Posted by: Linda | March 29, 2010

free-dom [free-duhm] -noun

Freedom can be defined as the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint. Confinement or under physical restraint, yup I know that feeling! Surfing in the UK clad from head to toe in a suit of rubber, 5mm thick, heck sometimes thicker in places and occasionally even a hood or romantically entitled “twat cap”! It can feel like freedom is a long way away, shoulders ache, movements become slow the essence of surfing becoming lost. The freedom I find in this insulated world comes from the pleasantly empty surroundings of what I know in summer would be a heaving and hectic beach.

Also its not just a winter suit that can limit our freedom, summer suits only feel free and easy by comparison to their Jack Frost counterparts and yet anyone who has been lucky enough to travel to warmer climes will know the joy of just a pair of boardshorts and a board. Then there is the pain of putting on a wet wetsuit, oh how it feels! Soon it becomes clear that the wetsuit for all its marketing, for all its design for all its promises of advancements to keep us warmer and to be more flexible remains a restrictive covenant on our joys.

Servitude to Oil based Neoprene

So anyone that engages in water sports, whether its surfing, bodyboarding, scuba diving or Kite surfing, can surely share in these experiences and yet you all know that the wetsuit is an essential part of our lives out there in the big blue. Wetsuits have been in use by watermen of all kinds for over 60 years and whilst the technology behind them has changed drastically the reasons why we wear them hasn’t. Water conducts heat away from the body a lot quicker than air and in most parts of the world its pretty cold in the sea at sometime in the year, so warmth has always been a key factor when deciding to put on that suit of rubber!

As our pursuit of outdoor, water sports advance, the uses we put our wetsuits to diversify and enhance and so the demands we put on our wetsuits changes. It was no longer great to just be warm, we wanted flexibility as well and of course durability became key. Sure we could just float gracefully in our scuba wetsuit, but what about surfing, with the need for movement or kayaking and kite surfing? Well advances were happening and no doubt wetsuits were getting better but nothing revolutionary had happened.


So wetsuits became more advanced, but they all retained the same basic element – oil based Neoprene and as usual we have accepted our fate and praised the “new seasons” suits without really stopping to consider the fundamentals. Well in Japan companies like Yamamoto and Heiwa have been producing a limestone based rubber for about 40 years and when it was applied to wetsuits some pretty remarkable things were discovered.

Anything that doesn’t use oil is always highlighted for its environmental qualities and maybe this is great news for the environmentalist in all of us. However I don’t want to get drawn into an ethical debate. Sure if its better for the planet then that’s a good thing, but as someone who uses a wetsuit on a regular basis I am more interested in its functionality and so what is far more significant from a water sport enthusiast point of view was the fact that Japanese Limestone based  Neoprene is almost entirely free from impurities and this has allowed the creation of some really remarkable rubber based products and has facilitated the next revolution in wetsuit technology, be it Suba Wetsuits, surfing wetsuits or any other. The simple reality is that a wetsuit made of Japanese Neoprene will allow you to maximise your time in the water and maximise your performance. Now who doesn’t want that?