Know how when you buy something new suddenly you begin to see the same thing everywhere, when before you'd never noticed? It's a bit the same here. We post a story on something that seems freshly green and maybe even a bit unique. But lo and behold they're all over the show.
Patagonia's wetsuit inner is made of recycled polyester and merino wool which is funcky enough, but it was the outer neoprene of crushed limestone that sounded so exotic. Until we saw Body Glove were doing much the same thing. And readers alerted us to Matuse of California, and it didn't stop there. Nemo wetsuits from Bali, Indonesia, Seventh Wave from New Zealand, NinePlus out of Cornwall, and Blue Seventy from Virginia. And no doubt a bunch of others too, but you get the picture.
Now, not all are making wetsuits from an ecological standpoint, but what they do have in common is that they chose Yamamoto limestone-based neoprene from Japan. The company say their limestone is over 99.7% calcium carbonate and took 80,000,000 years to make, as shell secretions of marine organisms were deposited on the floor of the open ocean. The company suggest their rubber has a 23% higher close cell structure than oil derived neoprene, making it more buoyant, while also having a maximum elongation of over 480%, where human skin stretches only up to about 60 to 70%. The extra cells are filled with nitrogen gas and this makes wetsuits from the stuff warmer. Additionally Yamamoto contend that their neoprene is close to 95% water impermeable, compared to the petroleum-based standard of almost 70%.
Matuse, who term their version of the material, Geoprene, note that their Yamamoto rubber wetsuits have a low surface friction coefficient of 0.032, whereas old-world neoprene's drag coefficient is 4.0. As they say, "Metaphorically speaking, this translates to you being the hot knife and water being the butter." It sure is curious stuff. ::Yamamoto