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March 23rd, 2017
Posted In: Articles
In celebration of the latest wetsuit season, we talked all things Patagonia wetsuits with Patagonia’s very own Wetsuit Product Line Manager, Hub Hubbard. Read on to see what he has to say about his role with this environmentally-conscious and awesome brand.
The man behind the suits, Hub Hubbard.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do at Patagonia?
HUB: I’ve been working with wetsuits for about 20 years and been at Patagonia since 2012. I am the Product Line Manager for Wetsuits, so basically I oversee all things wetsuits. I work with design, development, production, sales and marketing, all the way to repairs.
What’s the coldest water you’ve surfed in recently? Which suit did you wear and how did it perform for you?
HUB:The last really cold water I surfed in was the Ice Bach river wave in Munich and I was wearing an R5. The suit performed great! Much better than my river surfing ability. Lately around home the water has been in the mid-to-low 50’s and I’ve been using an R3.
How do Patagonia wetsuits work?
HUB: They work just like any other high-performance wetsuit. The main point of difference is that our newest suits are made using natural rubber. Functionally, though, you would not know the difference. Maybe the biggest point of difference is the 80% reduction in CO2 emissions and the fact that we source only from plantations that are Forest Stewardship Council – certified by Rainforest Alliance.
Are the wetsuit designs driven by warmth? Performance? Long-lasting?
HUB: Yes, all of those things. The #1 thing in our mission statement is “Build the best product” and we actually rate all of our products around a set of ethos from Yvon himself. We are continually trying to improve this internal score. Our wetsuits find the perfect balance between warmth, durability and flexibility.
Why was the merino wool lining dropped from Patagonia wetsuits?
HUB:The merino wool was suspended due to supply chain logistics. We decided it was more important to focus on natural rubber and hopefully we can re-introduce wool or something similar back into the range in the future. For the time being we are using as much recycled material as we can.
What are the key features or ideas that go into creating Patagonia wetsuits?
HUB: As mentioned, we always start with “build the best”, which captures those three characteristics listed above: warmth, performance, long-lasting. The next thing in our mission statement is “Cause no unnecessary harm,” and, “Use business to inspire solutions to the environmental crisis”. The new Yulex wetsuits kind of tick all of those boxes.
Speaking of Yulex, can you tell us a little about this new wetsuit technology?
HUB: Yulex is a rubber supply company. We’ve been working with them since 1998 and brought the first version of natural rubber wetsuit to market in 2013. Three years later and we switched our entire range to natural rubber.
Is Yulex heavier or lighter than traditional neoprene?
HUB: The Yulex natural rubber foam we are using is basically indiscernible from neoprene. If I didn’t tell you it wasn’t, you wouldn’t know!
The new 2.5mm Men’s Yulex Fullsuit
Why is traditional neoprene bad for the environment?
HUB: The production of traditional neoprene is quite toxic and energy intensive. Also, the main ingredient, be it petroleum or limestone, is finite and must be excavated. Using natural rubber from a responsible FSC certified plantation eliminates that process and is actually carbon negative. This reduces CO2 emissions by up to 80% over using traditional neoprene in a wetsuit.
How do Patagonia springsuits/tops or products with flatlock seams differ from cold water Patagonia wetsuits?
HUB: Flatlock stitching is used on suits that don’t need to be watertight. It actually allows water to pass through which can prevent you from overheating. This construction can be found in all of our vests, tops and shortys that are meant for warmer climates.
Do Patagonia wetsuits differ from other brands in how they provide insulation?
HUB: Patagonia wetsuits work just like a traditional neoprene wetsuit when it comes to insulation. We use recycled polyester fiber blends that provide warmth and are fast drying.
Any additional words on how Patagonia wetsuits work and the brand as a whole?
HUB: It goes without saying that all companies make a good suit these days. It really boils down to price, fit and service. That said, we’ve made the decision to use natural rubber which reduces C02 emissions by 80% over a neoprene wetsuit, but we couldn’t do that if we compromised functionality in any way. If I didn’t tell you these suits weren’t neoprene, you would have no idea. Patagonia is also widely known for the Ironclad Guarantee and you won’t find better customer service anywhere on the planet.
With the Patagonia Yulex wetsuits would they be suitable for triathlon or is there another neoprene free suit you would recommend?
Honestly, the Patagonia Yulex wetsuits were more designed towards surfing or other general watersports. Triathlon wetsuits are kind of in their own wetsuit realm, really. With that being said, unfortunately, we do not offer a neoprene-free triathlon specific wetsuit yet (although maybe down the line more triathlon wetsuits brands will consider creating a neoprene-free alternative). Thank you for reaching out, we really appreciate it!
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