My reviews tend to follow a similar pattern, as I write the sort of reviews I prefer to read. When I read Amazon reviews I’m the one who reads the negative one star reviews and the horrendously long ultra-detailed ones that make you wonder if the reviewer has a life. I find the combination of the two gives me the best critical gauge of a product. Whereas some people prefer only five and four star reviews to subconsciously confirm to themselves a decision they’ve already made.
I’m going to change my pattern slightly this time to save you some time.
While I am always loathe to casually advise anyone on spending unnecessary money, and I survived quite well without any such specialised products for years, the Surf Fur Parka is my favourite item of anything I’ve reviewed in the past five plus years*.
It’s a Five Star product. It’s a Top 100 Reviewer Product. It’s an A++ product Would Buy Again. It’s a Take My Money product.
It’s a new & essential part of my open water winter swimming gear. The hoodie is pretty good too, I wish I’d had it years ago.
It gets me called Brother Donal.
The Christian-Brother student in me appreciates that more than you can realise. (I’ve since tried getting the Guillamene Polar Bears to call me Brother Lone Swimmer If You Please but they just look funny at me, whatever that’s about).
Swim parkas are cool in a cool kids way. And warm and dry. They make a statement. The statement they make is “I’m a real open water swimmer, because I need a parka to get into my pre-swim mojo”. They are the open water equivalent of suddenly every pool swimmer needing to wear headphones before racing, at an age group meet.
I didn’t previously have a parka so I must not have been a real open water swimmer. I got a parka, so I must be a swimmer. It’s like learning to flip turn. It’s a statement of intent (if you are into that kind of thing). Isn’t it funny how people ignore some of the cultural sun-context of equipment? We can buy to make a statement to ourselves, or to others. I’m not certain but I think that’s what the fashion industry is entirely built on. I resisted Swedish goggles because I didn’t like the elitism that sometimes goes with them.
Typical pool swimming parkas are pretty decent for keeping the wind off before or after a swim. Typical pool swimming parkas are stabiliser wheels compared to the Surf Fur Parka. Typical pool swimming parkas are wimps. I laugh at your pool swimming parka. I wanted an open water swimming parka. I wanted a parka that could defy the bitter winds howling of my beloved Atlantic. Your Pacific is a beginner’s ocean. I wanted as parka as tough as my sport. I wanted a parka that really makes me look like I am a member, nay a leader of the cold water swimming cult. So I got a Surf Fur.
When marathon and open water swimming really began as a sport in the nineteenth century, the water was as cold as liquid nitrogen and the likes of Matthew Webb punched icebergs and sharks out of their path. It was the Mythological Age of cold water swimming. They were gods.
Last century, real swimmers scrubbed themselves with barnacle-encrusted rocks in defiance of the wind and cold and wore woollen swimwear, to which they added steel wool and 60 grit sandpaper for comfort. They dried off using coarse sand. Those swimmers were themselves often rubbed up against sheep to protect those sheep from the elements. Those were real men and women, heroes and heroines to a person. It was the Stone Age of open water swimwear.
In the Bronze Age of cold water swimwear, (ten years ago), people wrapped towels around themselves, and cold water swimming civilization didn’t fall. But it was weakened.
Five years ago, just five years, people were wearing towels, made into robes. These people were the Decadent Romans of cold water swimming. Let their names be forever accursed. (Hi Gabor!)
Since then Robie and the Bry Dobe or something which sounds like that and its ilk arrived and suddenly every event had the serious open water swimmers wearing them, while I stood there in my Speedoes. It was the Dark Ages of cold water swimming. The glorious past was gone and that was left was a few weak remnants. Cold and wet. To hell with them all.
Damn if the Rry Dobe isn’t the ugliest thing ever made. I stood testicle-shrivelling tough, Bronze Age of Swimming holdout. No bloody way I was paying for something so ugly and with a huge bloody logo on the back, I’m far too stylish, suave, sophisticated and other words beginning with S and cold water swimming is such an elegant sport. I have a rule about logos on clothes. If they are larger than three inches/six centimetres long, someone should be paying me to display it. That Rry Dobe makes you look like a you are being inducted in some weird Masonic Lodge type thing, where your title is Under-Peon of the Shallows, reporting to the Over-Peon of the Breakers who in turn reports to the Minor Lifeguard of the Mid-Tide etc.
Instead, in my Surf-Fur, I look like the gogdamned High Priest of Cold Water. (Which is appropriate I think, considering the number of times I’ve seen this site referred to as “the bible of cold water swimming“.) Call me Brother. I don’t join cults, I start them. The Modern Age of cold water swimming has arrived.
And then the marvellously-monikered Zenon Issel , the founder of Surf Fur, asked me to try his Surf Fur Parka.
