ladies out there, Billabong offers the Furnace Carbon Comp in a Hooded 5/4mm as well as a 4/3mm. Personally, I have been using the hooded 4/3mm all winter here in Oregon and have yet to get cold.
Overall, these new wetsuits from Billabong have not only exceeded my expectations, they have raised the bar for what a coldwater wetsuit can be. It was an awesome experience being able to see firsthand the passion Scott and the Billabong team put into creating a quality product. A lot of this new technology is a direct result of research and development from surfers and industry insiders way more savvy than me.
I am not saying you should abandon whatever wetsuit has been working for you in the past, but, if you do find yourself at Cleanline or your local surf shop that carries Billabong, give one of these new Furnace Carbon wetsuits a try. You may be pleasantly surprised. If you’re like me, you may even find your new favorite wetsuit.