DIY Wetsuit Wash

I’m really not a fan of Winter. We’re lucky- for the most part- to have pretty temperate Winters here in Florida. However, for most of us, we will be in a Spring suit or 3/2 mm suit at some point in the Winter. For me, I hate the cold, so my wetsuit season starts up earlier than for most people, inevitably bringing out the Wetsuit Style Police to tell me “it’s not cold- get that wetsuit off.” Yeah, there’s nothing better than being a bikini clad popsicle covered in goose bumps, convulsing on the beach from hypothermia effects. Sexy.
Anywho, since wetsuit season is coming around, I figured it would be worth it to make my own DIY wetsuit wash, thinking it’s got to be cheaper than what’s in the dive shops and online.
My Mother-In-Law knows I do a lot of crafts, so she was so kind to bring me a big box of hotel shampoos and conditioners for Christmas…..”No, no, this is great, I didn’t need a new board or anything, tiny plastic bottles are even better…..” You don’t mess with the Mom In Law.
But the little bottles turned out to be useful as good portion sizes for my Wetsuit Wash, and even came with an ingredient I use.
I gathered my materials: delicate care Woolite, white vinegar, and conditioner (that I got from the bottles), a tablespoon measure, and a teaspoon measure, and a measuring cup.

Materials to make the wash

Here’s my recipe to make around 5 portions (1 portion = approximately 6 teaspoons liquid):
3 tablespoons Woolite (for general cleaning)
3 tablespoons White Vinegar (for bacteria removal)
3 teaspoons lightweight hair conditioner (to help keep seams and tape supple)
3 tablespoons Water (as a dilute)
5 empty shampoo bottles (at least capable holding 6 teaspoons of liquid or more)
Mix these thoroughly into a measuring cup with a pour spout.

Yields around 1/2 cup of wash

Pour the solution into each empty conditioner bottle, thoroughly stirring the liquid in the measuring cup prior to each bottle pour.
Next, it’s very important to label each bottle with “Wetsuit Wash”, so it doesn’t get mixed up with other stuff. I labeled mine with a simple label maker:

So, I finally ended up with around 5 bottles of wash (shake it up a bit before pouring into your bucket of water):

Finished bottles of wash

This should last me the season and more, since it’s recommended to wash your neoprene once a month. I’ll agitate the wash into approximately 5 gallons of water in a bucket. It also helps to have a softer bristle brush (like a dish brush), to get off wax and sand while washing. Don’t use the brush to scrub into the neoprene, only to remove sand, wax, or other “clingers”. Ewww.
Agitate the wetsuit in the wash and water for around 5 minutes, making sure the inside and out gets attention. You can leave it to soak, but not over 15 minutes- it’s just not effective past that.
Rinse your suit well until the water is clear, and hang it to dry on a good broad shouldered hanger, or folded over a rod at the waist (this drying method is slower).
So the next time you get bugged by the Wetsuit police, turn around, bend over, and tell them to “smell the freshness”. They’ll want to make their own wash!

DIY SUP Paddle Edge Super Bumper

So I’ve been using electrical tape to protect the edge of my paddle, and it’s been working pretty well so far. But lately, I’ve really noticed myself paddling like a madwoman for some of these tiny Summer waves and I’ve been making some pretty good whacks on my board with my paddle, so I decided my novice self may need an upgrade to the edge of the paddle.
I’ve seen thick edge bumpers you can buy at a surf shop and adhere along the edge of the paddle blade, but they cost no less than about $25 just for one paddle. Sheesh. I was going to break down and buy one, but a great surf shop owner, Roy Scafidi, at Ocean Sports World/ Island Waveskis (buy Local plug!) gave me this tip I’d thought I’d pass along to you.
He told me to try some glass and door weatherstripping you can get from the automotive store, which is very similar to neoprene tape. I picked up a coil for 10 bucks:

Picked this up at the local auto supply store

The weatherstripping I got was about 1/2″ wide, so I cut the width in half to 1/4″ wide after measuring out a long enough strip length to go from the neck of the paddle where the seam of the blade and paddle meet, all the way around the edge of the blade up to the other side.