Surf Fur. Nice name. A stab in the heart to the former surfer in me, but now I’m a cold water swimmer, so I am the ocean’s Apex Predator. Seals, Jellyfish, Reefs, Surfers and Triathletes are my natural prey. My heart is wave-eroded limestone, my soul is black basalt, I make the swell with a shrug of my shoulders.
The Surf Fur Hoodie. You thought I forgot the Surf Fur Hoodie in the title? I didn’t because when I’m not wearing the parka, I’m wearing the Hoodie. The Red Surf-Fur Hoodie. Now you could buy either the Parka, or the Hoodie. If you are reading this, then you’re probably an open water swimmer. Buy the Parka. Buy both if you want. Send the Parka to me to use as a spare bathrobe.
The little attached story label on the product starts with “January, 15, 2003, It was a cold day in the water at Ponto Beach”. (I don’t know where Ponto Beach is. I’m guessing west coast of America but I’m not looking it up). But you know what I know? I know cold. Surfers think they know cold, I know this because I once thought a mid-winter six hour surf session was cold. They don’t. I didn’t it was merely chilly in comparison. They don’t know cold like swimming a mile in 3.3 degrees without a wetsuit. They don’t know cold like the Atlantic wind blowing your nose off on a Saturday morning in February, your hands almost sticking to the steel of the bars, as you descend the steps to James Joyce’s “scrotum-tightening sea”. But still, those surfers sure make a great product for swimmers.
Here’s a thing about the Hoodie. While yes, it’s warm, wind and waterproof with flat-taped seams, it’s also comes in scarlet. And you know who uses a scarlet jacket as part representative of their so-called club? The International Lice Swimming Association. And you know who the IlSA’s least favourite person in the world is because of my never-refuted criticism, and their embrace of cheats? Yes, you know it, Brother LoneSwimmer. I get to say that because I myself completed one of the those stupid swims. (Not Ice Swimming, an honourable long-existing sport, just Ice Mile Swimming). Brother LoneSwimmer, aka the world’s first Ice Mile Rebel. Now, guess also who never bought a red IlSA jacket and logo? So I have an idea. All you fellow Ice Mile Rebels should buy a red Surf Fur Hoodie. That’s not the good bit yet.
The good bit is this: Apart from not giving the IlSA any money, you don’t have to join their stupid club. Just repeat, Ice Mile Swimming is corrupt, stupid and dangerous. Congratulations, welcome to the Ice Mile Rebel club! Now, wearing your red Surf-Fur Red Jacket, you can sneak into IlSA meetings. Better yet, you can pass yourself off as an IlSA Ambassador, no qualifications are required for the role and the newspapers will never check up on your made-up swimming qualifications. Implying a two-way English Channel relay or a one way joke relay are solos the most popular IISA fake swim qualification. It’ll all be grand.
Now, because I love you all, and secret handshakes and club insignias are cool and because the Surf-Fur Hoodie and Parka perfectly lend themselves to adding your own personalised logo or embroidery, I made you a logo. Download and use as you wish. —>
You don’t have to swim a mile, or a kilometre or a metre in water under 5 degrees. Instead you can just download the logo and get it added it to your Surf-Fur and voila and other French words. Welcome to the Ice Mile Rebel club. Again!
Oh, you want Technical details of the parka now, do you?
Okay, both products are dense PTFE fabric made from recycled plastic. No it doesn’t feel cheap or scratchy. I was a tad sceptical that they’d be waterproof in Irish conditions but I was wrong.
The parka in particular is perfect for open water swimmers. It’s heavy and warm. It’s completely windproof, which in Ireland is actually more important than rain. It’s reversible. Which is really useful for something like a crewing or a Channel relay or Champion of Champions or Dolphin Club Aquatic Park 24 hour swim relay where you may be swimming multiple times in a day. It has reversible snaps, not a zipper. Because I have to be honest here, I prefer to not have zippers next to the crown jewels, for the short time before a swim when they haven’t shrivelled into invisibility. The parka is roomy and there are slits that allow your hands entry inside to get changed underneath. Better than those stupid short sleeves. Nice deep hood. Long enough that you bend over to get your fake Crocs without exposing your bare untanned white arse to the world, again.
The hoodie is black or red, the parka is black. You can wear both in the real world amongst non-swimmers, unlike other manufacturer’s products and you’d never know, they may donate money to the Church of Cold Water.
Did I mention I love it? Oh yeah, right at the start. And yet you kept reading. Damien from the upstart new Myrtlevillians open water swimming group, got one of each, in the hope of being recognised as an official of the local congregation of the Church of Cold Water Swimming, but he has only just been allowed to play with his parkie or hoodie yet and so he has not has the title of Brother yet bestowed on him by his peers. Xenon tells me that he is lining up a distributor in Europe, and also that the parka, which comes in black as standard, is available in other colours for larger orders.
If we meet at the coast, my child, don’t forget to ask for a blessing.