Gnar Pro Wetsuit Wash DIY

We’re starting to get an early Spring here in Central Florida with temps up into the 80’s. We may get La Niña patterns-a-comin’ soon (means worse hurricanes for us in the Atlantic), but it’s WARM.

And that makes my inner Chris Farley dance like the El Niño king.

I would wear this

So in celebration, I decided to come up with an end of season wetsuit cleaning routine and try it on the ripest suit I could find….

There’s a lot of Neoprene here

This suit was given to me by a kind friend for scrap material, BUT, it’s 10 years old! Sorry, but before I would even touch it with a 10 foot pole for a project, it needs a DEEP clean. Bleach is the best option, but the chemicals in traditional bleach are harmful in so many ways, especially to the environment. Also, cleaning sports gear with regular detergent is a no-no if you want to make it last and avoid breaking down the material.

I’ve read that Oxygen Bleach is a good alternative to regular bleach in many cases, and can be easy enough to make yourself. The key ingredient is hydrogen peroxide, usually added to a carbonate. For this, I’m using Washing Soda, which is more effective than Baking Soda in this combo. Washing Soda can be found in the laundry aisle too, along with standard detergents. Just keep ’em separated, and they’ll last ya a while. Hint: you can use these for other things, not just wetsuits.

You don’t need much

Procedure:

This required my trusty 5 gallon utility bucket, cleaned and ready for use- outside. Although many instructions will say oxygen bleach will work in all temperatures, adding a bit of hot water doesn’t hurt to help along the reaction, which is a slow chemical process.

I began by filling the clean bucket partially with hot (or not) water. Now I was ready to start adding the ingredients, measured for use with approximately 3-4 gallons of water. Do not use more- a dab a’ do ya, brah, don’t over chemical things, man.

Wetsuit Wash (Dilute in 3-4 gallons of water, mix well):

  • 1 teaspoon Washing Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Hydrogen Peroxide (most stores only sell 3% to 5%, that’s all you need)

To stir, use a stick or handle, not your hands- it is bleach, yo. I used a broom handle. Allow the mixture to react for about 5 minutes BEFORE putting the suit in- the solution will get a little milky colored like mine did.

Make sure you stir the mixture for a few minutes before anything goes in

I put the suit in (with the broom handle since it’s grody), stirred it around, dunked it with it stick, and then let the suit sit in the mixture 24 hours, stirring it a few more times at the beginning of the process. Be sure to cover it if you leave it outside- I put a lid on mine to prevent any animals from drinking from it since I left it overnight.

 

The reaction is fully completed after 12 hours or so, so the mixture is inactive, and can be tossed out safely. Yay.

img_9062

I made sure to rinse the suit REALLY WELL afterwards- this is important! You don’t want any white powdery crud to remain on the suit.

BUT…if your suit is x-tra freakin nasty…..

Fill your rinse bucket back up with clean water, and add a few drops of pure Pine Oil. Pine Oil is a very effective disinfectant, and only a few drops are needed to make a quick rinse dip for your suit. Be sure to rinse it once more afterwards.

I hung the suit up on my HangAir dryer in my garage to dry, and it smells so much better and fresher. The inner lining didn’t lose any color either.

Smellin’ PHRESH 

So no, I can’t bottle this up and sell it, but if I did, I’d totally name it Mr. Belvedere’s Gnar Pro Wetsuit Wash. “Gnar Pro” gives it the surfer cred, but “Mr. Belvedere” makes it classy to be clean, yo.

It’s all about the marketing.

It’s sorta effective 

What do you think Mr. Wonderful???

Easy Wetsuit Hack Attack

It has been cold for Central Florida, with our water temps dipping down into the high 50’s. At least today was warm, but it won’t be for long. I may have to break down and buy another full wetsuit that goes all the way down to my ankles, and that makes me sad. Worse yet, I’ve got to go try some on, and it’s a pain in the ass to wriggle into the freakin’ wetsuits.

Most surfers have heard the old trick about slipping into a wetsuit easier (dry or wet) by using a plastic shopping bag over the foot or hand, sliding the appendage through, then removing the bag. There’s even surfy gimmicks out there you can buy to help you like the Jimmy or WetSox, but you can make this so easily, it’s insanity.

