How many conversations start with, “I wish they would make...” or “If only they made...”? I guess quite a few. A veritable plethora of unanswered prayers to the innovators yet to be.
One of these must have been tuned into my particular wavelength of “they should make...” pleas and has made something rather special. Something that, when you think about it, just makes sense. Time for a quick summary.
I hate and always have hated wetsuit boots. I live in a place where the water temp means I can just about survive without them in the winter and I make that choice of having shorter sessions without the bloated foot klutz style I have with them on.
God (or whoever you believe in) has blessed me with clown size feet. I am used to having limited choices getting shoes, especially as I live in country filled with people whose shoe size does not exceed European size 45. If I ask in a shoe shop and say size 48, they look at me and whisper/snigger but that’s cool as I say, water off a duck’s back.
How is this relevant? Well, it means that any boots I have ordered in the past have been from the online machine and can not be tried on before the purchase. I have ended up with oversized or undersized and just having to make do which leads to the inevitable and dreaded ‘clown/balloon’ bootie, tripping over myself to pop up and just always resulting in an all round bad surf.
So I now don’t wear boots and I am cool with that. There are some occasions, however when they would come in handy.
There is a point break not too far from where I reside that only works on special size tide, on certain winds and with a particular swell direction. She is a very fickle one but when the stars align she creates perfect reeling lumps of water for me and some mates to surf. In short when it’s on, it’s on. Additionally to the fickle nature of my unmentioned wave, it is very difficult to get in and out of the water due to sharp rocks and the biggest concentration of sea urchins the world has known.
After surfing there for three years, conditions permitting, I feel there is always at least one urchin spine living in the sole of a foot. Some mates wear booties and I seethe in jealousy as I watch them scamper over the rocks uncaring if they step on one urchin or a thousand. Still, its not worth it if I can’t surf.
But, my friends, I announce with some fanfare that this time of pain could be coming to an end.
One stormy winter’s day, I was in surfing without boots and saw this guy paddling around with what looked like a pair of neon wetsuit boots. I mean neon… what was this, the eighties?
I suited up and paddled out myself and after a few waves got talking to the guy, he was French and using my very rusty ‘Francais’ started a good old waiting for waves convo. Turns out the boots had a ‘hulk foot’ graphic on them but they didn’t look like normal boots. The guy, whose name now eludes me, was from the famed ‘Cote Basque’ region of France and started telling me about the boots. He was making all these claims like “ they feel like you don’t have boots on” and they had a ‘barefoot feeling”. I mean, what?! I had to check these out.
Upon getting back to my ‘Command Centre’ in the office, I looked up the name he gave me. Wetty boots. Sure enough the slogan ‘ The barefoot feeling’ popped out at me. Given my own feeling about boots and my desire to solve the very much needed ‘urchin in foot’ issue I thought it was worth checking out.
Ever being the crusader for furthering my own causes via the Surf Bunker platform I decided to put my official SB hat on and contact Wetty to see if could test a pair of their boots with that dreamy claim of the ‘barefoot feeling’.
Greg is the founder, owner and maker of Wetty wetsuits and boots, his outlook on the surfing world and industry, as it turns out, is not that far removed from my own and he told me a lot of things that, in short, I can’t repeat. From working within the industry for a long time, he has emerged and tried to conquer one of the real problems for people all over the world. The clown foot clumsiness of the traditional wetsuit boot.
Greg started this journey four years ago when he had his last nightmare boot clown foot surf adventure. He decided enough was enough, went to a friend who was a local neoprene tailor with his design. Wham, Wetty was born and since then Greg as has been testing, slowly refining and perfecting the boot I have on my foot at this very moment. The operation has grown, pros have tested the boots, locals are addicted to it and he is now sending boots all over the world.
If you look at the Wetty store online there are some awesome options for fabrics and colours. When I asked Greg about the reason for this, he said it was simple. He did and does not have a budget for advertising as it would pump the price of the product up for you guys (the buyer) instead he decided to make them stand out in the water. Well, I guess it worked on me. Wetty is all about solving a problem but also about having fun in the water, the way it was before people started calling surfing a ‘sport’.
The item I tested was a 3mm ‘New Skull’ Wetty boot, which comes in on their website at 65 Euros. They come in a small sized yellow box with a load of instructions on the back mostly in French (obviously) with some light humour, but I will get to that later. Size wise I am a European 47/48 and Greg sent me a 48/49 which are a snug but perfect fit.
First impressions are an item of quality and a smell of rubber as you open the box. Both tactile and impressive looking in the ‘flesh’ I started to think they might do the job. They have what appeared to be a rubber sole, very flexible and thin, the seams connecting the different types of neoprene seemed to be also made of the same stuff, I would later find out was latex. 100% natural latex actually.
They did look small though, thin and short. We would see.
Testing the Wetty Boot (not by me)
As luck would have it, I had a toe injury pretty much as soon I got the set of boots. With blood and infections I was not being able to go in the water while a course of antibiotics was consumed. It then was not me that had first dibs on these potential problem solvers. A travelling writer for Surf Bunker was passing through and touching base at HQ just at the moment the postie arrived with our little yellow box. Matt, who has similar sized feet to me, was to get his plates of meat into these first and take them for a spin. I said I would film the event and we took off for the beach.
Low battery and full memory cards stopped the filming, but it was not to be a successful test.