Cut a length long enough to go around the edge,
then cut the width down the center, making two strips.

The coil of adhesive I got could do about 6 paddles probably! That’s $1.67 a paddle instead of $25, AND since the stripping is self adhesive, no extra glue is needed.
Next, I carefully peeled back the backing from the adhesive and pressed it against the edge of the paddle, exposing only a little adhesive at a time, pressing down, peeling more back, and moving to the next section. Take your time- you want the bumper to be right on the edge of the blade. I didn’t press down too hard on the the edges that stuck out on either side of the blade edge, because I didn’t want to distort the bumper to one side or another.
When I finished, I took some colorful duct tape and wrapped around the neck of the blade where it meets the shaft just to make it look neat:

Done!

Now it’s time to go play Whack-A-Fish. Just kidding. I hope.

Change Your Fin, Change Your Life! (well, not really)

Changing out fins on a surfboard can give a new feel to a board sometimes. Or sometimes, like around here in Cocoa Beach, it’s necessary to switch to a smaller fin so you don’t run aground surfing the microripples in the Summer.
I recently had to switch out a set of thrusters on a board with some new kookproof “Nerf” fins, and it was a real pain. So I decided to gather up some of the tools I found made it easier to get the other fins out, and some tools I’ve used in the past.
For this more recent example, I switched out a single fin on my longboard.

The fin I want to change out

The first tool I use for this job to remove the holding screw is a double ended pocket screwdrivers in my board repair box forever. I got it free at one of those convention/trade show booths, along with a few mugs and pens, so the next time you stay at a hotel, check to see if there’s an engineering convention going on and see if you can score one- along with a huge chocolate chip cookie. These little double ended screwdrivers are great to have since you don’t need a full sized one on the screw, and some screws may have a flat head or a philips head, and this has both. Of course, for thruster, quad, side bites, etc. fin setup, keep a small fin key around, which is essentially a tiny allen wrench for those type of screws.

Pocket double ended screwdriver (even the drivers come out and flip around to smaller size, so it’s like 4 in 1.)

Next, if you have trouble pulling out the fin or getting a grip on it, I use one of those cheap thin plastic textured grippy jar openers. What also works is using the textured rubberized part of a surf vest or wetsuit.

A rubber jar opener disc (in red), and my rubberized front neoprene vest, both can be used for grip
Now, if the fin’s giving you a lot of trouble, I’ll break out my little rubber mallet. This type of mallet can be found in a craft store or craft area, usually by the stuff to make metal jewelry, and it’s less than five bucks.
Mini rubber mallet for jewelry
I like using this type of mallet on fins because it’s not as ferocious as a full rubber mallet, so you’ll be less likely to damage the fin. I’ll lightly give the front edge or back edge gentle taps to release the fin from the box, using the rubber grip disc as a helper.
Using the mallet and the jar opener as a grip to pull the fin out

Once the fin is out, it’s time for the new one to go in. This fin went into the box fairly easily, but the thruster set I had to put in the other day did not (even with lubricant) so I took an additional step and lightly used some 120 grit sandpaper and sanded INSIDE the fin box on the board- not the fin. I did this after looking at how the fin box (what holds the fin to the board) was glassed into the board. Since it was glassed a bit too squeezed-in the middle- I did this option. I know, I know, but I had no other option.
The next step I did for the thruster set and this fin was to use the mini mallet again to tap the fin down LIGHTLY into the box. This is another bonus of the mini mallet- it’s no wider than most fin boxes, so I can tap the fin base into the board on the glassed part reinforced by the box without freaking out.

Using the mallet to lightly tap in the fin, if necessary.

Yes, I’d rather not have to hit my board, even with a tiny rubber mallet, but if the box is glassed in a bit weird, well, I kinda need to get the fin in there somehow. The downside is, with a single fin, this may bounce the nut laying in the fin box around a bit from where you set it, so you may want to use a pipe cleaner to fish it back into place so you can make sure it’s lined up with the screw when you get ready to put the screw back in place. But it works well on thruster or side bites, no problem.
Here’s the new fin installed:

New fin installed
The helper tools I used when changing fins

I think I’ll be less apprehensive about changing out fins in the future. Well, I hope I don’t have to add a power grinder to the tool list. Did I mention I’m not very patient?

