Patagonia Rolls Out First-Ever Wetsuit Recyclability Program + Freshly Designed Yulex Steamer - Stab Mag

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Ramon Navarro, far enough South of the equator that he can't afford to rock mediocre suits. Photo by Pablo Jimenez

Patagonia Rolls Out First-Ever Wetsuit Recyclability Program + Freshly Designed Yulex Steamer

The Mother Teresa of surf-goods has done it again.

hardware // Jan 8, 2024
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Remember that story we did on cancer and neoprene?

Well, ever since we posted that, we haven’t been able to halfway mention a single wetsuit on site without being berated by countless commenters about the ethics of its origin. 

Point taken.

As treaty for all of you newfound neoprene evangelists, allow us to share that Patagonia has been making neoprene-free suits since 2012, and they’ve just released their newest iteration. 

Made of Yulex — a natural rubber which comes from trees and (presumably) doesn’t cause cancer — their fresh Regulator suits are a result of Patty G’s in-house wetsuit repair and design teams comparing notes, with the aim of removing seams from high tension, oft-repaired zones.

And, as you’d expect, the suits are also remarkably responsible on both a social and environmental front. Reportedly, switching to natural rubber reduces the CO2 emissions from one wetsuit by up to 80%.

Not to mention, they’ve solved the problem of people (like me) who leave their old, tattered wetties to wither in a dark, forgotten corner of a garage, only to be used in times of dire emergency or severe inconvenience. 

“When your wetsuit is at the end of its life, it can now be recycled into the black dyes for new Patagonia wetsuits and packs,” they told us, regarding their revolutionary new wetsuit program — which took over six years to develop.

Though he wasn’t wearing one while doing the best surfing Tom Jennings has ever seen, Rasta still approves. Photo by Nathan Oldfield.

“For anyone working with wetsuits, figuring out what to do with them postmortem has been at the top of their resolution list since, probably forever,” Patagonia’s Product Line Manager Hub Hubbard told us. “Seems like it should be easy, but it ain’t. Lots of beer coozies, yoga mats, playground surfacing etc, made of ground-up old suits. Cool, but the problem is those rubber chunks are off-gassing, bits are peeling off into who knows where, and when it’s done, it still ends up in a landfill.

“With our new process, you can use an old Yulex suit as an ingredient to make a new suit, and that cycle can repeat indefinitely. On top of that, you can use it to dye all the yarn used to make the linings of the suit, or backpacks, or anything really. To simplify, think of it like a cake. You can’t take an old, stale cake and make a new cake, but what if you can turn an old cake into flour and use it to bake a new cake? That is radical.”

Recycled Carbon Black produced from old tires and old Yulex wetsuits makes up 10-20% of Patagonia’s wetsuit rubber ingredients. Photo by Ryan ‘Chachi’ Craig.

Oh, and if your wetsuit rips, Patagonia will repair it for free out of their Ventura shop. Forever.

Over a year out from Yvon Chouinard donating his $3 billion dollar fortune to benefit the planet, Patagonia’s values continue to shine. They’ve recently put pressure on fossil fuel investors, advocated for numerous bits of progressive climate legislation, and donated millions of dollars to countries around the world.

It’s no surprise then, that they continue to be a beacon of thoughtful innovation when it comes to staying warm in the surf.

Click here to buy one — if only because, well… Dave Rastovich.


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