The world's first neoprene free wetsuit
An independent review by Mark Kelly
I first came across Gabe Davies a few years back surfing and charging with all the Bundo shams. Having moved to Cornwall it's not uncommon to bump into surfers from all over the world, but on this occasion I spotted the familiar face of Gabe lurking in a side street in Newquay. He was in an official capacity for Patagonia and was inviting the locals to test their new neoprene free wetsuits. An offer I was very keen to take up. After a quick chat with Gabe I was off with their thinnest suit of the range.
The entire line of Patagonia’s all-new, high-performance wetsuits is made with natural rubber developed in partnership with Yulex and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
The neoprene-free Yulex wetsuits perform as well or better than conventional neoprene wetsuits. But because the main polymer is produced in trees instead of factories, using natural rubber reduces the CO2 in wetsuit manufacturing by up to ~80 percent.
The FSC certified rubber is blended with a small amount of chlorine-free synthetic rubber for increased ozone and UV resistance, and to meet Patagonia’s rigorous demands for durability and strength. The Yulex process also removes over 99% of impurities, resulting in a nonsensitizing material.
I headed straight to Fistral beach to test the suit in choppy onshore, unseasonably chilly conditions. Being a surf coach and guide I get through a fair few wetsuits and my latest suit, is the Ripcurl Flashbomb (which I got at huge discount, thanks to being part of the Newquay Activity Centre team) was what I'd be comparing it against.
The inside of the suit's 'furry' lining was definitely comparable to the flash bomb and looks like it too would be super quick drying, an important factor for surf coaches. The suit went on with ease and felt really comfortable. A few lunges etc and can say this is a very flexible suit, so I ran out of the house to try it in the salt.
After a few duckdives the suit, didn't feel leaky or did it flush. It also started to loosen up more. It was definitely on par with my flashbomb, performance wise, but it had the edge in the knowing that this was indeed an eco friendly suit. I was also amazed and conscious of the fact that after 20 years + this was the first time I have surfed in cold water in a neoprene free wetsuit.
“Surfers and wetsuit manufacturers—including Patagonia—have relied on neoprene for years, despite the fact that it’s a nonrenewable, petroleum-based material with an energy-intensive manufacturing process,” says Hub Hubbard, Patagonia’s wetsuit development manager. “Neoprene is nasty stuff, but for a long time we had no alternative. Through our partnership with Yulex we’ve invested in a plant-based game-changer and built it into our entire fullsuit line.”
In my opinion, performance wise, the Patagonia Yulex wetsuit is more than 'up there' with the top of the range, top brand wetsuits. The wetsuits are in the same price bracket as the top brands, but what you get for your money is much more. You get the satisfaction of knowing that by choosing this wetsuit you are choosing to use a renewable natural rubber, helping to reduce CO2 emissions by up to ~80% when compared to conventional, nonrenewable neoprene—causing less harm to the planet we love and the oceans that give us waves to ride.