By Jeff Johnston, FE Guns & Hunting Editor
There are wetsuits, and there are wetsuits.
Without question I’m not on the spearfishing level of FE’s own Pete Correale, Don Trump Jr, and Dave Eder, but I know a cheap West Marine wetsuit when I wear one. Hell it’s the only kind I’ve ever worn.
Neptonics’ Quantum Stealth 1mm suit definitely isn’t that.
Correale turned me onto this brand, a custom manufacturer of spearfishing equipment started in 1996 by two maniacs named Josh Gregory and Jerry Guerra. Evidently they weren’t satisfied with the buy-once-dive-once gear sold at every dive shop from Mauntauk to Malibu, so they started making their own. At first they made trigger mechanisms for spearguns out of a barn somewhere in Santa Cruz. Since then, they’ve made Florida their headquarters from which they ship their gear to more than 60 countries. These guys have freedived all over the world, and they’re constantly refining their equipment helping to evolve their sport.
Why the success? My intuition—and Pete, who knows—tells me that it’s because their freediving gear is the best in existence. And in case you didn’t know, freediving in blue water for big fish is one of the world’s most dangerous pursuits. It’s hardly the place to be saving a few clams.
I immediately noticed that the two-piece suit is as stretchy as a rubber band. Hang tags announce that it’s made from Yamamoto neoprene—a proprietary type of closed-cell rubber that, no shit, is made in Japan from limestone rock named after ole Yamamoto himself. After a little research I found that it is the stuff that all the top athletes use, from triathletes to surfers and record-setting freedivers, because it’s slick for less friction in the water, it’s warm, durable, waterproof yet it’s still pliable. A good wetsuit can both enhance your experience and save your life.
I ordered the 1mm suit (3, 5 and 7mms are available) and after pulling it on, I began to notice all the little things that make this suit one of the best available, bar none. First, it’s lined with a velvety material that feels like the headliner of a Mercedes sedan. Its hood fits just right, leaving space for your goggle skirt; when pulled back it sits behind my neck without cranking my head forward. A 5mm thick loading pad in the center of the chest is a great idea. All joint areas are pre-formed and articulated so you can actually move around. Its shin and forearm areas are armored with micro-rubber knobs to dissuade the coral from biting hunks from the pricey Lycra outer skin and the precious Yamamoto underneath. A whistle pouch—it actually comes with a sea whistle and lanyard—is sewn to the right tricep, as is a pouch for a couple powerheads on the left wrist for when the makos turn unruly. Finally, on the bottoms there’s an integral pouch for a dive knife with a magnetic closure—and it isn’t just any magnetic closure; when you drop the flap over the knife the magnet grabs the top button, pulling it into the detent so it can’t come open unless the diver deliberately stretches the flap down and out to open it. I told you these guys thought of everything.
If you’ve never tried a two-piece suit, it’s the way to go. After a dive you can peel the top off to stay cool while keeping your pants on to stay less awkward among company. Kevlar-reinforced clips secure the beavertail—the piece that goes under the crotch to keep the top from riding up. I’m not sure why simple velcro wasn’t used here, but these things are so well made that I’m sure there’s a reason. I’ll find out. Finally, the camo pattern is a damn sight more effective than the black-with-purple-sleeves variety sold in the water skiing section down at Bass Pro.
All told, I only had to dive once in this thing to realize I’d messed up all these years by not investing in a top-quality wetsuit. Now all I need is a new mask … Dammit. Neptonics makes them too.
Pros: comfortable, durable, maneuverable, and has all the bells and whistles that could save your life
Cons: none, unless you have a wetsuit rash fetish