Als je goed hebt opgelet hebt dan heb je 7 zomerwetsuits voorbij zien komen. Stiekem had ik eigenlijk nog een achtste, maar het ding is dat ik van mezelf geen review over dit pak mocht schrijven.
Ik had van C-Skins namelijk een prototype meegekregen. Een work in progress. En ik ga natuurlijk geen oordeel vellen over iets wat nog niet af is. Dat vind ik niet eerlijk. Niet naar C-Skins en niet naar jou.
Inmiddels is dat pak wel af, maar kon ik hem niet meer op tijd testen voor de afgelopen zomerreeks. Da’s jammer, want het prototype was al oké. Om jou en C-Skins tegemoet te komen wilde ik wel iets terugdoen voor het pak dat ik heb gekregen.
Om dit zo eerlijk mogelijk te doen kwamen Jordi de Koning, agent en distributeur van C-Skins hier in Nederland, en ik op het idee om de eigenaar van C-Skins te interviewen over wetsuits en het merk. Deze eigenaar is Mark Brown. Zijn vader heeft het bedrijf tig jaar geleden gestart en hij heeft het inmiddels overgenomen.
Ik heb Mark in totaal 30 vragen over wetsuits gestuurd en een flink aantal antwoorden teruggekregen. Sommige vragen hadden in antwoord namelijk overlap.
Hij heeft ruim drie uur de tijd genomen om mijn vragen te beantwoorden. Dat vind ik echt insane. Talking ‘bout dedication!
Omdat ik lui ben ga ik niet het hele interview vertalen naar het Nederlands. Surfen is al doorspekt met Engels jargon dus dit moet jullie ook wel lukken, daarnaast is dit bijzonder lekker voor mijn SEO.
“Yeeeaahhh, let’s go!”– Rapper Sjors en ik
Mark, can you explain in your own words how wetsuits work? This question might seem obvious, but some sources say nitrogen gas bubbles keep the heat in, while others just say your body temperature heats up a thin layer of water. I think it’s probably a mix of both and more, but I’d like to get your take on it.
Historically it has ALWAYS been about the wetsuit trapping as thin a layer of water between your body and the wetsuit that then in turn heats up depending on the thickness of the rubber and your physical excertion.
These days the same is true, but with our top end suits if you don’t get any flushing through the collar, wrists or ankles then it is possible to get out of the suit after a session and still have dry patches inside the suit.
In the end it’s down to the thickness of the rubber that is the insulating layer.
What’s it like being in this wetsuit game for so long?
Great, I / we / the whole team have a real passion for what we do. Evolving the product year on year and always striving to make the product better – it’s why we get out of bed.
What’s it like having to deal with so many competitors? Is it hard to come up with new stuff?
We try not to focus on the competition and just get on and do what we do. Yes, its true that these days theres more competition than ever, but I think the same is true in every industry. I’m not saying we shouldn’t look around and see what our competitors are doing or what other sports brands are doing, but we have always tried to lead in quality and innovation and this means looking outside of the wetsuit industry. The important thing for us is to stay grounded and ensure we continue to make the highest quality product on the market. Quality products have got us a long way and will continue to do so.
We don’t come up with ‘new stuff’ just for the sake of it. We only release developments when they are a marked improvement on the previous.
What makes C-Skins unique compared to other brands?
Theres a few points to mention here I think:
The first is the length of time we have been producing wetsuits. Carey Brown my father started out in the early 70’s as one of the co-founders at Gul Wetsuits. At that point he was the only wetsuit manufacturer in Europe. In the late 90s he left Gul to start C-Skins and I joined him in 2002. So combined we have 64 years of manufacturing wetsuits behind us.
So why is it a good thing to be producing wetsuits that long? – EXPERIENCE – continual refinement of product – highs and lows, lessons learnt, knowing what makes a great product does not come overnight.
