WINTERMISSION: Behind The Suit With Patagonia

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posted by James Willmott

Rubber and winter go together. Plain and simple. With a heavily populated industry of both long running and pop up brands, we as surfers are constantly asking ourselves ‘what’s the difference between brands, fits, materials and the rest?’ Well, go no further and ask no longer, we’ve got the answers from the who’s who of the industry, lead designers and marketplace specialists giving us the know-how on their latest ranges.

We were lucky enough to catch up with surf-industry veteran Hub Hubbard, Product Line Manager at Patagonia – with over twenty years’ experience designing and crafting revolutionary rubber we were privileged to glean his industry insights into Patagonia’s new season collection, their radical move to natural rubber and how to choose the right suit to keep shredding your local break through the winter months.

Join the conversation!

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Hub – thanks for catching up, can you give us a brief background on how you got to where you are today at Patagonia?
I’ve been working with wetsuits for about 20 years. I started as a rep in the 90s (among other things), ended up at Billabong under the tutelage of Mark Machado and gradually began focusing exclusively on wetsuits for over a decade. A friend notified me of the job opening at Patagonia almost 5 years ago, asking if he should apply. In my head I was like “that’s my job” {laughs} and I’ve been here ever since.

Can you tell us about your role and what exactly it entails?
I’m the Product Line Manager for Patagonia Wetsuits. So basically I oversee all things wetsuit. I work with design, development, production, sales, marketing and even repairs.

Patagonia new season wetsuits have just dropped and they look epic to say the least!! Can you give us a summary of the collection?
Last year we eliminated neoprene from all of our fullsuits. Instead, we use natural rubber as the base ingredient which is responsibly sourced and Forest Stewardship Council certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Now this year all of the accessories convert which makes our entire wetsuit offering neoprene-free.

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What suits would you recommend for people living in warmer areas compared to those in areas like Vicco etc?
We developed the R1 Lite series specifically for areas like the Gold Coast. These are 2mm fullsuits with no thermal lining – the perfect Queensland fullsuit. Then as you move on down the coast you’ll start to beef up with a little thickness, some thermal lining and seam taping. For instance, central New South Wales would likely be R1, moving through to R2 south of Sydney, and R3 in Victoria. I’m talking about when it’s considered cold in these places. For the real deal, jump over to NZ and bring your hooded R4!!

What do the Patagonia suits offer over others?
It goes without saying that all companies make a good suit these days. It really boils down to price, fit and service. That said, we’ve made the decision to use natural rubber which reduces CO2 emissions by 80% over a neoprene wetsuit, but we couldn’t do that if we compromised functionality in any way. If I didn’t tell you these suits weren’t neoprene, you would have no idea. Patagonia is also widely known for the Iron Clad Guarantee and you won’t find better customer service anywhere on the planet.

Give us your tips to keeping the suits alive as long as possible?
Pretty much just common sense – don’t grind your suit into the car park while taking it off! Try and rinse it in fresh water when you can (yeah right), and you can also use a mild detergent or wetsuit soap. We get all the repairs sent right here to our campus so we’ve seen the worst stinky suits imaginable. We use a wetty soap called Pau Pilau which is benign to the environment so you can’t go wrong!

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