Soöruz company makes advances into ‘natural’ wetsuit territory with new material
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 19 October, 2016 - “It’s a great time to be a cold water surfer.” We’ve been hearing this turn of phrase for the past few years as wetsuit technology has made huge advancements. But now one could also say: “It’s a great time to be a cold water surfer who cares about the environment and CO2 emissions.” No. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but you get the drift.
Polychloroprene, what we refer to as Neoprene (which is a brand name, like Band-Aid - but we’ll use the term neoprene in this article for simplicity’s sake) is most commonly made by chlorinating and polymerizing butadiene, a petrochemical refined from crude oil. This is the neoprene we’ve come to know and love in our wetsuits. It’s toxic, spews fumes and hangs around in landfills once it has outlived its usefulness.
But there is a new generation of alternatives around these days (thus “it’s a great time to be a green surfer”) including limestone-based Neoprene and natural-based rubbers - the most popular being made by the Yulex company.
Most surfers are aware of Yulex through Patagonia’s extensive advertising campaign. Yulex is a company that uses natural rubber and applies it to a variety of uses, not just wetsuits. One such type of natural rubber product from Yulex is Naturalprene which is used by Sooruz.
Naturalprene rubber comes from the Hevea tree of Malaysia. The sap of the tree is tapped and collected in buckets old school style from what Sooruz says are renewable and respectable farming practices.
Their first enviro wetsuit in 2013 was the GURU Pro which used bamboo and recycled polyester linings. Then in 2015 they designed their first B.I.G. (Black Is Green) organic wetsuit made from Yulex material.
“Our goal is to replace petroleum manufactured neoprene by a natural product coming from renewable and respectable farming and the naturalprene is 100% neoprene free,” the company said in a statement. “(With the B.I.G.) there isn’t need to use energy intensive extraction methods like for limestone in Yamamoto neoprene.”
The company tested it for one year to assess performance and longevity and now has gone into full production of the entire Naturalprene B.I.G. line. Along with the Naturalprene the company is using waterbased glue for the seams, recycled plastic bottles for the polyester lining and water based logo lamination on the B.I.G. suits.
OK, so we’ve covered (briefly) how this suit is a departure from petrochemical-based wetsuits. But how well does it perform?
Out of the box it looks like a well-made suit with no unfinished seams or rough areas. The recycled polyester lining on the inside and outside is soft and pliable. Pulling on the wetsuit leg and seeing how far it would go we found it stretched a lot and went right back into shape with no sagging or delay in “snap-back.” The Naturalprene wetsuit material feels very stretchy. We would even venture to say it feels stretchier than Patagonia’s Yulex rubber. In addition we liked how “soft” the Naturalprene feels.
When picking up the suit we noticed it felt a bit heavier than comparable 4/3 full suits. We got out the scale and found the suit weighed 4.5 pounds. We compared it to the same sized XCEL 4/3 TDC full suit (which is made of traditional neoprene), and it weighed in at 3.3 pounds.
Dry times on this suit are good. Some “softer” neoprenes have a spongy, water-absorbing quality to them, but not this suit. When inflating an arm or leg of the suit with air like a balloon, there was no leakage through the neoprene itself or through the seams. This is an important test - and you can try it with suits in the shops by closing of an area of the arm or leg of the suit and inflating like you would a balloon. If air can escape, it means water can enter or escape just as easily. Remember, less water seepage equals better insulation.
The interior lining of the B.I.G. 4/3 full suit is made of a recycled fabric called Polar Dry. Nothing ground-breaking here in terms of material, a few companies use recycled synthetics to line their wetsuits, but what is most obvious when stretching, tugging and pulling on the Polar Dry is that it’s one of the softest linings on the market. What does this mean? Well, a few years ago wetsuit companies started making suit interiors more plush as they realised that a cushion of air in the core sections of a suit was a better insulator than traditional “slick” neoprene.
Since then we’ve seen Merino Wool, Flash Dry Lining, Thermo Dry Celliant and others emerge on the market. All of these work by keeping a cushion of air between surfer and wetsuit. However some of the materials are not that soft. Merino Wool can be a bit scratchy and the Thermo Dry Celliant is not very pliable. So it was nice to discover that the Polar Dry material is very soft.
