History of Wetsuits
Very first Wetsuit
Wetsuit is one of those inventions that are difficult to pin on a single person. The guy that produced the modern day wetsuit is essentially created out of a couple of those that had been performing the same things. Initially in 1951 Hugh Bradner (navy) got the concept that a thin layer of water that is trapped below “something” may be an insulator against the cold water. A buddy of his recommended that neoprene would be a great material to replace that “something” in the before sentence. On the brink of breakthrough Hugh Bradner let it go because he was not basically enthusiastic about wetsuits and water sports. But he nonetheless is the first individual that we can confirm (a letter dated June 21, 1951) was playing with the notion.
Most people would place Jack O’Neill in the shoes of the first wetsuit inventor. But did you know that his brother Robert O’Neill was the one in the O’Neill household that produced the initial wetsuit designs? Or that Bob and Bill Meistrell who founded Body Glove began experimenting with neoprene suits in 1953.
They had been all oblivious of one another so they can all be named the inventors of the wetsuit.
Surfing in the 50’s was fantastic but you can only make brief surf sessions since the water was too cold for your boardshorts, you surfed in a wool sweater, in a navy jumper… anything to keep warm. An advanced technique to strengthen the performance of a wool sweater was to soak it with oil so it would repel water for a time. You may top that off with an old bathing cap. Sounds terrific, doesn’t it? So terrific that Jack continuously experimented with methods to keep himself warm. He took a pair of shorts or a surfing vest and stuffed it with unicellular plastic like PVC, but PVC was too hard to use. So he turned to plastic foam that did not fairly function either. Finally Jack O’Neill found neoprene that is a seriously good insulator, it is actually buoyant and flexible.
So O’Neill began producing wetsuits: a short john, a long john, a spring suit and a full suit. He even developed those beaver-tailed jackets that close beneath your crotch. Jack remembers that he got lots of laughs from the surfers that came from the south and saw his creations.
But neoprene didn’t solve all the concerns. Fist wetsuits had been stiff and did generally not fit extremely effectively. They were uncomfortable and you had been regularly acquiring fresh cold water into your wetsuit. Wetsuits had been made out of raw foam-rubber neoprene that was unlined. That king of neoprene is very sticky and really fragile and you can tear it just by pulling your wetsuit on too hard. Surfer employed talcum powder to slip into the wetsuit. When nylon was developed it was a perfect answer for backing materials. A layer of nylon was applied to one side of the neoprene making it a lot more resistant and simple to work with (sewing). A considerably improved version of nylon continues to be made use of these days (initially nylon was not quite inflexible, so the wetsuit had been also rather stiff).
Double lined neoprene that has nylon on the two sides was “invented” within the 1970s. That further enhanced the durability and tear-resistance of the neoprene and wetsuits. The other great thing about the outside of the wetsuit being lined with nylon? Colours! Red, yellow, pink… you name it. Wetsuits didn’t need to be black anymore.