Choosing an Eco-Friendly Wetsuit

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Surfing is possibly one of the best sports you can engage in. Whether you are just learning to surf, or you’re a seasoned professional, the thrill of the sport is exciting and awe-inspiring. But most of all, it’s a great way to connect with nature. Surfers have a natural respect for the world, especially the ocean, and to continue to show that respect it’s good to make sure that every aspect of your surfing life is earth- and ocean-friendly.

Part of this is wearing eco-friendly wetsuits to do your part to reduce your carbon footprint, and knowing about how the industry is making changes for the environment.

What is a Wetsuit?

We’ve all worn one, but maybe we don’t think about what they’re made of or how they’re made. Most wetsuits are made of neoprene, which helps keep you buoyant (so you can float on the water more easily) and provides thermal insulation to keep you warm. Wetsuits do let water through, unlike a drysuit, which will keep water out completely. Drysuits may sound like the better option, but they’re generally only used in freezing water and will quickly become uncomfortable if the weather’s warm.

Wetsuits prevent hypothermia when you’re in the ocean, and you should wear one even if the water feels a bit warm at first. Even though water will come in contact with your skin when you wear a wetsuit, it will actually help to keep your body warm thanks to the insulating quality of the wetsuit. Wetsuits can be either full-length or “shorty,” which means it has short arms and legs.

Patagonia Men’s R2® Yulex® Front-Zip Full Suit

What You Should Know About Eco-Friendly Wetsuits

Unfortunately, even though neoprene has long been the standard of wetsuits, it’s not great for the environment because it’s not entirely biodegradable. Leading outdoors companies have come up with environmentally-friendly wetsuits, which is great news for surfers who want to go green. Patagonia has created wetsuits that utilize sustainable, renewable, plant-based rubber that’s derived from hevea trees. During production, this eco-friendly material gives off 80 percent fewer CO2 emissions than neoprene. See our Yulex review here.

Several wetsuit brands are utilizing NaturalPrene, which is a hevea tree-based material made by the Sheico company. The problem with some companies is that they’re not forthcoming about where all of their wetsuit materials are sourced from. Picture Organic believes that transparency is important. The company’s co-founder, Julien Durant, says, “Many brands are doing lots of greenwashing with sustainability. So for us, the most important thing is to be transparent with sourcing – where the raw material comes from, how the fabric is made, by whom. This is all something we tell to our consumers.”

Eco-friendly wetsuits still face an assortment of problems, with price being one of the biggest barriers – the wetsuits can cost nearly $1,000, which is a lot to ask from consumers who may not have the disposable income to do so. A better, or at least a complementary, alternative would be to create a wetsuit recycling program. Even green wetsuits will suffer from wear and tear at some point, and there aren’t go-to recycling systems available for surfers to use.

5 More Ways to Be an Eco-Friendly Surfer

Whether or not you’re able to invest in an eco-friendly wetsuit right now (the price point alone may make this an impossibility), you can still do your part for the environment while you’re catching waves:

  1. Traditional surfboards are made with hazardous chemicals and leave a big carbon footprint behind. Look for surfboards that are made with 40 percent or more biological or recycled materials. Sustainable Surf has suggestions for where you can find an eco-friendly surfboard.
  2. Other surfing gear may me made with toxic materials or non-recyclables, too. Look for gear made from 100 percent recyclable materials or materials like bamboo, cork, or wood. If you have to go with plastic, at least choose gear that’s made from recycled plastic.
  3. Surfboard wax is a must-have because it keeps you from slipping off the board. However, petrochemicals are found in a lot of surf wax, which means they then end up in the sand or ocean. Look for wax that’s soy-based and/or petroleum-free.
  4. Some of your time is going to be spent near the ocean, not necessarily in it. If you’re waiting for better weather or just need a break between waves, look around to see if you can clean up the beach. You can also use a metal detector to seek out garbage that’s lingering in shallow water, or you may even find some fun little treasures.
  5. Wearing sunscreen is a must for all surfers and beach goers, but most sunscreens actually contain ingredients that are toxic to coral reefs, and important marine ecosystem vital many ocean creatures. Ensuring that you’re wearing eco-friendly sunscreen will ensure you are doing your part in keeping the ocean healthy.

What’s most important to remember is that your proximity to the ocean and the time you spend on the beach will present a number of opportunities to protect the environment. It may take a little extra effort, but you’ll be doing your part to keep the place you love the most clean and safe.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to surfing gear, investing in high-quality equipment means you’ll be doing your part in protecting the environment while also improving your surfing experience. As you continue to learn and develop your surfing skills and meet fellow surfers, you may learn about all sorts of ways to protect the oceans and beaches. While any hobby or passion can have harmful aspect to it, doing your best to be cognizant of your own carbon footprint and how your choices affect the world around you will allow you to enjoy surfing that much more.