Only one side of the seams are taped on this suit, and that’s with the company’s Glide Skin inner seam tape. There is no outer seam tape. So, while that outer seam seal typically keeps more water out and keeps you warmer, it often restricts the flexibility of a suit. The B.I.G. 4/3 interior tape is a bit thicker than most interior tape material, however it still feels as flexible as the thinner “ribbon” type of inner tape seal found in a lot of other suits. In testing we found no water seepage through the seams which was remarkable for a suit with only inner seam sealing tape. This inner tape’s sealing qualities, strength and flexibility make it a great design choice by Sooruz since there’s no need for an outer seam liquid seal.
The suit is zip-free, so you need plenty of room to slide into it. The design is nearly identical to both the Rip Curl Flashbomb zip-free and the Tiki Zepha wetsuit entry and closure system except that this suit has a textured pattern of material to help create a “grip” between panels.
A note on zip-free suits, the thinner material suits are always easier to get into as a 2mil panel will have more give and stretch than a 4mil panel. That said, this suit was easy to get in and out of mostly due to the flexibility of the Naturalprene. There is also a pull cord to tighten any gap between the two shoulder panels.
THINGS WE LIKED
Very close to being a totally “green” wetsuit
The suit is very warm with great insulation properties
We really liked the flexibility and stretch of the Naturalprene material
Polar Dry interior material one of the softer recycled materials on the market
Good price point and choice if you want to put your money where your eco-values are
The Glide Skin is a thicker, stretchier, better-sealing interior tape than the tape in many other wetsuits.
THINGS THAT COULD BE IMPROVED
It’s a pound heavier than other comparably-sized neoprene suits on the market
It’s a good design, but the double seams across the mid back portion of the suit, while not restricting paddling, slightly restrict mid-back flexibility
The suit only comes in XS, S, M, L, XL sizing. If your usual sizing is Tall or Short, you might have sizing issues.
Overall: It’s an eco-friendly wetsuit using Yulex sourcing, recycled jerseys and a smart design. It’s soft, airtight, stretchy with good insulation properties and overall the suit performs well. The big bonus here is that it’s a non-petrochemical suit sourced by Yulex that is competitively priced with other traditional chemical neoprene suits on the market. So you can support the environment without paying heaps extra.
369€ available here on Label Park
Check out the crash course in wetsuit basics that every consumer should know before venturing into their local surf shop. Below you'll find the information on neoprene, seams and fit, the basics of a good wetsuit.
Closeup of O'Neill's TechnoButter 2
Neoprene is amazing. At its most basic level it’s just synthetic rubber with little gas bubbles blown into it. (There's more to it than this, but we'll keep it simple for now). By blowing more or fewer bubbles into the neoprene one can control things like warmth and flexibility. More gas injected into the suit means a lighter, stretchier but ultimately less insulative and weaker neoprene. Less gas used in making the neoprene means it's heavier and more insulative and stronger. Each major wetsuit brand has its own top-shelf neoprene, which is to say their own secret recipe for what they value in performance.
Rip Curl Flashbomb inside taping along seams
Wetsuit seams at the basic level are glued and blind stitched which, while strong, does allow some water to seep in through pinholes in the stitching. This is the type of seam you’ll find on your not-too-expensive suits or warm-water suits.
The next level up is interior-taped wetsuit seams. This means the suits have flexible tape glued along the inside seams. This type of seam provides a good water barrier and plenty of flexibility and strength.
The top-shelf method for preventing water from seeping through the seams is having interior tape and exterior liquid tape. This pretty much means the suit’s seams are waterproof - at least while the integrity of the inner and outer tape material stays pliable and in tact. The only drawback is that heavy taping can decrease a suit’s flexibility.
Three different types of interior lining on the XCEL Revolt wetsuit
Neoprene interior-lining is the new frontier in performance as companies create innovative ways to insulate the interiors of wetsuits. Previously it was just a nylon polyester stretchy material. Then companies started using textured interior linings for improved insulation. This works on the premise that the body heats air more easily than it does water, so most suits today have some type of ‘fluffy’ interior neoprene for your core areas.
Sadly this is the most overlooked component when purchasing a wetsuit. When we hear complaints from surfers about a particular suit that flushes or wears out prematurely in one place, most times it’s because the suit didn’t fit correctly in the first place. Extra strain placed on seams and materials due to an incorrect fit wear out that suit quicker than a proper-fitting suit. To ensure your hard-earned money is spent well, take the time to try on several suits at your local surf shop and find the best fit.