The second is that we are purely a wetsuit company – the benefit of this is that the whole company lives and breathes wetsuits. Its our sole focus. Being focused on just making wetsuits means we can put every resource into making the best product better and better. In our times I see how much of an advantage this gives us. Whats better – a smaller range done super well or a bigger range done average? Many of our competitors don’t have the same focus as us.
Thirdly our location is important. We’re based in a wave rich area surrounded by cold water – it’s not like we have to travel and make special trips to test and refine our wetsuits. The water is cold and and it’s on our doorstep, so the testing and continual improvements are happening all the time.
What are you most proud of in this line of work?
Probably the amount of time we have been consistently selling high quality wetsuits. It’s not always easy year in, year out producing and delivering to market high quality products. There’s a huge amount that goes on behind the scenes and so I would say that I’m most proud of the collective effort the whole team puts in from first imagining a product to the suit being used in the water by the end comsumer.
What do you think makes a brand stand out from one another when they’re produced by pretty much the same company, all be it in different locations?
First off I don’t agree with your statement that they are all produced by one company. They are NOT.
Secondly if 2 wetsuits from differing brands are produced in the same factory, the design, the pattern, the fit, the material specification, the construction specification of the product is entirely down to the brand. I could produce a really terrible wetsuit and a really amazing wetsuit using the same manufacture based on these points. I could have a terrible pattern and fit, specify incorrect materials, quality, thickness, functions. I could ask them to cut corners to save money on the construction by using a lighter weight thread or a lower cost construction. It’s very easy to have 2 completely different products from one manufactuer.
Plus focusing our research & development on the materials and new construction methods. We have exclusive developments that we work alongside our manufacturing partner with – so we have unique materials and finishes that give us the edge over competitors. These developments echo what the brand believes makes a good wetsuit. Take for example our new Diamond Flex neoprene – this is a brand new development that utilizes the latest stretch rubber and linings, but also has an improved memory, so you don’t get a super stretchy wetsuit that bags/balloons out. This goes back to our company ethos that we want to produce the best all round wetsuits on the market today. There’s no point selling the stretchiest wetsuit in the world if it looses it shape after 10 surfs…
We look further and want to develop the worlds stretchiest wetsuit that still has a robust memory, so that we don’t compromise.
What makes Sheico such an (apparently) amazing wetsuit manufacturer?
What have been the three most influential changes in wetsuits over the last 15 years?
– The move to chest zip design
– Seam sealing techniques such as Liquid Seam and Power Seam
Do different kinds of neoprene really make that big of a difference performance wise?
Yes. Starting with overall comfort and fit. High performance neoprene brings you closer and closer to the feeling of surfing in boardshorts and that’s every surfers dream.
Does neoprene actually soak up water or is it just the lining? Since it’s a closed cell structure I’ve always assumed the latter.
It’s only the linings that soak up water. Linings are needed to give the neoprene strength.
They also seem to soak up more water when they age, why is that?
This is the fibres breaking down and it makes particles much easier to attach to them. Salt sand, etc.
Does limestone neoprene actually have a higher micro-cell penetration and thus have more advantages over conventional neoprene?
I don’t know. We don’t have a choice in choosing between petrochemical neoprene and limestone neoprene these days. Its all limestone from our manufacturer. No one gets a choice.
Why are people going nuts over Yamamoto Limestone Neoprene compared to conventional limestone neoprene?
Don’t know. Marketing hype.
What is new with Diamond Flex Neoprene compared to regular (limestone) neoprene?
The combination of new internal and external linings plus a lighter stretchier foam. Further explanation above at the question about the same manufacturer.
In what way does lining support or hold back stretch in neoprene?
Yes, it’s true that linings support the foam. If you took a piece of cell/cell foam it would be very easy to damage and stretch out of shape.
Don’t forget that cell is produced in many difference densities – densities affect stretch e.g dive suits need a high density foam to prevent compression at depths, just like we need on our knee pads for ducking diving when we’re surfing.
