When thinking about buying a new wetsuit, what do you think of these days? Do you just stick with what you know, or do you take a long look at the ethos and values of a company before parting ways with your cash? Mix of both? Neither?
A wetsuit that’s able to do the things it promises gets a lot of praise heaped on it. Is it stretchy or warm? Does the cut fit right? Yeah? Great. You’d hope it does all those things, especially with the cost of fresh rubber these days.
But those aren’t the only elements we’re looking at nowadays. An industry notorious for its pollution is attempting to serve the eco-conscious surfer out there, but that means lickety-split if the company’s under-pinning ethos isn’t built from the ground up, along the backbone of sustainable practices.
Some companies are intent on shaking their sanctimonious sabre, cutting large swathes of non eco-friendly rhetoric from their marketing plans, riposting anything that resembles the philosophy of 10-years-ago in an attempt to jump on the green-bandwagon. But is it all legit? Or is it just threatening change from a green-washed scabbard?
Here’s something that’s more than the sum of its rhetoric. Take a peep at this new suit from Europe-based SFRACE, ain’t it a beaut? This is a Yulex suit – which is made from natural rubber, harvested from sustainable forests. But as someone who has personally seen this company go from day one to where they are now, there’s always been this ethos of; if we do this, we do this in a sustainable way. The company’s co-founder, Jeroen Coppens, has always asked for feedback too; wanting in depth analysis on the ways the suit could be improved, taken it all on board, and poured that information into new iterations of their suits over the years. They’ve also take feedback from their ambassadors and customers to help improve the design.
Related: Introducing the SRFACE wetsuit
For example, the original prototype of the 5mm SRFACE suit they sent me is still going strong. The only issue? The key loop detached, a feature SRFACE addressed with later models. That was four-years-ago, and I’m probably in the water four or five times a week – basically whenever there’s swell in these fair isles.
SRFACE first unveiled their initial design right on the precipice of when many surfers were losing faith in their usual wetsuits – some of which, were slowly starting to have a shelf life of a single season. That’s a lot of coin to shill out each year.
Now, we’ve heard the criticisms of these Yulex suits, and the main one is that they’re not as durable as the neoprene alternative. Look, it’s too early for us to draw our line in the sand here, having only had this eco-iteration for a couple of months – but we’re certainly going to update this piece after six or so months and run through the findings here. So what can we tell you in this product spotlight? Right now, it’s an eco-suit that slips on like butter. It’s comparatively less dense than SRFACE’s early Heat models; which we noted back in the day, had gone for warmth above all else. Can’t really blame them considering the testing was done in the North Sea, and, well, just about every other cold water space across the globe; like South Africa, France and Portugal.
Perhaps the greatest upgrade is the physical aesthetic, pure charcoal, no frills, SFRACE emblazoned on the back. The 4mm version feels like a good balance between the warmth of a 5mm and the freedom of a 3mm. Given the flex to warmth ratio, that’s pretty remarkable. And ideal for spring in the colder parts of the northern hemisphere, that isn’t going to break the back with prices starting around 289 euros.
Yulex is natural, solid plant-based rubber that comes from FSC certified forests. It’s now widely used in high-end products but it started gaining traction when surfing wetsuits replaced neoprene with this new type of rubber – its aim is to do minimum harm to the environment, while delivering something that works. Yulex was originally designed in partnership with Patagonia.
How does it compare to neoprene? Well, something in this SRFACE suit feels like getting in and out is a dream. Water is wicked away quickly, it dries fast and, unlike some suits around the same price range, it isn’t much heavier when wet. Apart from that, it’s not too dissimilar, except the obvious environmental benefits of buying one. To sweeten the deal, SRFACE offers an easy, carbon neutral returns policy; the bag it arrives in is made from recycled plastic and all you have to do is slap the label on there and send it back if you need to. There’s even a 30-day trial period in case you try it and realise this isn’t your thing.
The suit comes in a women’s version too, and, right here, Lottie Lewis has been putting it through its paces. Here’s her spin on it.
Personally, I surf because it makes me feel happy. The smile that spreads across my face as I slide along a glassy peeler at sunrise is one of pure joy, and when I’m in the sea I feel untouchable by the chaotic realities of life.
Other’s surf for fitness and exercise, de-stressing, building muscle, maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Some people suit up and paddle out for work, competition or training. Whilst all these reasons for taking to the waves are different, there is one underlying factor that links them all and makes the act of surfing possible: a healthy, clean ocean.
It shouldn’t be news to anyone that the environment needs our help. Furthermore, it needs to be common practice in our everyday lives to do what we can to protect our seas from pollution and climate change. Whilst the mammoth task of saving the world is obviously to big of a burden for any one individual to bear, there are lots of little things that we can do to help. Initiatives such as #take3forthesea and the #2minutebeachclean implore people to take part in spontaneous litter-picks, and beach clean royalty Surfers Against Sewage are constantly organising events and raising money to clean up our oceans.
The surf industry is sadly not the most eco-friendly, and for a sector that relies entirely upon the health of our planet, we need to see some big changes if we want to continue to enjoy the ocean. Enter, SRFACE, an online-based Euro wetsuit brand who have taken the market by storm. The knowledgeable crew over in The Netherlands, France and South Africa are taking leaps and bounds in the direction of eco-conscious wetsuit manufacturing, and have created a planet-positive suit that allows you to “surf consciously without compromising on quality”. So, what does that mean?
SRFACE’s Eco range has ditched the normal neoprene and opted to use a plant-based natural rubber from Yulex, which is harvested from sustainably grown forests. The nylon lining and insulation is recycled, meaning less virgin materials are used. The suits aren’t only super snug and stretchy, but they are durable too. The easiest way to protect the planet from on a personal level is to reduce and reuse, and then recycle.
If a suit lasts longer, you’re less likely to replace it, therefore minimising your own carbon footprint. Wear the same suit for as long as possible, repair it when it breaks, and once you’re truly finished donate it to a charity shop or organisation in need of wetsuits. SRFACE also sell their ‘refurbished suits’ at a 10 percent discount. This action means any suits that are returned during the 30 day trial period are professionally cleaned and put up for sale at a lower price, lowering waste and giving the buyer a cheaper option.
The 3mm eco suit I tried was comfy and flexible. It was easy to get in and out of, and felt like a second skin when surfing, leaving my movement pretty unrestricted. SRFACE’s size chart allowed me to enter my measurements and find the right size for my body shape, too. It may only be 3mm but I found it warm enough to already wear in the late spring, and I think I’ll probably still be in it come autumn. The icing on the cake is that the suit arrived in a recycled plastic bag, that doubles as a wetsuit bag and can be recycled when finished with. They also ship using a carbon neutral delivery service. Winner.
As ocean-lovers, it’s our duty to protect the beautiful place that brings us so much joy. Lots of little actions add up to make one big difference, and through simple solutions such as opting for eco-conscious wetsuits and supporting innovative companies dedicated to sustainability, we’re staking our solidarity with the sea. — Lottie Lewis
You asked for a green wetsuit… we made a black one. SRFACE Eco wetsuits are consciously made without compromising on quality. They are specifically designed to reduce the impact on the environment as much as possible, while retaining high performance characteristics. SRFACE Eco wetsuits feature 100% plant based natural rubber developed by Yulex, recycled inside plush, Aqua-α water based lamination glue and are fully double lined with recycled nylon.