Roka Maverick Pro Thermal wetsuit review
Roka enters the thermal wetsuit market with their top-end Maverick Pro Thermal, but does it deliver in cold temperatures? Matt Baird braves some chilly winter waters to find out
The winter news pages often feature inspiring tales of open-water swimmers braving the cold to take winter dips. Where these swimmers are often in trunks or costumes, we’re not as hardy as that and use a thermal wetsuit (with neoprene accessories) until May. The key thermal wetsuit releases are Huub’s Aegis II (£299), and Blueseventy’s Helix (£600) and Reaction (£495). And now it’s the turn of Texan tri force Roka to enter the cold-water-thwarting market with a thermal edition of their Maverick Pro.
Straight out of the box, the Maverick Pro is noticeably different from the Huub and Blueseventy offerings in that it looks like a conventional wetsuit, lacking the internal liners made of polyester and plush zirconium, respectively. So where’s the warmth coming from? “The thermal gains are from the increased neoprene thickness in the chest and arms,” say Roka.
So why not just buy a cheaper wetsuit if you want added neoprene thickness? “Although you’d think that increasing the thickness would restrict mobility, we realised that our patented design allows us to increase the neoprene wall thickness without sacrificing the flexibility and performance of the suit.”
Roka pitch it for “temp ranges around 5°C lower than a regular wetsuit; anything under 18°C would be within that temp range.” So our two key tests in were in the 17°C waters of Northern Tenerife (air 12°C) and the 3°C waters of Clevedon in Somerset (air 7°C). As expected in Tenerife, the Pro had no issues dealing with the moderate sea water temp. But what instantly became clear was the huge amount of buoyancy the suit provides, with so much lift that we could float unaided – Dead Sea-style – in the water. As a sinky-leg swimmer, we enjoyed the added – yet even – lift but top swimmers may find it overkill. What all will appreciate is Roka’s ‘Arms-Up’ tech, which delivers possibly the best upper-body flexibility of any one-piece wetsuit (two-piece options from DeSoto are at another level still).
Cut to Clevedon and it’s here that the Pro overcame our skepticism, and our core remained warm throughout despite that lack of psych-boosting zirconium used by Blueseventy. Chilly water ingress was non-existent and it was only our numb fingers and blue lips that prompted our exit from the water.
So it’s a hugely-impressive suit, but the challenge for Roka will be asking people to pay £675 for what may well be a second suit. But for anyone racing in Scandinavia, Scotland or the Irish Sea this summer, this could be your cold-water contender.
Verdict: A warm, buoyant and flexible cold-water pick. but the RRP limits its appeal 85%
Buy from www.roka.com