North East O.G. takes to social media to hold to wetsuit inventors to account.
Sustainable can be a fairly loaded term these days. An essential inclusion in any product description, certs. Even if a t-shirt label is now being made with 1% less bleach, product copywriters will leap on ‘more sustainable’ in attempt to convince consumers that by making this purchase, they will now be even better friends of the icecaps.
We all might have fallen victim of a certain amount of greenwashing in our quests to get in the green room, with many surf brands marketing gear on tokenistic gestures or questionable virtues around it being “less impactful”. In truth, it can be pretty hard to know just how green that hemp cloth swing tag really is.
This week Gabe Davies, NE core lord and big wave surfer decided he’d had enough of what he considered spurious claims as to the eco-credentials of surfing gear.
Specifically, O’Neill’s claim about their Blueprint wetsuit being “the most sustainable, high performance wetsuit on the market.”
Gabe’s response via his IG: “This is total, utter, bullshit.”
“Traditional neoprene is toxic.”
In particular, Gabe was taking exception to claims surrounding the benefits of using limestone-based neoprene (which in fairness, isn’t restricted to O’Neill, many brands market limestone suits as eco-friendly).
“Limestone neoprene is in no way sustainable, so when brands like O’Neill talk it up like it’s a good idea, it just boils my blood. It is not doing anyone any good. How can surfers make informed decisions about expensive products when they talk such utter shit?”
The accompanying photo depicted a bleak scene of an earth mover inside a massive, open cast limestone quarry, hardly the saving the planet feels suggested in limestone neoprene propaganda.
“I’m gonna start calling this out where I see it” continued Gabe, “just so folk get a clearer picture.”
“You claim ‘most sustainable’ I claim you are taking the smallest possible steps and shouting loudly about them. Limestone is not sustainable, requires a massive energy footprint, before we even talk about terrible human suffering around production facilities.”
We reached out to Gabe, who’d followed up by saying he’d chatted to people at O’Neill, who were keen to reassess their wording and were committed to keep on improving their product. Furthermore he explained he wasn’t picking on them as such, or merely being tribalistic, working for a competitor brand in the booming wetsuit market.
“I don’t want to be negative and brand bashing” explained Gabe. “I just want clarity and transparency and move to move forward in a positive. Brands are caught between doing the right thing, and total bullshit.”
With other brands in the wetsuit market using plant based alternatives to limestone neoprene, reposting Gabe’s story, and a plenty of support for his stance from across the scene, the incident marks a relatively rare display of public scrutiny for brands often allowed to mark their own eco homework.
Cover photo: Gabe charging in the North East by @lugarts