San Diego-based Ho Stevie! are a name that we’ve heard mentioned more and more in the last few years. We first got wind of them as one of the leading manufacturers and sellers of surf bike racks, which we guess do better on the palm-fringed promenades of La Jolla than they do on the rocky hills of South Wales and Cornwall. Then their wetsuits came along, and they duly got in touch to see if we’d like to put one of them through its proverbial paces. Cheers guys!
And so through the paces we went. On a couple of sloppy days at the tail-end of the British summer, we grabbed a Ho Stevie! 3/2 and hit the mush. This wasn’t elegant surfing; the planets weren’t aligned for that. But the wind was up and the peaks were shiftier than shifty thing, which is sometimes the best for testing out that new neoprene. Here’s what we found…
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The Ho Stevie! wetsuit – a quick summary
This is a solid choice of wetsuit for all levels of surfer who are on a tight budget. We’d say the aspiration is to beat the big boys and do it for half the price. That’s largely achieved, with excellent flex and good thermal retention. We have some reservations about taking the Ho Stevie! on uber-long sessions due to the limited flushing we felt, but that could be down to our fit. To reiterate, though: This is a sub-$200 suit that performs above its pay grade.
Ho Stevie! wetsuit: Thermals
We’ll go right out and say it: We didn’t expect all that much from the Ho Stevie! suit on the warmth front. I guess we were a touch dubious of staying balmy in a piece of kit that retails at under $200 (more on that below). Then we realized that was sort of the whole point. This brand is all about getting the basics right without sending your accountant to the cardiac ward.
And they really do get those basics right. If wetsuits were cars, then the thermal tech would be their ability to drive. That is to say that it’s aspect numero uno. And this proverbial car can certainly drive…
We donned the 3/2 on a very windy (just check the mush in the pictures) day in South Wales. Granted it was September. Granted the sun was out. But water temps hover between 15-18 C (59-65 F) naturally at the end of summer here and it was on a N wind that kicks down the thermometers a couple of extra notches. Two hours of mashing up some of the worst waves we’d had in a while was not an issue at all for this suit, even with heavy gusts brushing down from the headlands the whole time.
There was perhaps one or two moments when the suit flushed out warm water and invited in new, cooler water. That did give us a few uncomfortable shivers but nothing we wouldn’t expect on a day with so much water in motion.
Ho Stevie! wetsuit: Flex
If the warmth of the Ho Stevie! does what you need it to do, the flex of the suit does that and then some. We applaud these guys’ decision to go with proper limestone neoprene because that really makes a difference on the maneuverability front. That’s the general picture. Now, to the deets…
We’ve surfed in all sorts of fancy gizmo flex tech from various steamer makers, with all sorts of fancy names to match. This didn’t have that, but it hardly matters. They’ve nailed a fantastic stretch panel (they call it SuperStretch and it’s just about the only fancy name Ho Stevie! go in for) on the chest that yo-yos real nice up and down and side to side.
But what really stuck out for us here was the ease of movement on the key arm and leg panel joins. We found paddling was a cinch, even into heavier currents or against the rip. That ties in nicely with our placement of this suit as a fantastic starter option, because it means there’s no big overload of seams or badly planned panel connections to hinder the range of movement you need when learning.
Ho Stevie! wetsuit: Price
This is where we think the Ho Stevie! Men’s Surfing Wetsuit really comes into focus. Bearing in mind everything we’ve said above about how the kit performs on par with mainstream and even flagship suits from major global brands on short sessions, you might just need to be sitting down when we tell you that it’s all yours for a mere $200. Sorry, $199.97 to be exact!
In a world where even shorty spring suits can command rates of over $500 a pop, that’s a downright bargain. It’s also a joy to hear. We’re often emailed by starter surfers who want the gear to get going but can’t believe the costs of hitting the waves these days. Who wants to fork out the price of a whole holiday to go and get whacked by whitewash for an hour? No one. That’s who.
Cue the Ho Stevie!, a well-made suit that gives you respectable thermal tech balanced with high flexibility for just a fraction of what others charge. In fact, the price is the main reason that we’d say this suit is one of the best out there for starting surfers wanting to take their first tentative steps to cold-water sessions.
Ho Stevie! wetsuit: Seams and zips
Let’s start with seams. Every single one of them on the Ho Stevie! is blind stitched. Yep – we checked. For those who aren’t as nerdy as us when it comes to surfing rubber, that’s a good thing. A very good thing. Basically, you’re looking to cut out as much transfer of water from outside to in, to help keep warm H2O flowing around your body. Blind stitching achieves that by reducing the number of holes made in the manufacturing process.
Of course, there’s blind stitching and blind stitching, but we found the Ho Stevie! stuff to be very good quality, especially when you factor in the extra layer of protection that’s afforded by the watertight seam protectors, which – incidentally – should also make the suit last longer (though we can’t testify to that just yet).
Zip wise, this one’s chest zip and that suits us just fine. It might be cool to see a back-zip version made available to suit the beginner crowd, especially since that’s where see this bargain option really shining. But what’s there now does the job and helps maximize the flexibility on offer. It’s perhaps a touch on the chunky side, but does zip the right way, going right to left without the need for fiddly clips to get it started.
One more thing: The addition of a key loop is inspired. It’s something we really miss on lots of products these days and is a gift for surf travelers and people who often drive to their breaks.
Ho Stevie! wetsuit: The takeaway
We’ve been very impressed with the Ho Stevie! Men’s Surfing Wetsuit. It’s a solid runner, especially thanks to that impressive level of flexibility that we’d associate more from major brands. Most of all, the wallet-friendly price tag of under $200 a pop elevates the whole thing to another level. The folk who make it say it’s a $400 suit for $200. We kinda’ have to agree. There’s very little wrong with the tech, it fits good, and it’s affordable for even beginner surfers who haven’t caught the bug yet.