While it has been winter for weeks now in most of the country, here in Florida we’ve been hanging out in shorts. That all changed this past weekend with winter storm Helena. Temps dropped into the low 40s and the forecast was calling for a freeze. More importantly the surf forecast was for OH waves with the winds out of the N at 20 mph. These conditions are not ideal for paddle boarding but epic for kite surfing. To stay warm, I was decked out in neoprene from head to toe (specifically a full 3/2 O'Neill Superfreak wetsuit, 2 mm gloves and 3 mm Xcel booties). I wore the Excel Drylock TDC 2 mm Hood for the first time. At 6’2” 190 I wore the XL.
I’ve tried hoods in the past but never found them to be comfortable. I have even tried neoprene beanies only to lose them in the ocean. In these conditions, safety trumps comfort so I gave the hood a go. It wouldn’t take long for hypothermia to kick in if something went wrong in these conditions. Further, I wanted to charge it not suffer through a kite boarding session. Being properly prepared for the conditions can make all the difference.
Wearing it out of the water the hood is comfortable, especially around the chin. This has been an area that has bugged me in the past with other hoods. The neoprene is super soft, almost creamy. The double flaps on the neck (referred to as a neck dam by Excel) of the hood seem odd at first. After being in the water and getting hit by a wave I definitely think the double flaps are a good design. One flap (the inner flap) goes inside your wetsuit and the other goes on the outside of your wetsuit. This helps keep water out of your wetsuit. I use a front zip wetsuit and found putting the hood on first and then pulling over the wetsuit made it easier to keep the inner layer of the hood inside the neck of the wetsuit. It seemed that having the inner flap tucked did seem to limit my ability to turn my head side to side. This was not a big deal but noticeable.
A drawstring helps tighten the hood around your face. While I haven’t taken a wave to the face I imagine this would help keep some of the water from entering and filling your entire wetsuit with cold water. I wasn’t sure what to do with excess draw string – leave it hanging or tuck it in the face opening. Neither seemed to be very good options.
After nearly 3 hours of kite surfing and being at the beach the Xcel Drylock TDC Hood kept me perfectly warm. For the conditions – 60 F water, 44 F air temp and 15 to 20 mph wind – this hood did the job. The cold was not a factor during my session.