DIY GoPro Case from a Wetsuit

Yeah, I’m officially one of those people who broke down and bought a GoPro. I’ve been enjoying it, but I haven’t been using it to demonstrate my “heroness”. It’s a great learning tool, to show me what I’m doing wrong- or occasionally right- when I’m surfing or SUPing. I also can’t wait to take it diving.
The thing’s so small, much improved from the old video recorder waterproof cases, but didn’t come with a stinkin’ case. $300 bucks and no case. Really? So I’ve taken to removing the camera after my surf, wrapping it in a towel in a clean, sand free beach bag to transport it back to the car where I hopefully don’t drop the camera when I unwrap the towel to rinse the thing off.
Being that neoprene is so useful, and is plentiful since most surfers can plow through a wetsuit in a couple of seasons, even around here, it’s always good to make the most of that expensive material if you can’t sell it or it got ripped.
For this project, I’m going to use a much loved vest I’ve had for 6 or 7 years but has been replaced. I wanted to breathe new life into it by using it for this project.

My surf vest (I cut the sleeves off- got to be different, ya know?)

First off, I needed to make I pattern for my case. I decided I wanted to make a cylindrical case, that has a drawstring closure at the top. I needed to make sure I had enough space to put the camera in even if I put the special floaty back on it, so I set it on my gridded cutting table to look it over:

Side view
Top view

This gave me an idea to make the bottom of the case a 5″ diameter circle. I took a compass, set it to a 2.5″ radius, and drew out a circle on plain paper, then cut it out. It seemed to fit the case pretty well, without a lot of slop:

Within the pattern bottom

Next, I needed to figure out how tall I wanted my case to be, keeping in mind that this will drawstring closed, so I’ll need a little extra at the top.

Determining height of the case

I settled on a 5″ height, since the bottom will be sewn to the side with minimal seam allowance by a blanket stitch. I also had to calculate circumference to make sure the side would go all the way around the outer edge of the bottom, to make my cylinder. To do that, I multiplied Pi (3.14) by my diameter of the bottom (5″) to come up with about 15.7″. Since I’m not making wheels for a Beemer, I rounded up to 16″ (significant digits anyway, remember those? Blech.) So I made my rectangular pattern by taping two sheets together and cutting out those measurements.

Side pattern

Now if you’ve read any of my other projects with neoprene, I like to pin the pattern to the neoprene with staples. They lay flatter than traditional pins since the neoprene’s so thick. For the bottom, I decided to keep the “GoSurf” logo, and use the back of the vest for the side.

Laying out the pattern
Laying out the pattern
Pattern stapled down and cutting around pattern

Once everything was cut out, I was ready to start sewing. I used 4 lb fishing line and a heavy SHARP needle- now’s a good time to use a thimble for work gloves, trust me.

Pattern pieces and Fireline (fishing line, 4 lb)

I started with a blanket stitch to join the side seam together of my rectangle. If you don’t know how to blanket stitch, check this out.
Once I had made the spine, I kept the same thread and kept going to attach the bottom. Note that the seams are on the OUTSIDE of the case, and it will not be turned inside out.

Starting to join the bottom

Here’s the cylinder when complete, you can see the spine at the top:

Finished cylinder looking inside

Next, I needed to make my drawstring. For the holes, I used a regular hole punch, but you may need to clip the holes if the punch doesn’t go all the way through. I punched 10 holes, evenly spaced, about 1/2″ from the top edge. I’m not using grommets for a couple of reasons: first, they will rust (EVERYTHING does), second, I don’t want to scratch anything. Besides, I am making a handle for this so I will not be using this drawstring as a carrier that will put a lot of stress on the holes. The edges of the neoprene won’t fray.

Punching holes in the top edge

For the drawstring, I used a regular shoestring, and I got a locking fastener for drawstrings that you can pick up in any craft or fabric store, or take one off of an old drawstring bag.

Shoestring and adjustable fastener

Thread the shoestring in and out of the holes, making sure that the ends come out to the front of the bag (in this case, I made the seam the “back” of the bag). Thread the ends through the locking fastener, open the bag as wide as possible, and knot the ends of the string! If you don’t, you’ll be threading over and over again.

