Let’s talk about wetsuits – you know, that awesome gear that keeps you warm and comfy in the water, no matter where you’re surfing. Wetsuits have traditionally been made of neoprene, a synthetic rubber that cannot be recycled. Guess where it ends up? In the landfills. If only we could have the options of buying the most sustainable wetsuits to begin with…
Well, that’s what this post is about. A new generation of eco-friendly wetsuits is hitting the market, with sustainability as their top priority. Let’s check them out!
- Eco friendly Wetsuit?
- Yulex Wetsuit
- Patagonia Wetsuit
- Vissla Wetsuits
- Picture Wetsuits
- Kassia + Surf Wetsuits
- Seea Wetsuits
- More Sustainable Wetsuit Brands
- How to Maintain Your Wetsuit
- How to Recycle Your Wetsuit
Eco friendly Wetsuit?
An eco-friendly wetsuit is created with sustainability in mind, using materials that have a minimal environmental impact during the manufacturing process. These materials often include natural rubber and recycled materials, which can help reduce waste and pollution.
Moreover, eco-friendly wetsuits are designed to last for a long time, which helps to extend their life cycle and reduce the need for frequent replacements. This not only saves money in the long run but also reduces the overall environmental impact of wetsuit production and disposal.
What are wetsuits traditionally made from?
Wetsuits have been made from neoprene since the 1950s. This synthetic rubber, developed by DuPont, is derived from petroleum and requires the use of harmful chemicals during production. It is non-renewable, and the manufacturing process can be hazardous to both the environment and human health.
Limestone neoprene was later introduced as a supposed improvement over traditional neoprene wetsuits, but it is not a perfect solution. Limestone neoprene is also a non-renewable material and extracting it from the earth can be damaging to the environment. This process can involve significant energy use and result in the release of greenhouse gasses, contributing to climate change.
What is the best wetsuit material?
What is a sustainable alternative to neoprene? The most sustainable wetsuits are made from Yulex natural rubber, bio-sourced naturalprene, geoprene, recycled polyester, and more – as you’ll see below.
But the fabric being sustainable isn’t enough. Using recycled polyester for zippers, water based paints and glues, gum extracted from sustainably grown trees – all of these represent a significant step toward sustainable surfing. Heck, let’s also add eco-friendly surfboards to the list!
The best part is that there’s no loss of performance due to using sustainable materials in the wetsuit. These eco-friendly wetsuits weigh less, are more elastic and durable, and even fit better than neoprene wetsuits. So, what are you waiting for?;)
Yulex wetsuits are a sustainable alternative to traditional neoprene wetsuits. They are made from natural rubber derived from the Yulex plant, which is grown and harvested without the use of harmful chemicals. The Yulex material is biodegradable and renewable, making it a more environmentally friendly option compared to neoprene, which is derived from petrochemicals.
Patagonia uses Yulex in their wetsuits! They offer a range of Yulex wetsuits for both men and women, including full suits and spring suits. Patagonia, of course, also promotes repair and reuse of their products, offering repair services for their wetsuits to extend their lifespan.
Picture Organic Clothing is another brand that uses Yulex in their wetsuits. They offer a range of Yulex wetsuits that are made with a focus on sustainability and eco-friendliness, using recycled and organic materials where possible.
A sustainable alternative to Yulex wetsuits is limestone neoprene wetsuits (made from calcium carbonate sourced from limestone instead of petrochemicals). Vissla and Sisstrevolution make limestone neoprene wetsuits.
There’s also recycled neoprene wetsuits, made from neoprene scraps and other recycled materials. Picture Organic Clothing and Patagonia offer recycled neoprene wetsuits.
Price: $489 (Women’s R2® Yulex® Front-Zip Full Suit)
FSC-certified natural rubber | fair trade certified | recycled materials
Patagonia teamed up with Yulex to design their very first Yulex wetsuit, which was released into the market in 2012. They formulated a plant-based rubber from guayule, which is a renewable non-food crop that required very little water and a less toxic manufacturing process than traditional neoprene. This proprietary biorubber, Yulex, was then shared with other players in the wetsuit industry, “hoping it would spread beyond Patagonia and into the wetsuits of every major player in surf.”
Spoiler alert: it did. Brands such as Billabong, needessentials, Seea, Finisterre, SRFACE use Yulex to make their wetsuit. But the uptake hasn’t been very quick, and it takes some research effort before you can zero in on Yulex wetsuits to buy.
Patagonia’s Yulex wetsuits, the world’s only Fair Trade Certified™ suits, are designed to be well-fitting and stretchable, durable, lightweight and comfortable. They feature solution-dyed linings to reduce water usage, and water-based glue that’s free of harmful VOCs.
Patagonia Women’s R2 Yulex WetSuit Review: “I try to stick to Yulex wetsuits now for environmental purposes. These suits are still super warm and very stretchy. I love the new neck/front zip mechanism, it’s way easier to get into and out of and reminds me of why I loved the brand I’d worn before. The neck itself is kind of tight but seems to ease up pretty fast. The shoulders aren’t as tight as before in the new cut, the bust is still a little small for the proportions of the suit but works for bigger chests still. For instance, I’d probably be a size 6 if it weren’t for the bust and the bust on the 8 still is a little small/I’m packed in. Overall a great suit and way better than the last iterations.”
bluesign-certified fabric mills | sustainable packaging | recycled materials
Vissla uses Japanese limestone neoprene, which is natural and not petroleum-based, and has relatively less environmental impact. It’s not ideal, but it’s an improvement on traditional neoprene. They use Eco Carbon Black from scrapped rubber tires and dope-dyed yarn (in a process that saves a lot of water). They also use recycled nylon and polyester (knee pads are recycled), and water-based glue.
