Stab Recommends: Xcel Comp X Fullsuit - Stab Mag
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Stab Recommends: Xcel Comp X Fullsuit

A suit that increases blood-flow and protects against burglars.

hardware // Sep 27, 2023
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 4 minutes

What’s that old Mark Twain quote about Northern California?

“Shittiest waves I ever had, was a summer in San Francisco…”

Something like that.

If you venture north of Pigeon Point between March and August, you’ll surely be greeted by fluttering southerlies, fog so heavy you can taste its crisp kiss, and hordes of wave-starved, well-groomed, tech-funded enthusiasts posturing clumsily over exhausted locals.

Through cracked binoculars, perched on the mound of dilapidated hillside above Kellys Cove, thieving bums will watch you suit up through holes in the gray vapor, waiting for you to stow your key, hoping you leave a laptop, or some snacks, in your vulnerable vehicle.

Lewis Samuels will be somewhere in the fog, going left.

It was on one of these days, sometime in early August, that I decided to don the new Xcel Comp X wetsuit I had recently received, and splash in my favorite 55 degree (F) public pool.

Many wetsuits are genre specific. You wouldn’t paddle out to Malibu on a Kris Hall longboard wearing a RipCurl E-Bomb wetsuit, the same way you wouldn’t buy some 7TILL8 custom neoprene to ride a Firewire at Uppers. Xcel is one of few brands which has escaped this diametric, and feels comfortable under the gaze of both snobby SF hipsters and hypernatremic high-performance locals.

New wetsuits can, at their worst, feel like clingy lovers, inducing overheated claustrophobia and a vague sense of anxiety. At their best, I find they’re simply forgotten, absorbed into the skin they adorn — comforting, warm, and delicate.

This hoodless 4/3 in Xcel’s ‘highest performance’ line leaned towards the latter end. Buttery and comforting in the torso area, it’s cross-stitched threads gently cupped my bony shoulders and wrapped neatly under my armpits (a personal wetsuit peeve is loose armpit material).

My only initial complaint was an unpleasant tightness around the neck, the result of some sticky sealing technology which, although effective in it’s anti-flush efforts, was reminiscent of an over-earnest asphyxiophile.

There was something else, though, aside from the physicality of the suit. I was grinning, glowing stupidly, in a parking lot which faintly smelled of urine, while likely being spied on by hobos. Probably, it was the fuzzy, impermanent warmth of capitalist dopamine, a phenomena dubbed “retail therapy” which is often brought on by shiny new things.

Or… I was genuinely feeling the effects of Xcel’s proprietary Celiant SmartFiber, which lines the entire suit and has “been clinically proven to generate increased blood flow at the site of application in healthy individuals.”

Not sure. Definitely some increased blood flow either way.

If you’re in need of some digital blood-flow, watch Shaun’s SEOTY entry, here. Photo by Joshua Tabone

I’m typically a hood guy, especially in cold waves as meager as these. I much enjoy the feeling of protected isolation, from both cold breezes and delible small talk, that a hood offers. That being said, I do appreciate the aesthetic of a fullsuit, booties, and no hood — probably because I adore Shaun Manners.

Did this suit make me surf like Shaun? No.

However, and probably more importantly, it didn’t make me surf any worse than I usually do. There was no restriction in my legs, no chafing in my pits, and none of the waves I missed could be blamed on stiff neoprene. I was perfectly free to surf as well (or as poorly) as my own limitations would allow, unhindered by shivers or claustrophobia amidst the Northern Californian elements.

Xcel, Former, Globe, Rage — Shaun might have one of the best freesurf sticker arrangements in the game. Photo by Joshua Tabone

However, about halfway through my session, I had a very strange feeling in my stomach. It could have been the recent pee I took, pooling around my tummy, but it felt more visceral, animalistic.

I squinted through the fog, toward my car, and seemed to spot a shadowy figure. Brushing the notion aside as mere paranoia, I continued my imaginary heat against the bald guy next to me, scanning the horizon and paddling lazily against the sweep.

Remember when Mick Fanning got his windows smashed at Ocean Beach? Screengrab from Juice

But the fear lingered, as I thought of the many windows I’ve seen forcibly ventilated, the thousands of backpacks vanished from backseats. So, I went in and jogged up the beach (comfortably, might I add.)

By the time I arrived, the shadowy figure was gone, leaving in his place a mess of shattered glass and misfortune. As I surveyed the scene, mouth slightly agape, I felt a strange mix of surprise and guilty delight.

The window that had been smashed was not mine, rather, it was that of a neighboring Prius.

As I slowly peeled the wetsuit off my skin, blood flow now decreasing, I pondered the coincidental fortune I had just been subjected to. Could this wetsuit have something to do with it?

Probably not.

But, like Steph with her lucky purple boardshorts, I’ve worn it every surf since.

Note: Because it is mostly impossible to give a exhaustive, measured review of a wetsuit after a few uses, I will be following up with a durability test once I’ve subjected the suit to it’s due saltwater and sunlight. Stay tuned.


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