Visit ION for more info.
Get full 2014 gear info from 28 brands in the TKB 2014 Buyer’s Guide.
ION is well known as a maker of windsport-specific soft goods and the 2014 ION products are the result of years of continual refinement. Danny Schwarz walked us through some of the stand out features and differences between the different products in the 2014 ION line.
What are some of the highlights of the 2014 ION wetsuit line?
There is so much new stuff this year. I guess I should highlight our new hybrid suits available in the Strike, Element, and Jewel. They give you the style, flexibility, and durability of double lined suits while retaining a large amount of skin to provide windproof warmth where it matters.
What is special about the material used in the Quantum suits?
The Quantum suits are our only line of pure skin suits. To the discerning windsport customer who wants uncompromising warmth and comfort when exposed to the elements, skin is still the go-to material. Being full-skin suits, the Quantum line is fully waterproof and offers windsport junkies the warmth and comfort they want when exposed to the wind as kiters generally are.
What are some of the features of the ION wetsuits that set them apart from other brands?
All of our suits are pattered for windsport use, unlike most suits which are patterned for surfers. Kiters and windsurfers tend to get muscle pump in the forearms and quads, so our suits are more spacious in the thighs and arms. We also reinforce the knees, offer drains in the ankles (for when water shoots up your leg), and many of our suits have padding around the ribs where harnesses can cause discomfort. There is reinforcement in the crotch for added heat retention and durability against seat harness abrasion. All of our long leg suits come with a Velcro leg loop to help keep water out of your suit. We are also the first windsport brand to offer Nexkin in our suits.
Can you explain the difference between double lined and smooth skin or Nexkin?
Skin or mesh is a single neoprene layer often bonded to a jersey inside for extra warmth. It is extremely warm and does not absorb water so there is almost no evaporative heat loss, which is far more important to windsport users than surfers. The downside is that skin is soft and vulnerable. You can emboss it to make it more durable, but that makes the rubber more dense, decreasing flexibility. Double lined involves laminating a thin outer jersey on top of the skin.
The jersey protects the skin and makes it more robust. Since you don’t need any embossing on the skin underneath, it is generally more flexible as well. However, the exterior mesh absorbs some water, so you run into significant evaporative heat loss when you’re out of the water (such as when kiting). Nexkin is a new type of material that basically laminates an extremely thin extra coating of rubber to the outside of a double lined suit, giving you all the flexibility and strength of a double lined suit with the windproof characteristics of a skin suit. It’s basically the best of both worlds.
What are some of the standout features of the ION harnesses?
Tough question. I believe ION harnesses are the best on the market right now. The comfort they provide is due to the X-Spine shape which is 3-D molded to contour to your body. This works in conjunction with the protective edging to help prevent rash and bruising on your hips and sides. All of our harnesses come with hook knives conveniently located in the spreader bar pad. The push button spreader bar makes the harnesses a cinch to put on and remove without needing to adjust them every time, and when you do need to adjust the fit the buckles make that very easy. We also have a very clean yet encompassing lineup that fills the needs of pretty much everyone, but it’s organized in such a way that it’s not confusing or difficult to figure out what harness will suit each person best.
What’s the difference between a harness that is smooth on the inside versus one designed to grip your body or wetsuit?
We have two linings for all of our harnesses. The soft foam lining grips your body or wetsuit so the harness will stay in one place no matter what you or the kite is doing. We also have a soft neoprene lining which is meant to allow the harness to twist easily, making it easier to ride toeside or have the harness spin when you want it to. The neoprene lined harnesses have a downforce design that allows the harness to spin while resisting riding up.
What are the main differences between the different harnesses?
We have two variables – stiffness and slipperiness. If you like a lot of support and stiffness, we have the Apex or the Vertex. The Apex features the soft foam lining, so it is sticky, while the Vertex is lined in neoprene so it slips more easily around your body. If you like medium support, there is the sticky Revolt or the slippery Rival. If you want the bare minimum in a harness, the Hummer is a low-profile, flexible harness with the sticky foam lining while the Madtrixx is the same basic shape/flexibility but with a slippery neoprene lining.
That’s a pretty extensive line of harnesses. How should a rider go about choosing the best one for them?
Obviously the best option would be to go to your local ION dealer and try them all on. But lacking that, if you like a full, supportive harness, go for the stiff one. If you are a freestyle guy who tends to feel constricted by a larger harness, especially when trying to style out grabs, go for a more minimalistic flexible harness like the Madtrixx or Hummer. If you’re undecided or feel in the middle, go for the Revolt or Rival. And as far as the sticky vs. slippery thing, most people tend to have a pretty significant preference. If you are bothered by a harness slipping up on you, get one with a sticky foam lining. If it is more important to you that the harness be able to slide around your body when going toeside, go for the slippery neoprene lining.
Are there any other ION products you’d like to highlight?
Our drysuit has consistently been a market leader for quality, style, and warmth. It’s back with more of the same this year, but in addition to our highly popular men’s Fuse drysuit, we have now added a women’s suit, the Envee. It’s stylish and form flattering for women while offering the same degree of extreme warmth and protection from the elements that our Fuse has long been famous for.