When Jack O’Neill introduced the wetsuit in 1952, he couldn’t have known the impact his new product would have. All Jack wanted was to surf for longer periods of time in San Francisco, where the average water temp was in the mid-50s. But 60 years later, wetsuits have advanced to the point where we can surf water in places like Iceland and Alaska, all the way down to the slushy freezing point. Wetsuits are made by dozens of surf companies and boutique brands specializing in high-quality neoprene, and are even available in environmentally-friendly, plant-based rubber for the tree-hugging wave rider.
Japan has long been a leader in technological innovation, and their rubber is no exception. Many of the top big-name wetsuit brands have turned to Japan for their rubber, and with good reason — the quality speaks for itself, and the rubber coming out of Japan is as good as it gets. We aren’t talking about “Japanese” rubber that is actually made in China. No, we mean the real Japanese rubber, made by companies that have been providing surfers, divers, and even the Japanese military with high-quality insulation for over 30 years. If you want to make the best possible wetsuit, you need to consider warmth, flexibility, and durability; and many brands will sacrifice one aspect in order to enhance the others. But with top-grade rubber, you don’t have to make sacrifices. You can have the best of all worlds.
Straw Hat is a local brand working exclusively with Hawaiian South Shore. For years, the company has been building some of the best surf wetsuits in Hawaii, if not the entire Pacific. We work with a Japanese rubber company — a company with a stellar track record — to make top-of-the-line wetsuits, and we have integrated a number of customizations that we believe will make for a better suit. For instance, many wetsuits have rubber that is supple, but few can compete with the silky-smooth Straw Hat rubber — it feels like an extension of your skin! When wetsuits were first made, it felt like you were wearing armor in the surf. Mobility was extremely limited, and even then the suits weren’t that warm. But these days, guys can wear super-thick winter suits and still tweak out slob airs with style — even more so in suits made from the finest Japanese rubber.
But flexibility and warmth aren’t enough. Durability is just as important, which is why we have integrated silicone rubber into our cuffs to prevent overstretching when you get in and out of your suit. Added elasticity translates into a better fit, which increases the life of the suit, since it’s not getting overstretched when you wear it. And the nylon loop we have added to the zipper is sewn in to add strength so it won’t pull out when used. This design allows you to tie into your boardshorts so that your suit stays in place during tumbles.
There are dozens of design elements that make the Straw Hat wetsuit line the best option around, but the real test is in customer feedback. We have had clients come back five years after buying Straw Hat suits, and they’ve shown us that their suits are still in top-notch condition. They have no sign of dry rot or cracking in the rubber. Most conventional suits last a season at best, yet these suits tend to last for over five years! When warmth and comfort come in a package that only needs to be replaced twice a decade, you know you’ve got a winner.
Hawaii isn’t the coldest surf destination on the planet by any means, but those keiki days when you can surf for nine hours without getting cold are long gone for most of us. In general, you will want at least a 2mm Front zip suit, to get through the winter. And when the season ends and it’s time to travel, no one needs a good wetsuit more than a Hawaiian surfer who is unaccustomed to surfing in cold water. Knowing that you can set yourself up for any season and any temperature without wandering far from home will make trips way more feasible. Come on down to Hawaiian South Shore this week and see why Chinaman’s Hat is old news. These days, it’s all about Straw Hat.
STRAW HAT REVIEWS
Fits like a glove and moves with my body. Most other wetsuits I've tried were to restrictive or so flimsy they didn't even keep you warm. This StrawHat wetsuit is perfect for Diamondhead Dawn Patrolling. Thanks! Mark L. Honolulu
It is great - Super flexible and worth the money - David F
It is softer on the inside and outside than any other wetsuit that I have seen. The zipper is in the front which makes it easier to put on and take off, but does not seem to affect lying on the surfboard. - Michael C Rewards member
A bit late in reply, but if I were to recommend the Straw Hat Wetsuit to Surfers, I would to all of them. Yes it’s pricey, but worth it. The suit is light in water, warm and if the sun happens to come up, the suit isn’t unbearably hot. Good stretchy area to the arms, not to much drag, good pocket for keys/wax (Anything else that you can fit in the sleeve pocket) Now all I have to see is how durable the wetsuit is for time and wear and tear. Mahalo for your tips to care for my wetsuit! Darin L
Dear David & HSS Gang, The Straw Hat Wetsuit needed to satisfy 3 criterias I was looking for; 1) Comfort and Flexibility - It’s light, flexible & super comfortable. 2) Easy to put on and take off - With the full front zipper, no more wrestling to take it off. 3) Though not very high on the priority list, it’s style. Very stylish with the coolest orange racing stripe. I also have to mention I had some problems with the zipper. Took it back and David surprisingly gave me a new one. I was stoked! Thank you David and the HSS Gang. Will definitely be seeing you guys again. Kent T
Very comfortable, lightweight and does not chafe. Fits snug, but does not restrict movement during paddling. Front zipper is easy to use and is barely noticeable when chest is lying on surfboard. Rubber material is nice and supple, and provides the right amount of warmth, especially during windy days. VIP member Dominic E.
Highly recommend. During the winter season, I am unaffected by the wind and cold when I’m in the water -- I feel like I could stay out all day. Moreover, this doesn’t impede my stroke or slow me down -- I am very comfortable. Excellent wetsuit. Duke Y.
Great Wetsuit! Great Fit! Great Quality! Fred S.
My first wetsuit purchase and couldn’t be happier! Neoprene is so soft so careful of fingernails , rings, etc… that could tear it. Thanks to Hawaiian South Shore for patching a small hole in mine - likely from one of my beginner moves! Stoked Rewards member Sara Newell
Thank you for the tips on how to care for my suit. Okay I tried my Straw Hat Wetsuit for a double session today. Hands down the best wetsuit I have tried. It’s comfortable and keeps you very very warm which is a must for me. Dawn and evening patrols. Especially during the winter times. The only draw back is that the suit will lift up and when you pull it down water gets in. If you guys can somehow keep it from lifting up this would be awesome. Need to somehow attach it to your boardshorts. P.S. I love the zipper, makes it easy to get in and out of your suit. - Darren Hashimoto
Straw Hat is simply the finest wetsuit I’ve ever used. It’s super comfortable and warm. They have raised the bar very high and set the standard for all other companies to try and follow. Thank you very much for the handwritten letter. Makes me feel like we’ve been close friends for a long time. I will follow all your tips to get the most out of my wetsuit. Hawaiian South Shore is the only surf shop I go to for all my surfing needs. - Greg Shimabuku