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Technically modern with an iconic retro look - a review of the O'Neill and Xcel wetsuit jackets

Burt Reynolds

Cooler air and water temps are here. For many, paddle boarding this time of year requires some neoprene. Remember as the water temperatures head into the 60s the hypothermia risk goes from low to medium. Being a bit tired of the traditional pullover jackets we began looking for something different. Inspired by one of the creepiest movies ever (i.e., Deliverance) we found the O’Neill and Xcel full front zip wetsuit jackets and decided to give them a try.

While we loved the retro styling, we weren’t sure how the front zip would perform on the water. After a number of sessions, we can honestly say it never felt like we had a full front zip on even when on our stomach climbing back on the paddle board. In our test conditions the water and air temps were in the upper 60s to low 70s. Both jackets kept us warm and toasty. When paddle surfing (more specifically when getting slammed) we found the very bottom of the jacket would get folded up a bit in the back and allow water up into the jacket. Unlike Mr. Reynolds we wore our jacket fully zipped (we didn't cut the sleeves off either). To our surprise no water came in through the front zipper something we thought would be an issue.

SUP Safety - Stay warm paddle surfing

Paddle boarding in both jackets was comfortable with no noticeable restriction in range of motion. The neoprene is super soft and stretchy. The Xcel is 2.1 mm and the O’Neill is 2 mm. We found the Xcel to have the edge on comfort, even though both are at 2 mm. Another not so obvious benefit we noticed is how quickly the jacket dries compared to the standard neoprene pullover top. With the zipper open and the arms inside out we hung it on our outdoor shower and it was dry in no time. With the pullovers we find one side dries while the other side stays damp. Drying fast makes the jacket perfect for those double session days.

As for styling, we love the smooth texture and matte black color which combined give both jackets a retro look. We also like the look of the front zipper. The gold O’Neill badge on the chest gives the jacket an added retro edge. Overall the quality of construction on both is solid. The O’Neill has a more substantial zipper making it easier to zip. We also liked the snap at the top of the O’Neill zipper at the neck. The zipper on the Xcel is a little finicky at the bottom.

SUP Safety - paddle surfing equipment

The Xcel seems to run truer to size while the O’Neill runs small. We wore an XL in the Xcel and a 2XL in the O’Neill. For context, I am 6’2” and 190 lbs. I wear a LT in a full wetsuit for both Xcel and O’Neill. All in all, both jackets meet our requirement of being technically functional and stylish. I am glad I have both hanging in the garage. SUP safely.

Key Points:

  • Both have retro edge and are technically functional

  • Both are very warm and comfortable

  • No range of motion restriction in either

  • Both dry faster than traditional pullover

  • O’Neill runs small, Xcel is true to size

  • Xcel zipper smaller and a little finicky

  • Bottom of jacket can fold up on both when getting slammed

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