Wetsuits from Trees
Most of the gear that surfers utilize, while catching a wave, is typically manufactured with materials that are generally toxic to the environment. Wetsuits are made of petroleum-based neoprene, which involves extra energy to manufacture. When Patagonia introduced their neoprene-free wetsuit last year, it was considered the first of its kind.
Patagonia’s new Yulex wetsuits are mostly made of natural rubber extracted from sustainably-grown Hevea trees on reclaimed farmland in Guatemala, instead of being manufactured with petroleum. Patagonia says, moving production from petroleum to a plant-based product reduces carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80 percent. And the brand’s entire line of 21 wetsuits, from shorties to hooded winter suits, now incorporates this same neoprene-free Yulex construction. Patagonia and Yulex have started sharing their eco-friendly recipe with other wetsuit companies to encourage them to turn over a new leaf.
“The wetsuits are actually made of 85 percent natural rubber with 15 percent chlorine-free synthetic rubber. Meanwhile, the arms and legs are lined with 100 percent recycled jersey while the insulation lining in the torso and thighs is made with 51 percent recycled polyester,” according to the Patagonia website, making it unique to the industry.
Last year Mark Anders wrote a review of the state-of-the-art wetsuit for Surfline.com and surfed regularly for an entire season. His review is below:
“I spent an entire winter season surfing in the new Patagonia R2 Yulex Front-Zip Full Suit ($449; patagonia.com) on the North Carolina coast in water temps ranging from 50 to 60°F. I surfed about 5 to 6 days per week, alternating between wearing the Yulex and standard neoprene suits, which gave me a good apples-to-apples comparison of its performance.
The first thing I noticed about the Yulex suit is that it’s very dry. All of the seams are triple-glued, blind-stitched and taped, and it shows. No leaks at all and almost no flushing, and it stayed dry all season long. The chest zip offers plenty of room for an easy on and off. Patagonia also says the zipper is fully replaceable, which ostensibly could extend the suit’s lifespan. That said, I found the right side of the zip system to be a tad bulky and it caused me some temporary rashing on my chest (btw, I rarely ever get rashed by suits). But after about a dozen sessions the material must have stretched out or broken down enough and the rashing issue totally disappeared.
The Yulex suit is relatively lightweight, and dries quickly. Flexibility-wise, it seems slightly less stretchy than, say, an O’neill Psycho Freak. For a decidedly unscientific estimate, I’d say it feels about 20 percent less flexible. But to be honest, it never bothered me.
Patagonia doesn’t use the typical 3/2 or 4/3 classifications for their suits and instead markets them with an R number from R1 Lite (for 65-75°F) to R5 (for 32-38°F). The R2 I tested is 3.5 mm thick in the torso and thighs, and 3 mm thick in the arms and legs. I found it to be noticeably warmer than a 3/2 conventional neoprene suit and more comparable to a 4/3. Patagonia rates their R2 for temps from 55 to 60°F but I was able to extend its use a bit deeper into the winter by layering it with the 1.5-mm Patagonia Water Heater Hooded Vest ($99) underneath. Durability-wise, the Yulex suit held up quite well. By the end of the season, it was still reliably dry and warm. The only real signs of wear I noticed was some minor unraveling of the outer jersey on the wrist cuffs and the seam tape on the inside of the left shoulder was starting to come unglued.
Coming in at just under $450 bucks, I think the Patagonia R2 Yulex is fairly priced, especially because “eco-friendly” products often come with an upcharge. Bottom line: I really like this suit. It’s comfortable, warm, quite durable, and personally, I’d happily sacrifice a tad bit of stretch for a natural rubber wetsuit that’s way better for our environment.”
We are excited to finally see companies going the extra mile for consumer’s to have an eco-friendly option and we hope that others will soon follow suit!!