Winter is coming…
No really, winter IS coming and so are the chilly waters of the North Pacific.
It’s that time of year when the wind kicks up to offshore mornings and onshore afternoons and west/northwest swells cool down the water, much to the tourists dismay. A time where kelp forests become bushier and the fish escape to warmer waters–it’s wetsuit season!
Among the plethora of brands, almost all of them come with a signature flex, feel and performance level. But what some might consider, as of late, is the touted term “eco-friendly.”
I originally wanted to find seven companies, but had to whittle it down to five that I thought used eco-friendly materials. BUT- based on my searching and many inquiries, I could only find three wetsuit companies who’s materials are eco-friendly.
Ironically, many of the products we use as surfers are, in fact, NOT good for the environment and yet, we have been cached into a ‘hippy-esque’ category. Everything from our sunscreen, to our surfboards and even our wetsuits somewhere down the processing line has a negative effect on our environment…until the last five years.
Eco-friendly is the new black and many marketing and branding campaigns have fallen into step with this attractive trend. There’s a lot to be said about this most hashtagged term when it comes to our marine environment and personal health.
But what does that mean when it comes to wetsuits?
To sum it up, wetsuit materials are most commonly comprised of closed cell neoprene, which basically translates to foam rubber. Their materials and processing tends to have an impact on the environment, and, thankfully, more surf and dive companies have been incorporating more environmentally-friendly processing and products into their suits.
Below are my top three wetsuits, which I based on overall production/processing and materials, wallet-friendly price and surfable functionality.
Patagonia’s Yulex wetsuit
Based In: Ventura, California
Mission: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
Price Range: $129-$500
About: What started as a small company that made climbing tools is now one of the household names for environmentally-minded products for a wide range of outdoor activities like climbing, surfing, snowboarding, fly fishing and trail running. Patagonia’s goal, as a whole, is to reduce if not eliminate, pollution as a by-product of their business. They have successfully created a wetsuit by replacing non-renewable neoprene with a plant-based polymer, Yulex, a natural rubber from heva trees, which reduces CO2 emissions by 80 percent.
Photo Courtesy: Picture Organic Clothing
Based In: France
Mission: Organic, recycled and bio-sourced products since 2009. The best possible environmentally-friendly and unique product designs that stand out for fresh colors and valued for good quality.
Price Range: $48.93-$352.88
*I did the math & converted euros to dollars–does not include shipping*
About: Their entire brand is dedicated to second-life and end-of-life products, which ranges from clothing, snowboard and skateboard gear and now, wetsuits and surf gear. It all started with their first recycled polyester boardshorts collection, which was derived from their snowboard outerwear and grew into European & international distribution, which includes the United States. Worried about carbon footprints? There’s an app for that, of course. Picture also has a carbon footprint calculator that allows you to trace your own impact when you buy their products.
There are currently no shops in the U.S. that offer this wetsuit brand right now. So, if you are interested in purchasing a suit, you might have to google around. In 2018 Picture’s clothing will be available in Confluence Kayak in Denver and Moose Joe and Paragon Sports in New York.
Everything is priced in Euros and don’t panic when you see a comma for pricing…it typically means a decimal. :)
Here’s a site that sells Picture Organic Clothing.
Photo Courtesy: Vissla
Based In: Aliso Viejo, California
Mission: Advanced environmentally conscious materials designed and constructed for colder water.
Price Range: $99.95-$595.95
Just so you know: Vissla only offers wetsuits for men, for now. For ladies, their sister company, Amuse Society, features women’s suits and beach clothing, but the suits are not considered ‘environmentally-friendly,’ yet.
About: Vissla is a forward-thinking company who bases their designs and concepts around creative freedom–“a surf-everything, ride-anything mentality.” In terms of wetsuit-ery, they offer four different lines: 7 Seas, North Seas, Eco Seas and Premium Japanese. The Eco Seas wetsuit rubber is harvested from the rubber tree as opposed to neoprene and instead of solvent-based glues, Vissla uses a water-based glue that is completely solvent-free. Recycled plastic bottles serve as their interior and exterior jerseys–each wetsuits uses 45 recycled bottles.