‘We’ve been building wetsuits since 2014. When we set out to make our first wetsuit, the design brief was to make a suit that would maximise time in the water and was built to last. We embarked on a pioneering field tester programme that saw us engage with 300 field testers; it was their feedback that helped us make a better suit the following winter. Three years later, it feels as this design brief has been met, so much so that it was hard for us to get the original Nieuwland 4 or 5mm back from the testers for our wetsuit recycling programme as they were still using these suits!
We often get asked why we didn’t work with sustainable materials at the start. The answer is twofold. Firstly, making a wetsuit is an incredibly complex process, fit being the most important factor; we are lucky to work with wetsuit master Mat D’Ascoli who understands this better than anybody. Secondly, when we started with the Nieuwland series of suits, alternatives to traditional neoprene were in their infancy. Our original design brief was hard enough and so to add another variable - that of new fabrics with unknown performance characteristics - would have been too much.
But building on our outlook of using innovation to achieve sustainability and seeking alternatives where possible, we have been trying and testing various patterns and forms of natural rubber. Durability and performance are key here, there’s obviously no point making a natural rubber suit that doesn’t perform or doesn’t last. As a brand, there’s also been a need for us to work with a supplier who has a traceable and sustainable source of natural rubber and that’s why we are working with Yulex.
Mat and I met Jeff Martin (Yulex CEO) to hear his story earlier this year. The company is one that Jeff has built on pride and doing the right thing. He’s been on quite a journey, originally developing a natural rubber source from the Guayule plant before moving to tree sources of natural rubber; the Guayule rubber solution contained too many impurities. The resulting solution is then naturally refined and is known as Yulex Pure™, being 99.9% free of impurities, and delivers a stronger, more elastic solution.
As important as the quality of the natural rubber solution, is where and how it is sourced. For this reason, Yulex works exclusively with tree plantations in Guatemala that are Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified by the Rain Forest Alliance and is the gold standard of forest management, meaning that:
• Forests are sustainably grown and harvested
• The forests are irrigated by ambient rainfall
• The social and economic well being of forest dependent communities are protected
• The source is available in uninterrupted supplies
• The natural rubber is processed with recycled and recharged water supply aquifer during manufacturing
On leaving Guatemala, the natural rubber solution is refined in the US before being shipped to Sheico, Thailand where it is mixed with 15% traditional neoprene (needed to stabilise the end material), before being cut, glued and sewn into our suits.
So this summer we've introduced the Nieuwland 3e natural rubber wetsuit, building on our reputation and strict standards of fit learned the production of our Nieuwland 4 & 5mm. Built for water temperatures 14-18C and made from 85% Yulex Pure and 15% traditional neoprene, the Nieuwland 3e also has recycled laminates, meaning it may feel a bit rougher to the touch, but is one of the most sustainably made wetsuits out there. As with our existing suits, the Nieuwland 3e also may be a bit harder to get into/out of to start, but after >5 surfs it will become fitted to your body and remain so without becoming baggy, unlike other suits, meaning longer lasting performance.
We welcome feedback and comments that will help us make better product, so please let us know how the Nieuwland 3e natural rubber wetsuit goes. The hope is that soon our wetsuits will be made from 100% natural rubber and will be fully recyclable, as we enter an exciting stage of our pioneering wetsuit recycling programme.
Thanks for reading, Tom.