The 7 Seas line of wetsuits are durable, warm, and stretchable, but they come with a Proposition 65 Warning, i.e. the wetsuit can expose you to chemicals including chloroprene, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer.
Certified B Corp | Global Recycled Standard | bluesign-certified
Picture makes their wetsuits from Picture Eicoprene, which is 82% Eicoprene, 12% Recycled Nylon, 4.5% Nylon and 1.5% Spandex. Eicoprene is a mix of limestone and recycled tires.
Picture also uses water-based glue, and their wetsuits have been made to be durable, using advanced insulating technologies to keep you warm in the ocean.
Kassia + Surf Wetsuits
Price: from $399
Women-owned | circular fashion
Founded by former competitive longboarder Kassia Meador with a strong commitment to sustainability, Kassia+Surf’s philosophy is centered around creating high-quality, stylish surfwear using sustainable materials and production methods. And their mission is to create the most functional wetsuits, with the lowest impact.
They use limestone neoprene and “Earth First Construction elements woven through to conserve energy, save water and keep harmful chemicals from entering our waterways.” They prioritize ethical manufacturing practices that ensure fair wages and safe working conditions for all employees.
Kassia + Surf is leading the way by also having a very strong wetsuit recycling program, because they want to prevent the irresponsible disposal of neoprene.
Kassia + Surf Sea Caves Full Suit Review: “I usually go through a wetsuit a year, the seams rip, the material wears out, or it just isn’t warm enough. But finally, I bit the bullet for the Kassia suit, and it’s amazing! I surfed for 3 hours on a cold stormy California December day and didn’t get cold. I lost track of time since my numb hands are my 1hr indicator for my other wetsuits. It doesn’t feel thick and bulky like my rip curl, it’s more flexible than my billabong, and it’s warmer than both. I haven’t had a back zip suit before, always shying away because I thought it would leak more, but this sucker doesn’t leak, anywhere! Plus I’m not tweaking my shoulder pulling it over my head. Win!”
Price: from $200
Small business | recycled materials | women-owned
Seea makes sustainable surfwear, and their tropical wetsuits are designed by women, for women! These functional, “design forward” Yulex wetsuits aren’t laser focused on warmth, and are locally produced in California in small batches – and in gorgeous prints. Try them out!
More Sustainable Wetsuit Brands
In the past, it was a real struggle to find wetsuits that were specifically designed for women, let alone ones created by women who care about the environment. But thankfully, times are changing, and we’re seeing more and more wetsuits that are not only eco-friendly but also made to fit the unique needs of female surfers – like some of the following:
|Billabong||$300 onwards||Made from Yulex|
|Finisterre||$460||Made from Yulex|
|Ansea||$230||Yulex wetsuits for women|
|needessentials||$200 onwards||Made from limestone-based neoprene|
|SRFACE||$305||Made from Japanese limestone|
|Sisstrevolution||$249 onwards||Made from limestone-based neoprene|
|Anowi Surf Leggings||$105||women-owned swimwear brand | eco-friendly materials | local vendors|
|Atmosea||$479 AUD||Women-focused | sustainable materials|
|Iaera Rash Guard||$92||For women | recycled materials|
How to Maintain Your Wetsuit
Now, only buy a new, sustainable, wetsuit if you’re looking for a new wetsuit. If your current wetsuit is perfectly fine, there’s no need to stop using it or to replace it. Make sure you maintain it well, and use it with love! And, at the end of its life, dispose of it responsibly, and buy a new wetsuit that’s eco-friendly and sustainably made.
Here are some top tips to maintain your surf wetsuit:
- Rinse your wetsuit with freshwater after each use
- Hang it to dry in a shaded area
- Avoid drying it in direct sunlight or using a dryer
- Avoid folding or creasing the wetsuit when storing it
- Store the wetsuit flat or on a wide hanger
- Use wetsuit-specific shampoo to clean it every few uses
- Patch any holes or tears immediately to prevent further damage
- Avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals on the wetsuit
- Don’t leave the wetsuit in a hot car or trunk.
How do you store it during the off season? Store your surf wetsuit in a cool, dry, and ventilated area. Hang it or lay it flat, and avoid folding or compressing it for extended periods of time.
How to Recycle Your Wetsuit
Send your old wetsuit to one of these awesome recycling programs catering to recycling wetsuits:
1 // Kassia + Surf
They recycle and repurpose your old wetsuit into a yoga mat by SugaMats.
2 // Green Guru Gear
3 // Lava Rubber upcycle
This post was about the most sustainable wetsuits
If you’re a dedicated surfer, the most environmentally responsible thing you can do is to buy a good quality wetsuit that will last you multiple seasons. Choose a high-quality wetsuit, made from sustainable materials, and maintain it well. This will ensure it lasts for season after season.
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NOTE: All brand photographs belong to the respective brands/businesses.
All reviews included in this post are verified reviews taken from the respective brand websites.