Greg had told me, as do the instructions on the back of the yellow box, that you need to wax the boots on the sole just once before you use them. I am pretty sure I told Matt but maybe the sadistic side of me didn’t. The result was slipping and sliding everywhere, it looked like he was trying to surf with olive oil on the board. Haha, sorry, I mean it was a shame he didn’t listen to me.
Take two, and Matt had waxed the boots, spun out there and surfed just like he does with no boots on. His answer when I asked how they were was, oh yeah, I kind of forgot they were there. So far, so good.
**Testing The Wetty boot (**by me)
So to refresh you, I hate boots, first and foremost this for me was the test. Would I be able to surf in them without that horrible 1-2 week ‘clown foot’ transition time between putting boots on and taking them off?
Spoiler Alert. They Worked.
When you slide your foot into the Wetty boot for the first time, its like putting your foot into one of those injury support bandages, but it’s cool and comfortable. They just slip on effortlessly, the elastic properties sucking and moulding perfectly to the contours of your feet. To see is one thing, to put them on is quite another. I was starting to see what this whole ‘barefoot feeling’ was all about.
Retro Fish Test - While this was only a test at my local beachie and while riding a retro fish, I can report that I completely forgot I had them on after the first wave, there was literally no transition at all, no sticking, no slipping and absolutely zero clumsiness. I was astounded.
Putting the boots on and taking them off was super easy due to the different stretch properties of each panel of neoprene (get to that later).
But this was only half of the test, I wanted to take them out on a longboard too and then try them at my urchin point break.
Longboard Test – Now this was a strange one, I guess I didn’t realise how much I more I move my feet on a longboard. Cross-stepping up and down the board was no problem but it was the subtle movements of little foot slides and adjustments that I found a bit more difficult with the Wetty boots on as they stick to the board and don’t allow a slide of any kind. I did get the hang of it in the end but there was some adjustment needed.
Testing at Urchin Point
It was a strange feeling walking across the sharpish rocks to the ‘jump off’ point to paddle out, the boots gripped on the wet rocks and, could still feel the sharp parts but I found I was no longer gingerly teetering, no pain was felt.
I was riding the fish again and had a trouble free surf, like I said, no transition and really no difference felt in how I surfed.
I found that instead of the dread of getting out and stepping on the waiting spiky friends, I was looking forward to the testing while looking smugly over my shoulder at my non-booted friends.
Choosing my time carefully in between sets I paddled to the inside, got it wrong, got caught in the current sweeping the point and stood up. One step on the rocks and the all too familiar ‘crunch’ as the urchin tried to penetrate my latex sole. Nothing. They did not make it through. Joy, this had seemed to work.
I did find that bizarrely when getting out, the boot had taken on a bit of water, not a lot but a bit and certainly more than I had noticed before. This was a surf in heavier conditions so maybe that was it.
Still, no urchins in my body and I had a good surf. We can say this was mission successful.
Product Details I liked
The box, the instructions, the fact that the product is made with a passion to solve a problem, my problem and they didn't seem to take themselves too seriously as a brand.
Quality of touch of feel, this is a premium, one off product with a lot of thought gone into the design of it.
The sole is made out of eight layers of 100% recycled latex which gives you the protection and flex which moulds to your foot.
The front of the boot is made of non-stretch neoprene and the back, over your foot to calf, is made of very stretchy neoprene, making it easy to get on and off while retaining support and keeping the shape.
All neoprene is limestone based, no petrol chemicals.
It really works, a unique ‘barefoot feeling’ while giving you warmth and extra protection from sharp rocks and spiky friends.
The seams are all latex sealed and I can’t see them coming apart anytime soon.
A choice of crazy designs and colours, there are tons on the website for you to choose from.
Product Details I didn’t like
- The price has to be mentioned, I think it is on the expensive side, with 65 Euros for the pair of 3mm when compared with price of regular boots. However, there really is nothing like this on the market that I am aware of, and Wetty are a relatively small operation at the moment. I would pay it.
On my last surf I did notice a little bit of water seeping in (I do know that there has to be a bit in there) but on heavier days I notice more in there. Not enough to effect my surfing but I wonder how this will change as the boots get older. I will keep you informed.
The instructions are all in French, which is okay for me as I speak a bit and could work them out, after all they are only wetsuit boots, it’s not rocket science. I would say that maybe the part about waxing them up before 1st use might be in other languages as it’s quiet important to get right.
These boots (not really sure its fair to call them boots as they are something different) do exactly what they say on the tin. They work, you forget they are there while providing enough protection and warmth.
There is one other feature that I have not mentioned before now, one that I was saving to the end. A real plus for anyone that uses boots on a regular basis and one that Greg was very proud of.
They don’t smell. They really don’t.
We all know that stink as possibly the worst smell second only to a wombats fart, one that drives our non-surfing partners mad. Well rest assured I have smelly plates of meat, and after 2 months of testing I can tell you the boots still smell fresh and clean.
This last point is the nail in the coffin for me. I love Wetty boots but I hate wetsuit boots. These things are something else and Greg needs to come up with another word for them.
We are now scoring out of ten for reviews.
Product: 3mm Wetsuit boots
Price :65 euro
Model : New Skull
Score: 8.5 / 10
Great thanks to Greg for sending these in to us, in my opinion a game-changer. Check out their range of Star Trek wetsuits too here .