Patagonia Goes Green with New Plant-Based Bio-Rubber Wetsuits
by Owen James Burke
From surfboards down to wetsuits, board shorts, and even wax–all petroleum-based goods–very few products in the surf industry are built to last and, as a matter fact, many manufacturers appear to be thriving on the planned obsolescence of their merchandise. This is especially true when considering the fact that, for the habitual surfer, wetsuits generally need to be replaced every two to three years. That’s a lot of non-renewable, non-biodegradable neoprene heading to the landfill.
Outdoor clothing company Patagonia has teamed up with plant-based bio-rubber manufacturer Yulex to create a new wetsuit that is mostly made of Yulex’s bio-rubber which comes from guayule, a plant grown in Arizona that “requires very little water or chemical inputs to be grown,” says Patagonia’s Director of Surf, Jason McCaffrey.
“Do I think we’re gonna totally wipe out the neoprene industry or anything like that? No,” says McCaffrey, who is positive about the impact Patagonia’s new wetsuit might have, but realistic about the slow progression and stubborn nature of the industry, which still tends to yield to what’s cool and what already works, and not so much what might be more sustainable. “I think we’re gonna offer a viable alternative to people who choose to make that choice with their dollars.”
Being familiar with Patagonia and their wetsuit pricing, this new bio-rubber-based wetsuit probably won’t be cheap, but it will be built to last longer, they say, and it’s certainly a commendable step in the right direction.