Drawstring threaded

Next, for the handle, I used some nylon webbing 1″ wide and cut 18″ long to make a loop. Don’t forget to singe the ends of the nylon webbing where you cut for it will fray out.

Making the handle

I’m going to baste this folded piece together on the sewing machine, then I’m going to sew the handle end onto the OUTSIDE of the bag, about 1-2″ down from the top edge, making sure I don’t catch the drawstring at the top of the bag. Of course, you can also do this part by hand, but use a strong needle and a small rubber mallet may help push the needle through all of the layers. On the machine, I used a Denim weight needle (100). I used regular poly thread to sew with, but you can use fishing line if sewing by hand.
First, I sewed the bottom edge of the handle loop (make sure the drawstring is out of the way!) by making some passes back and forth on the machine. You can use a straight stitch, but a zig zag is always good, especially along the bottom edge.

Sewing on the handle along the bottom edge of the handle

I did this again, but at the top edge of the bag (again, stay clear of the drawstring!) to make it doubly secure.

Sewing on the handle along the top edge of the bag

Next, I wanted to stiffen up the bottom of the bag a bit so the camera wouldn’t make the bag droopy, so I used the same pattern circle I used for the bottom of the bag and cut a piece of an old plastic placemat out. You can also use plastic folders, anything plastic that can be cut with scissors and has a bit of stiffness. I did cut the circle a hair smaller than the original pattern to ensure it would lay flat in the bottom of the bag.

Super cool placemat!

So that’s it. Here’s a pic with my GoPro inside the case:

My precious….

Here’s a couple more from the outside, hanging by the handle, and then just sitting on the table:

Hangin’ out
Chillaxin’
Bottom side!

Now when I rinse off my camera, I can rinse the case off too and let it dry. As a bonus, a black case made from old neoprene doesn’t exactly scream “come steal me!”. Well, that is, except the people who know me and I just gave myself away on here.
I’ll let you steal my flip flops, ok?

DIY Handplane Leash

Since Summer’s in the air, I figured it was time to pull out the handplane I made again and make some things for it I’ve been meaning to in time for warm water bodysurfing season (with a hope for some hurricane swells!).
I haven’t lost the handplane yet out in the water, but I thought it might be good to have a little insurance. I wanted to make a leash, but nothing too obstructive that would get in the way. Around the house, we had one of these keychains with a plastic coiled cord:

I just needed the coiled cord, so I removed the key ring from the one end and used a pair of tin snips to cut the hook end free from the cord:

Next, I made a wrist strap by cutting off the last 2 inches of an old neoprene wetsuit sleeve:

Cut off wrist of a wetsuit sleeve

If you need a bigger cuff, just cut a two inch section higher up the arm. To attach the cuff and leash, I used pieces of kumihimo cord I made before (or you can use boat line), and overhand knot tied off to one side of the hand hold and made a lark’s head around the neoprene cuff:

All leashed up!

That’s it! I’m going to leave this leash attached to my board, but I can cut the tie off if I want. I plastic zip tie would work great too, I just wanted to avoid using any metal that could scratch up the board or get rusty over time.
I wouldn’t expect this to hold in super heavy waves, but then if I get into a super heavy wave and get tossed, I don’t want a square foot of poplar within close proximity to me anyway….

Wetsuit Care, Drying and Storage

I’ve read it’s best to let your wetsuit drip dry inside out between sessions after rinsing. I’ve been good about observing that recommendation, since that’s usually the way I fight my way out of my wetsuit anyway when all is said and done.
I noticed one of our suits from last year that was hung up in the closet on a hanger like we usually hang them:

Normal way most people hang up wetsuits

The downside is I noticed that the heavy duty hanger I used kind of left a “lump” in the shoulder. I’m sure this won’t be noticeable after wearing it a while, but is does remind you how heavy neoprene really is.

