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What You Need To Know About Neoprene

What would you put on your list of "Most Loved Underwater Wardrobe Essentials"?

Many water sports enthusiasts would agree that an exposure suit of some sort had to be one of the first items on this list. Whilst the joy of being the sharpest dressed diver on the beach may be a good reason for wearing one, the main function of an exposure suit is to protect us from getting too cold too quickly. Water conducts heat away from our bodies much faster (about 20 times) than air. That's why 24ºC air temperature are just about perfect for a day on the beach, but swimming in 24ºC warm water in a normal swimming costume will give most of us the chills after a short time.

A relatively young invention

In the 1950's scientists discovered that wearing a rubber sponge in the shape of a suit, aka a neoprene suit, can help us stay warmer for longer whilst enjoying water-based activities. Neoprene foam consists of closed, gas-filled cells, which conduct heat slowly. It creates a barrier made of air bubbles between our skin and the water. And since air conducts heat significantly slower than water, we lose body heat at a much slower rate than we would without a neoprene suit. The thicker the neoprene, the more gas cells are between us and the water and the better we are insulated.

It's all about a good fit

Most neoprene suits are wetsuits and as the name suggests they are not designed to keep us dry. They do however limit the amount of water that comes into direct contact with our skin. If a wetsuit fits like a glove (which it really should), there will only be a small amount of water trickling in here and there. This is especially noticeable when we enter the water in a dry wetsuit - it normally takes a few seconds before we can feel the cold water coming through. A few moments later this water will have warmed up a little with help from our body heat. This is when we feel the most comfortable. There will be a slow and steady exchange of warm water with fresh cold water, which will keep taking small amounts of heat from our bodies. The slower the warm-cold water exchange, the longer we can compensate for the heat that we lose to the water. When wearing a suit that is far too large for us and has gaps around the cuffs and the neck seal, cold water will keep rushing in and even the thickest of wetsuits will not keep us warm. Hence the most important factor for selecting a wetsuit is an excellent fit.

Sustainability concerns

There is, unfortunately, one big issue with neoprene - it is not a sustainable material. The traditional production process involves petroleum - a resource, which is risky to extract, transport and which we are quickly running out of.

Secondly, neoprene is not biodegradable. Whilst there are many companies out there, who are recycling neoprene to make bottle coolers, rubber doormats and other goods, it is not a full cycle economy and much of old neoprene goes to waste. A neoprene suit has a limited life span - regular compression of the material (during diving), exposure to sun and sea water and improper care significantly reduce the lifetime of a suit. So what can we do to reduce the impact of our suits?

Our suits

We have chosen suits that are made of non-petroleum based neoprene. Instead of petroleum, our suits are made of limestone neoprene. Whilst limestone still isn't a renewable resource, the environmental impacts associated with its' extraction and processing are significantly lower than those associated with petroleum (i.e. the release of carbon dioxide during extraction or the risk of oil spills during transport).

Another key ingredient to neoprene is carbon black, which acts as a reinforcement agent and is won through the combustion of fossil fuels. Our wetsuits contain Eco Carbon Black, which is made from old rubber tires instead of new fossil fuels. This is an effective recycling process, which solves two problems at once - managing the afterlife of rubber tires and the sourcing of an neoprene key ingredient.

The neoprene lining is made from polyester yarn made from recycled plastic bottles and has been dope-dyed. This process significantly reduces the amount of waste water, associated heavy metals and other pollutants in the discharge as compared to the traditional (spun-dyeing) process. The lamination is done with water-based glue, which is solvent-free and uses on average 80% less energy and emits 75% less CO2. The production facilities are equipped with solar panels.

As a business we aim to make environmentally and socially responsible choices. We have chosen to invest in wetsuits made of the most sustainable material that is currently available and we hope that you will enjoy wearing them as much as we are proud to lend them to you. We are taking great care of our suits to make sure that they will last for a very long time and take us on many underwater adventures.


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