Billabong’s new Graphene range feature a lining made with the 2010 Nobel-prize winning material, an allotrope of carbon, just one atom thick. But what does Geim & Novoselov’s feted discovery, made in the lab at Manchester Uni have to do with great surfing? Let’s find out.
I always had something of an uneasy relationship with chemistry. Maybe it was the unnecessarily tough A Level syllabus, maybe it was the fact we had to pay for the breakages of glass beakers, titration tubes, pipettes, etc, ourselves, at a time when my hard earns were very much already accounted for keeping me in expensive imported surf mags, pints at the Iron Duke on Fridays and, ok, full disclosure time, teenths of soap bar (or red seal) in The Duke car park.
Maybe it was Mr North’s sombre, unlovable delivery. Maybe it was the awful gender ratio at a time when such things seemed of paramount importance. Most of all, I think I was just disappointed with myself for having chosen it.
I mean, for reals. Chemistry? Why oh why didn’t I do History of Art?
So then, when surf companies soon starting marketing wetsuits around the Periodic Table of the Elements, you’ll understand my cynicism, my unrecepetiveness.
I mean, even more than usual.
Early on it was titanium. Ti. Come off it, I scoffed. As if. You can’t paint the inside of a wetsuit vaguely silver-ish and convince me it’s gonna keep the frigid Atlantic winter nasty at bay.
There was more, of course. Copper, believe it or not, came next. Yep, before the invention of the Moscow Mule mug, copper was actually (allegedly) used in surfing wetsuits. I had one, too. The inside was copper… coloured. I was happy enough, but still knew it was all a nonsense.
Far too well versed was I in the rigour of proper scientific method, the importance of the null hypothesis, in stoichometry, entropy, close packing of spheres, to be seduced by Cu. Then or Next Tuesday.
Imagine the serendipity then (tinged with a morsel of regret for all those wasted transition metal and coinage metal years, when it was poly-aromatic hydrocarbons all along!), when first testing Billabong’s Furnace Comp 3/2 with Graphene+ lining in the unreasonably icy waters off Galicia, Spain this September.
“The overall design, look, feel has all the makings of a genuine paradigm shift”
The circle had been squared, I could finally make my peace with my A level choices all those years ago. The lab chemistry / surf wetsuit relationship had finally paid off, and I was there to taste the fruits de ses pensées.
Billabong’s wetsuit boffins had somehow managed to graphene, the Nobel-prize winning ‘2D’ material just one atom thick, 200x stronger than steel by weight, a super heat conductive carbon allotrope, into a wetsuit.
While the less fortunate around me were shivering in shoddy 4/3’s, I was actually a touch too warm in a 3/2. The lightness, the flexibility were unprecedented. The overall design, look, feel had all the makings of a genuine paradigm shift to it.
Graphene itself is lauded for being light but strong, with an unparalleled heat conductivity. While warmth vs lightness and flex has always felt like a bit of a compromise, the use of graphene feels like that is no longer an issue.
“I was actually a touch too warm”
Externally, the optics are spot on. The feel is that righteous marriage of high spec with low tack, like when good USB cables started having a woven finish as opposed to plastic; you just knew they were good. Specifically, we’re talking Airlight stretch external jersey, a perforated knit that offers 350% stretch.
Logo-wise, it’s mercifully minimal. A tiny Bong flag by the zip, a wee 90’s crescent logo (yes!) on the back. Minimal, smart, low key.
Entry is kept easy via Billabong’s Comp entry system; for quick on n’ off. The chest zip dislocates (the slider is on the open end, not closed) to prevent failure. Even the flap that seals the entry is attached to keep things together, shapely, durable.
I’ve worn warm 3/2’s before but they felt like they’d mis-calibrated the calipers (a chemist worth his or her (ahem) salt, knows the difference between precision, and accuracy, btw), more like centimetres than mil. They’ve been heavier than D and The Boyz.
The very best part about the Furnace Comp you see, is how very light it is. The weight, sorry – mass – is almost insignificant.
70% externally welded seams combined with Superflex neo-taped seams means leaks are history, one panel back piece provides unrestricted movement. And just in case you were wondering if contemporary performance meant brutalising Mother Earth, the eco specs stand up, too.
The entire thing is made from 30% upcycled car tires, water-based adhesives, limestone-based neoprene, dope-dyed yarns (reducing water footprint) and minimal, degradable packaging.
The truth is that the wetsuit game requires a certain amount of wheel reinvention on the very regular, by necessity. A certain amount of washing powder style shouty boasts are inevitable. ‘Now, best ever! Like, best results, ever, ever!’ very soon to be improved by a small yet perceptible measure that nobody saw coming.
I’m don’t think I’m giving too many industry secrets away, revealing that.
But if there genuinely is a lighter, warmer, more flexible wetsuit in existence than the Billabong Furnace Comp, right now, today, I’d like to know about it.
We’re giving you the chance to WIN two #billabongwetsuits, for you and a friend.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
1. The promoter is: Wavelength Magazine
2. The competition is open to anyone 16 years or over.
3. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
4. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
5. Closing date for entry will be 31st October 2019. After this date no further entries to the competition will be permitted.
6. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
The rules of the competition and how to enter are as follows:
• Follow @wavelengthsurfmag and @billabongeurope on Instagram, and comment on the post tagging in a friend
• Wavelength will select the winning name at random
• If Wavelength is unable to contact the winner, the prize will be passed on to someone else.
The prizes for the competition are:
• x2 Billabong wetsuits, supplied and co-ordinated with Billabong Europe – model and colour subject to availability with Billabong Europe.
7. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.
9. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.
10. The prizes are as follows:
• x2 Billabong wetsuits to fit your size, supplied and co-ordinated with Billabong Europe – model and colour subject to availability with Billabong Europe.
The prize is as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered.The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.
11. Winners will be chosen:
12. At random from all entries received, with video evidence uploaded to our Instagram channel.
13. The winner will be notified by phone and/or email and/or direct message on Instagram/Facebook and/or letter within 28 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or do not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
14. The promoter will coordinate with the winner and Billabong Europe when and where the prize can be collected / is delivered. Delivery included is UK only, any deliveries outside the UK will be surcharged at the expense of the prize winner.
15. The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
16. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
17. The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by [English] law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of [England].
18. The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material, as well as their entry. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current [UK] data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.
19. The winner’s name will be available 28 days after closing date by emailing the following address: [email protected]
20. The prize is not transferable to any other individual other than the selected winner.
20. Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.
22. The entrants data will be the property of Wavelength Magazine, and not shared with any third parties.