Feb 3, 2015
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Patagonia puts its sustainable wetsuit on full display at Ispo

Feb 3, 2015

In the competition of the most poorly shod shoemakers, surfers still place near the top. The first ones to criticize the pollution of our oceans, these fans of the big blue still hit the waves on polyurethane and polystyrene boards and neoprene wetsuits. Not the most eco-friendly materials out there...

But eco-friendly initiatives are starting to emerge. For example, French company Notox offers boards made out of flax composites or flax and corkboard. And for wetsuits, things are changing as well.

The Patagonia R3 Yulex Nixen wetsuit, for surfing in cold waters | Photo: - Patagonia

Two years ago, Patagonia launched into the commercialisation of eco-friendly surfboards, in Japan to start off with. The independent brand, which regularly communicates about its ecological initiatives with the public, has partnered up with Yulex, a company specialised in eco-friendly alternatives to materials of fossil origin. The company develops a number of products using a plant originally found in the Mexican desert, the guayule, from which its teams extract latex.

"Our initial approach was to use materials, like wool, that are very insulating. This allowed us to use neoprene as little as possible. But we quickly realised that we needed to create a new material that would be a real alternative to neoprene. After four years of working together, Patagonia and Yulex co-developed a unique material that gives us a wetsuit that is 60% made of Yulex," explains Jason McCaffrey. "Our goal is to have a 100% plant-based formula, but for the moment we think that this new material is already quite the step in letting the world know that it is possible to buy cleaner products."

At the Ispo trade fair in Munich, Patagonia will show off a space dedicated to surfing in colder waters. And it will present the development and capabilities of its R3 Yulex Nexkin wetsuit on 5 February at 1 pm at stand 107 in hall 2.

A guayuleplant. Patagonia uses the catch phrase "We have the best weed in town... and we share it" | Photo: - Patagonia

Beyond the presentation of its product, the brand wishes above all to convince other players in the sector to favour this material to produce the new generation of wetsuits.

"Today, our two models are priced at around 600 euros. This is a bit higher than the high-end products from other players in the sector," concedes Frédéric Mouyade, the brand's director of sales in Europe. "But that's exactly why Patagonia has opened the patent to everyone. The goal is for the mentality to evolve and, thanks to production volumes and developments, to be able to arrive at a point where we can offer products that can compete with neoprene."

Even though it has a strong image, Patagonia has only been present on the surfing scene for less than ten years. In Europe, it wasn't until 2010 that it launched into the distribution of its wetsuits. The surfing offer is therefore only present in some 70 select points of sale. The challenge is thus a big one.

For the moment, the product is expensive, not 100% eco-friendly and still a little heavy, but it is very efficient on the thermal level and has strong support. So the challenge is definitely worth it.

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