Several factors come into play when choosing which wetsuit brand is right for you. What is the best fit or cut? Is the wetsuit made from quality materials? Will the wetsuit perform? Will the wetsuit last a long time? These are all valid questions when assessing your options. But with growing concerns around excess waste and chemical leaching in the wetsuit industry, it’s time to consider how your wetsuit impacts you and the planet.
Wetsuit manufacturing is not a perfect process: it requires a high amount of energy and relies on combining several layers of fabric with a synthetic form of rubber (neoprene). These layers are permanently laminated and combined together. Neoprene, as a composite material, isn’t biodegradable, meaning wetsuits should be chosen with longevity and quality in mind.
They are made in this way to provide a function, i.e. provide warmth, reduce wind-chill, provide insulation, all while being stretchy and durable - all essential for ocean sports like sailing, kitesurfing, ocean ski paddling.
At Vaikobi, we’ve recognised these issues and started to move towards a more sustainable wetsuit that is better for you and better for the environment. Our FlexForce range of wetsuits is REACH compliant.
What does REACH compliant actually mean?
REACH stands for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and restriction of Chemicals in the European Union and is a piece of environmental legislation that regulates product quality. Company products that are REACH compliant ensure there are no harmful substances used that could cause harm to the consumer. Synthetic fabrics require certain dyes and these dyes are set by adding chemicals, then heating, washing and rinsing at a fabric mill prior to lamination to the neoprene rubber inner layer.
The Vaikobi FlexForce collection uses REACH compliant materials, meaning you can wear these wetsuit products with confidence, knowing harmful substances will not pass from your wetsuit to your body. Wetsuits need to be worn firmly on the body in order to perform well. Your wetsuit works because your body warms a thin layer of water which is trapped inside the wetsuit.
Why you are at increased risk of chemical exposure wearing a non-REACH compliant wetsuit:
- Absorption: Large areas of fabric are in contact with the skin (and your skin is your largest organ)
- Time of use: Wetsuits are worn for long periods of time, often 4+ hours per use
- Saturation: Fabrics that are completely wet are more likely to leach or release substances
- Penetration: Skin pores are open from the warm water and physical activity.
Vaikobi design and production manager, Bart Milczarczyk, says that “the REACH standard gives us peace of mind that the fabrics are produced to a certain level of quality. The dyes, and all the processes and techniques used in the fabric are better for both the wearer and the environment. Think about how much time a competitive sailor has spent in their wetsuit over the years. Limiting your exposure to harmful chemicals is essential for people. We don’t need these chemicals leaching into our bodies and into our waterways. “
Vaikobi wetsuits include a thin reflective layer of metallic element in the lamination process which adds to the thermal properties of the garment. Essentially our wetsuits are warmer for less bulk. This returns more of the body heat to the wearer resulting in a thinner, lighter suit with less material and the same warm-keeping effect. We have removed some of the material used and ultimately reduced environmental impacts.
The FlexForce long johns, pants, and wetsuit tops are also made with a quick dry fleece material. We select materials and yarns to take advantage of their inherent functional properties, rather than rely on chemical treatments..
Finally, the outer layer of Vaikobi wetsuits is designed with stretchy pilling-resistant fabric and highly abrasion-resistant durable layers in critical areas like the knees and seat of the wetsuit. This contributes to the usable life span of the wetsuit. The product longevity will leave you with a long-lasting, comfortable asset to your gear collection.
For more on the benefits of our FlexForce collection, visit the Vaikobi website here.
To find out more about REACH compliant legislation visit the QIMA website.