Hank Gaskell. Photo: Mark McInnis
For most of us, surfing is kind of hypocritical.
To surf is to engage with and to enjoy nature, but the process of surfing is a surefire way to fuck nature up. The cars most of us drive to the beach emit greenhouse gases and ejaculate chemicals into the streets that drain into both soil and sea. The boards most of us we ride are made of toxic carcinogens that basically refuse to biodegrade. Most of our wetsuits are petroleum-based, non-renewable and require a city’s worth of energy to create. Don’t let the gorgeous manes of hair fool you — eco-warriors we are not.
But after a few years of playing around with cacti (not the peyote kind) and other plants, Patagonia has found a way to better the wetsuit.
Next year, they’ll be releasing a full line of wetsuits that are completely neoprene free. By using natural rubber, they will reduce the CO2 emissions required to produce traditional neoprene suits by up to 80 percent. The suits are made of the Hevea brasiliensis plant (also known as a rubber tree) so basically, you hug the tree and the tree hugs you back. Turns out the tree is a great hugger, too — the suits are reported to be incredibly warm and durable.
And, even better, they’re not hoarding that science to themselves. They’re actually sharing the technology with any other wetsuit brand that’s interested in it. So everybody wins! Really, the only downside here is that it probably means more rubber for condoms.
Surfing still has a long way to go before we can look in the mirror and see a eco-friendly face staring back at us, but something like the Patagonia Yulex suit is a step in the right direction. And forward progress is always worth commending. —Brendan Buckley