By Anjana Athanikar, Guest Columnist
Theme: Green Sports
Popularity of adventure water sports is at an all-time high Divers, triathletes, windsurfers, surfers, and individuals are engaging in it for leisure, competitive events- thereby increasing the demand for wetsuits. This trend is poised to gain further momentum in the near future owing to the amount of money being invested into not just sporting events, but also sportswear by multinational companies of like Nike, Puma, Adidas, and even tech and financial services giants.
This positive outlook has egged many manufacturers to experiment with newer materials and technologies for wetsuits. A standout trend in this direction has been the engineering of eco-friendly products.
Most of the wetsuits that are available in the market today are made from closed-cell, foam neoprene, which is a type of synthetic rubber with nitrogen gas bubbles that serve the dual purpose of keeping the body dry and insulating it, depending on the temperature of the water.
However, the impact of the material on the environment is a huge drawback. The material is made from oil and consumes significant energy during the production process. The worst part is the material is non-biodegradable.
This disadvantage of neoprene wetsuits has turned into an advantage for savvy companies trying to expand organically. One company that has lapped up this opportunity, for example, is the sustainable clothing manufacturer Patagonia, which collaborated with Yulex, a producer of specialty natural rubber, to create eco-friendly wetsuits. They have come up with a wetsuit wherein natural rubber is used as the primary raw material – it constitutes almost 85% of the product. Such a wetsuit steals a march over neoprene by being softer and more elastic.
In addition to the use of natural rubber, the high-stretch exterior and interior linings of the wetsuits are made with almost 55% recycled polyester fabrics. The negative impact of such kind of wetsuits on the environment is likely to be limited.
Worldwide, the wetsuits market has an annual turnover of over a hundred million each year and this also means massive damage to the environment. To curb it, the need of the hour is to vigorously supplant petroleum-based neoprene. Quite a few companies have jumped at the opportunity of manufacturing green wetsuits. But their number is still small and the proportion of green wetsuits available in the market does not qualify as substantial.
Generating awareness among the surfers might help in boosting sales. Many discerning ones have already upped the ante against polluting wetsuits by going for those made from natural products.
They are seen going an extra mile by undertaking initiatives to educate other surfers about the latter’s limited impact on the marine environment as well as personal health. This coupled with more players jumping at the “sustainable clothing” bandwagon with more evolved products will hopefully bring about a much needed positive change soon.
The insights presented here are from a research study on Global Wetsuit Market by Fact.MR.