Shoulder lump

I was trying to think of a better way to hang up and store my suits inbetween wearings, and for seasonal storage.
For inbetween wearings, nothing’s worse than letting it dry in the sun. It will actually break down the polymers of the neoprene. I hang mine in the garage after rinsing, but that’s usually on a hanger, which is now even more weight subjected on the wetsuit’s shoulders with the combination of the heavy neoprene and water. I thought clipping the arms or legs up might work, but I didn’t want to leave impressions in the neoprene. Then I thought the zipper may be a good option. It’s strong, it has it’s own hanging hole, and if I zip it up slightly before hanging, it will bear the weight much better:

Zipper shown zipped up slightly

I used an ordinary shower hook, ran it through the metal hole on the tab on the zipper, and there you go, a simple hanger:

Wetsuit hanging from a shower hook on the zipper tab

This is far stronger than depending on the neoprene to manage the weight.
Now, for those who have zipperless suits (I do too), make a sling out of some 1/2″ nylon webbing tape, put grommets in either end and string the webbed tape loop up onto the shower hook, only suspend your wetsuit on the loop between the crotch (yeehaw- hope you’re not wearing the suit at the time). This will distribute some of the weight over the suit, but will still allow the appendages to be free enough to dry.
For storage, I really recommend getting a closet suit cover that’s pretty big. I’ve gotten some off of Craigslist for next to nothing, and they show up at Goodwill new from time to time (Target donates a lot of overstock). If you get a big sized one, you can hang (off of hooks, not hangers!) 3 or 4 suits or vests. This will help them from getting sunlight on them, protect them against damage from other junk in your closet. If you throw a couple of those silica gel packs in the bottom before you zip up the case- you know, those little desiccant pouches that are in everything from medications to shoes- those will help keep some of the moisture from making your wetsuits funky next season.
But then, you already had the lock on Funky, right? Dig it.

Foster’s Can Koozie from an Old Wetsuit

Ok, so this week I’ve heard that some people are interested in crafting insulative beverage holders- or “koozies”, as they are scientifically known- from old wetsuit neoprene.
While there are a lot of different patterns available on the internet for standard koozies, I haven’t seen any for super-sized adult beverages, such as a Foster’s. I can’t stand beer personally, but I love this picture of Kelly Slater slamming a Foster’s after he won his 8th World Title. Maybe, he could’ve used a koozie to keep the beer cold…

Ke11y and his Foster’s during his 8th World Title

First, I acquired a can of Foster’s to use for measurements:

Measuring height

The height of the can from the bottom to the top lip is about 5 1/2″. Next, I traced the can’s bottom onto some paper.

Tracing the inside bottom

I took a compass to estimate the radius of the can inner bottom you can do this around the outer edge instead, if you’d rather:

Taking a measurement from the tracing

From here, I could draw up measurements. The can bottom is 1 and 5/16″ in radius, the width of one side of the koozie is 5 and 1/4″, and the height of each side will be 5 and 1/2″ tall:

Dimensions laid out on paper

Now, to give you a better idea of how this pattern will be cut, I’m going to cut out the shape of the paper, cutting around the circle, but not all the way- you want to keep a bit of each side of the circle attached to each side. Cutting out the pattern will look like this (keep in mind that the height of each side should be 5 and 1/2″, but I was constrained by the 8 1/2″ by 11″ sheet of paper I used):

Pattern cut out

Next, you can trace this pattern onto your neoprene scrap using chalk, or you can staple the pattern to the neoprene and cut out around the pattern.

Neoprene cut out

Before I sew up each side, I’m going to add a little clear window to put a message, name, or thought into on the side of the koozie. I used a folded over piece of clear heavy duty shipping tape- a piece of clear plastic, like a piece of shower curtain can be used too.

Tape I used for a window pocket
Cut a piece of folded over tape out, and cut out a little notch to take pieces of paper in and out

I sewed this window down on three sides by hand, leaving the top open using 4 lb test fishing line and a heavy embroidery needle.

Window sewed down, bubbles in the tape are not a big deal, they won’t show on the paper.

Next, I whipstitched the sides together with the same fishing line, making sure the edges are lined up. I didn’t have enough neoprene to reach the full can height, but it’s still pretty tall.
Here it is finished, with a fun message inside:

Classier than those wine tags, right?