The linings support and foam. The combinations of foam type + inner and outer linings is almost endless.
There’s a diamond shape pattern in the lining, I assume it’s for more stretch, but will there be a point in wetsuit development when stretchier doesn’t necessarily mean noticably better? Have we already hit that point?
Yes, to a point I agree with that, but again you must remeber that we want stretchier combined with durability – stretchier on its own is not good. I still think we have some distance to go to maximise stretch and durability – Diamond Flex is on that road. The pattern in Diamond Flex helps with directional stretch but also helps to remove unwanted weight from the linings.
So let’s think about stretch, weight and durability combined rather than just isolating each point.
How do you ensure ecological validity in scientific testing regarding wetsuits? I feel like a lot of the time when science is introduced to sell a new feature, the studies don’t really back up the claims. Like infrared technologies etc.
Yeah, sometimes we see that. Probably most brands in the surf industry or wetsuit industry have bigger marketing budgets than testing/research budgets! At C-Skins our development budgets are greater than marketing which I think is quit unque in the industry. In reality we all rely too heavily on marketing. What you can count on with C-Skins is that even if we don’t produce an official piece of scientific research, every development we make is stringently tested in house and in the water and if its not an improvement on the previous wetsuit then we don’t go ahead.
You’re talking about a reduction in emissions, but what are the initial emissions actually and how high are they still? Do you happen to know how much the impact is per wetsuit?
And how on earth can we measure the entire impact of the wetsuit industry on the planet? Which variables come into play?
What can the industry still do to produce wetsuits more environmentally friendly? Besides telling surfers to take better care of their stuff of course!
All I can say on this point is that improvements are continuing to come. Car tyre recycling to produce boot soles is already happening. Soon we’ll be able to recycle wetsuits aswell, but there’s already a lot of stuff that we can do like:
– Dope dying to save water
– Recyclable packaging
– Reduction in plastics
– Water based glues for construction and lamination
– Limestone neoprene/yulex – theres a whole debate and science there to be evaluated about what is actually better for the environment.
In what ways do you think wetsuits can still improve? And how do you plan to do that with c-skins?
Think I’ve already answered that above.
Why do you think some wetsuits give a vacuum in our groin when wiping out? (dick vaccums)
The water pressure pushes the air out of your wetsuit which then if you have a well sealed wetsuit creates a vacuum inside your wetsuit.
Why do wetsuits become stiffer when you don’t use them for a longer time?
Mainly due to drying out. However if you have a high quality wetsuit and if you store your wetsuit correctly then you shouldn’t see this happen.
Why do wetsuit seem to dry slower when they age?
Same as one of the points above. Salt, sand particles, etc. get stuck in the linings aswell as the linings breaking down. There may also be a finish that is worn off or broken down during use that reduced the hydrophobic nature of the material.
What do you think is most important when buying a suit? Pretty obvious I think, but maybe you have a specific tip.
Look at the overall specification and quality of the suit rather than just being sucked in by one big feature (usually marketed to you) – look at the collective makeup of the suit and try to select the suit that has all the features you want.
Obviously, make sure the fit is good! Always try and buy the best quality you can afford as this will enhance your enjoyment in the water.
Speaking of tips, do you happen to have a good one(s) on wetsuit care?
Just the usual – try your best to look after your suit by following the guidelines. It will last you longer if you do this. One of the biggest suit killers is being left to dry outside in the sun for extended periods – I know this is a totally natural thing to do, but allowing sun to penetrate into the foam will speed up potential delamination of the linings or tape.
What do you think about these questions?
Good questions and if I had more time I could write all day to go into greater depth on the answers.
Which questions are missing and what would you have asked? Is there anything you would like to add?
No questions on fit/patterns. You’ve asked a lot of very technical questions which is good, but lets remember everyone is different shapes and sizes. Everyone likes different styles and looks. Everyone likes something different and we don’t always purchase based on a scientific research paper.