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Tue 16th Aug 2022
First Look: The 2015 Orca Alpha
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Thursday 29th January 2015

Tags  Alpha  |  Orca  |  Orca Alpha  |  Orca Alpha 2015  |  Orca Wetsuits

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Last week I got the opportunity to see the new Orca ( range at their 2015 launch, based at Playitas Resort in Fuerteventura. TAKE THE NEXT STEP was their global strapline for the presentation, for a range which has been two or more years in the planning and development. It's a range they are particularly proud of, and based on my experiences a pride they can have significant justification in.

Orca of course is renowned for its wetsuits, having been born in the sport of triathlon. The new Alpha and Predator wetsuits are their headline grabbing, marquee offerings for 2015, and here are the details and my initial thoughs on the Alpha. If you are looking for freedom and flexibility, I think I've just found it for you.

2015 Orca Alpha - RRP £499

The new Orca Alpha is one of the two range topping wetsuits suit from Orca ( released for the 2015 season, the other being the Predator.

The Alpha is the suit designed for you if you could chose a "no wetsuit please" race. You are likely a strong swimmer, swim well in the pool and have a solid overall swim stroke - including a decent leg kick. The goal for the new Alpha derived from the results of Orca's extensive focus group reviews, which identified its key goals for a wetsuit for this group of athletes as optimising:

  • Freedom of movement
  • Feel for the water
  • Fatigue reduction
  • Pure speed

With all of that together, Orca is aiming for Total Freedom, along with their "Freedom - Do You Want It?" marketing tag line. The development team at Orca are very proud of their work and consider it a game changer which has been more than two years in the making. So, what is it really like?

Orca Alpha 2015

It's flexible. It's really flexible. It's quite staggeringly FLEXIBLE. Seriously, it really is...

Much of the reason for this is a new neoprene construction called 0.88 Free. At well under one millimetre (guess what, it's 0.88mm...), the blue arms and under arm panels are really the standout element of this suit. And not just because of the colour. You open the box (and all Orca suits now come in a very nice box - inspired they told us by the 'Apple' un-boxing experience), the arm material really is something very new to me, and it will be to you too. Not only is it (very) thin, but it also stretches WAY more than the typical (44-cell) neoprene used, almost three times more their testing indicates.

Orca Alpha 2015

The box also includes a waterproof backpack to protect your suit when not in the water. There is also a practical reason for the box, and it is not (totally) aimed at you, the end user - it eases storage and identification of contents for retailers!

Manufacturing a neoprene of such depth isn't simple; you can't just simply set your neoprene 'cutter', and slice it thinner. Well, you could probably try but would fail miserably given current technology. Orca have dealt with that issue by combining a half a milimetre neoprene layer (which is actually created by compressing a slightly thicker neoprene - you just can't cut at 0.5mm depth), with a titanium alloy mid layer and then the lining, for that combined total of 0.88mm. The titanium alloy layer then acts to improve strength and durability as the 'sandwich in the wetsuit picnic' so to speak, but also to provide additional warmth - allowing a super thin, ultra flexible material to work when the water temperatures are low. This has taken extensive R&D with industry renowned neoprene producers Yamamoto - and Orca also have exclusive rights to the 0.88 Free development for the next three seasons.

Orca Alpha 2015 0.88 Free

The neck area of the Alpha (and indeed the Predator), has been amended with what they are calling an 'ultimate seal collar', which reduces pressure at the neck.

The rest of the suit has the latest Nano SCS (Super Composite Skin) coating on the neoprene to reduce friction through the water by reducing the drag coefficient. Also in the 'less obvious' technology is the use of what Orca are calling InfinitySkin lining - in areas of the suit where flexibility and stretch are key, this high stretch nylon lining is utilised to contribute to the 'Total Freedom' tag of the suit. That's the unseen element which adds to the overriding freedom goal.

Orca Alpha 2015 - Non Stanford

First Impressions?

Having tried out the suit, what are my first thoughts?

It's a light suit. Before I'd even got into it, I held the suit and was noticeably thinking "really, this doesn't weigh very much". I'd be interested to weigh it versus its peers, but it must surely be one of the lightest range topping suits on the market?

Orca provide 'wetsuit foot bag' booties to help putting the suit on, along with thin cotton gloves to help reduce the chance of nails impacting on the material. The booties are pretty basic and all but disposable really, (pretty much like those blue overshoes you may get if you want to go poolside at your local leisure centre), though I'm not too worried about that. Getting the legs of the suit on was not really a problem. A sock or a carrier bag would work just as well, if indeed you feel you need a little assistance in this regard. If both you and the suit are dry, neither are really essential from my findings.

The cotton gloves, or at the very least an appropriate degree of care, is however a good (essential?) idea when doing up the top part of the suit and pulling up the arms. I had no issues - no rips, nicks or cuts - but you would most definitely want to take care and not rush, as it stands to reason that an ultra-stretchy, sub one milimetre material is going to be subject to potential damage if not treated correctly. That's the trade off. Durability, flexibility and price tend to be the "pick which two you want " options in the world of wetsuits.

The suit felt superb on, right from the start - both in and out of the water. If, despite all of the huge progress in wetsuit design over the past ten years, you still feel that lack of flexibility and freedom is an issue in your current suit, at the very least you must in my opinion put an Orca trial on your shortlist. A weaker swimmer, and not having been in the pool much in recent months, the Predator, really should be my suit with it's added buoyancy and additional 'aids' to compensate for my technical shortfalls. Despite that, the Alpha still felt great - actually, from my short trials, it probably 'felt' nicer than the Predator.

Of course, while you want to take your time putting a wetsuit on, you definitely don't want to be in the same position taking it off, certainly not in races anyway. The Alpha excelled here for me. I wasn't using Bodyglide or a similar product, and the Orca marketing doesn't specifically mention or 'sell' the benefits of the Alpha in terms of speedy transitions (a particular strength and trademark element of Zone3 suits for example), but for me there were no issues and it was very fast on both arms and legs. The suit uses a standard YKK 'bottom to top' zipper - no breakaway style or 'top to bottom', all quite standard in that regard.

I like the suit, I like it a lot. Back in the UK now (with both the Alpha and the Predator to hand), I'm looking forward to doing some more testing over the next few months, both comparing them to each other, and also to my older suits to see how time has seen technology progress (or not!). I'll write again once I've done that.

In summary, Orca really do appear to have made a step change with their 2015 range, including the Alpha. If you are looking at purchasing a top range wetsuit for 2015 and currently have the likes of the blueseventy Helix, Huub Archimedes II and other such proven and popular products on your shortlist which fit with your needs, the Orca Alpha is most definitely worthy of consideration too.

CLICK HERE for more details on the 2015 Orca Alpha

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