Due to space constraints in print, our product reviews are often shorter than some pieces of kit that we test deserve. We therefore occasionally publish longer, in-depth reviews on our website.
Yonda Ghost II Swimming Wetsuit – Extended Review
This summer, I’ve put Yonda’s top-of-the-range Ghost II wetsuit through its paces. Between April and September, I’ve completed races from 1 mile to 21km in it; I’ve used it in the sea, in rivers and in lakes; and I’ve used it for recreational swims and in water temperatures from around 12 to 24 degrees.
My overall impression is that it’s a fast, well-made suit and I’ve loved racing in it. So what makes it so good?
First things first. A wetsuit has to be comfortable and allow a full range of movement. I realise this is personal, but the Ghost II ticked all the right boxes for me. The fit was close but not constricting and, importantly, there was no pressure on my throat, which is something I’ve experienced with some other suits and makes me feel like I’m choking. Another thing I seek to avoid is a feeling of tightness through the body, especially when stretching your arms above your head into a streamline position. The Ghost II did admirably in this respect.
Closely related to comfort is the risk of chafing. I have permanent scarring on my neck from previous suits, but my neck has remained intact and undamaged all summer. The material around the neck is notably soft. The only issue I had was some abrasion on the inside of my elbow. This, I suspect, was because the fabric on the forearm panels (more on this later) creased a little at this point, where it attaches to the neoprene. Abrasion was avoided on later swims by taking more care to ensure the sleeves were smooth.
But can a wetsuit be built for both comfort and speed?
Given how hard it is to objectively measure the speed of a wetsuit, it’s impossible to give a definitive answer to this but it’s fair to say that I’ve had some of my best races ever this season while wearing the Ghost II. I’ve beaten people I didn’t expect to and, importantly, I feel fast when wearing it, which is always good for a psychological boost. The swimming position is well balanced, with enough buoyancy around the hips and legs to bring your legs closer to the surface but not so much that you kick air or that it strains your lower back.
The Ghost II is fitted with fabric (rather than neoprene) forearm panels. Yonda describe these as Vector Catch Panels, made of lightweight technical hydrophobic fabric. The idea is that the fabric gives you a better connection with the water than neoprene. I like the look and feel of the fabric panels although I’m not totally convinced it makes a difference to my swimming. What you do feel, however, is the cold! For me, this was an issue at the very beginning of the season when water temperatures were around 11 to 13 degrees, especially as the neoprene around the rest of the arms is thin. For fast swimming in warmer water, it’s brilliant, and it’s fine when racing in cooler water once you're used to it, but if you want to do extended leisure swims in cold water then you might want to look elsewhere, at least if you suffer from the cold like I do.
Another feature I like is the reverse (top to bottom) zip. Although this makes it difficult (for me, impossible) to zip up the wetsuit on my own, I like the feeling of security the reverse zip gives when swimming. With a standard zip (bottom to top), I’m always slightly anxious that someone will accidentally unzip me when swimming. It’s never happened, but it’s possible. I also don’t like break-away zippers, because I’m never quite sure when they’re going to pop open, but maybe that’s just me.
Finally, the suit has survived a tough summer virtually unscathed. Yonda lent me the one I’ve been using, so I’ve been careful with it, but it’s still been jammed into my hand luggage for flights, draped over fences to dry in the sun and left to fester, damp, in my bag for several days. The only damage are some nicks in the neoprene on the arms, which I think happened when I pulled it on too quickly. I’m sure it will be good for another season or two.
Although it’s a pricey suit, it’s comparable (and in some cases cheaper) than other top-of-the range wetsuits and it more than holds its own in the water. If you're considering buying one, give Yonda a call and ask about your specific requirements - they may even be able to arrange a try-before-you-buy at your local swimming venue.