In November of 2015, Patagonia announced they’d be introducing the surf industry to something completely different: an entire line of neoprene-free wetsuits. Now that’s finally a reality, as the company’s Fall 2016 line of wetsuits is made with natural rubber, reducing their CO2 wetsuit manufacturing emissions by up to 80%. They will never make a wetsuit with neoprene again.
“Surfers and wetsuit manufacturers—including Patagonia—have relied on neoprene for years, despite the fact that it’s a nonrenewable, petroleum-based material with an energy-intensive manufacturing process,” Hub Hubbard, Patagonia’s wetsuit development manager said in a press release. “Neoprene is nasty stuff, but for a long time we had no alternative. Through our partnership with Yulex we’ve invested in a plant-based game-changer and built it into our entire fullsuit line.”
The transition has been years in the making, and Patagonia has been developing alternatives to neoprene for a decade now. The plant-based polymer used in place of the industry’s longtime standard of neoprene is sourced in Guatemala, using trees grown on resourced farmland. They started using the natural rubber for wetsuits in 2014, but the major shift now is Patagonia’s offering of Yulex suits will expand from just two to 21 suits, representing every suit the company manufactures from this point on. The line was previously released in Australia this March, but it only included just six suits. As of August 21, all 21 fullsuits have been made available worldwide.
If all goes according to plan, Patagonia won’t be the leader in an industry-wide movement, as they’ve made the same sustainable Yulex technology available to all wetsuit manufacturers.