This upcycling hack looks similar to WetSox. I’m taking an old rash guard of mine that’s a teensy too small, cutting a sleeve off, sewing up one end with a whipstitch, and BOOM! E-Z Wetsuit Slip On Tool. Here’s my process in pics (I wish WordPress would let me do captions again):

A little more permanent than a plastic bag, plus it’s washable. Schweet.

So what am I going to do with a sleeveless rashguard? I might come up with another project, or I may go surfin’ with this brah, he knows the feeling of a good wipeout…

Another Simple Surf Wetsuit Mod

Is it Summer yet? Well, at least the holidays are almost done. Yet another year I didn’t get to spend at Mr. Kelly Slater’s Bodacious Wave Ranch. Boo.

So, back at this local wave ranch, I’ve been trying to get at least one more season out of my 4/3 Neoprene backzip fullsuit. I had modded it last year by cutting the legs off at the knee. In Florida, the north wind can feel a lot colder than the water temp, so a shorter leg can be more comfortable to surf in.

The latest mod I wanted to do is one I’ve heard many other surfers ask about: what to do with a bothersome high collar on a wetsuit. Mine seems a little tight, so I wanted to trim it down.

Like most basic Neoprene wetsuit mods, you don’t need a sewing machine, but the “big secret” is in the tools:

  • Seam Ripper
  • Rotary Cutter (preferably 45 mm diameter or less)
  • Heavy duty hand sewing needle
  • Polyester thread or fishing line

First, I removed that pesky key pocket behind the back zipper. I have other ways of hiding my keys, and dunking them in saltwater isn’t on the top of the list. It’s so scratchy anyway, and adds bulk I don’t need.

Next, I removed the Velcro tab on the collar with a seam ripper so it wouldn’t damage my rotary blade. I’m cutting away the Neoprene collar only, keeping the seal of the glued seam intact. I tried to make one continuous cut by opening up the suit as flat as it would go on the table.

If you choose to use regular scissors, be forewarned: your edges will come out VERY jagged due to the thickness of the Neoprene. This is why I stress the rotary blade over regular scissors.

I don’t like to use any type of edge guide when making these kind of highly curved cuts with the rotary tool. You can use a disappearing ink pen to make a cut line if your lining is light colored. For me, I winged it by eyeballing the 1/4″ distance from the yellow tape on the inside of the suit.

I used just a scant amount of Velcro from the tab I removed, and hand-sewed it back onto the flap so the collar would still close, just at a much lower profile. I may add a bit more Velcro later, depending on how it handles in the surf over time.

Much better!

Easier to wrestle with and the neck’s a lot more comfortable, but it’s still sealed up well.

This is a good reminder that I need to put the sugary goodness away for the season and get back in the water. Yikes.

DIY Upcycled Neoprene Surfing Beanie

In case you didn’t already know, I hate winter. We don’t generally get snow in this part of Florida- just windy, gloomy days with a biting chill that can become unbearable sometimes. At least the winters appear to be getting shorter in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means I may have waterfront property sooner than later.

Always look on da bright side, yo.

As I’ve been playing with and learning more about Neoprene upcycling, I’ve considered more things I can make, and one thing I NEED is a well fitting Neoprene beanie hat that will stay on when I surf to keep my head warm from the chilly wind. However, most surf beanies are fitted right to the skull- great for guys with short hairstyles, not so great for surfer chicks with ponytails…

img_8221

BLEH!!!! NO chinstraps, please

I wanted to make something that had the top open enough to allow my ponytail to poke through, but I could close it up if I had wanted to wear it down. I used plain paper, a pen, and rulers to draft out a beanie pattern that would use 4 of these pieces (this is a good visual tutorial that is similar to my project).

 

 

B22177B3-E5E5-4B8B-8DCC-E29EC96AB449

Drafting out my beanie pattern

 

I had an ancient 1.5 mm Hyperflex Neoprene surf vest that had plenty of decent material to use. I made sure to cut away any original flatlocked and finished seams on the vest, so the sewing machine wouldn’t bite on them.

 

 

65CF433A-1AB6-4AC8-8D86-A2A7EC803A13

Cutting away the neoprene pieces out of the vest

 

18AEE9D5-9D7D-49C1-B994-6DB7E5FF9F06

Laying out the pieces and pattern

 

5D01E428-7AE2-4036-ABFD-C6DBBF0C0B0F

The four beanie pieces cut out

 

In this project, I used a simple 2-thread overlock on the serger since the total thickness would be 3 mm (1.5 mm for each layer). If it was any thicker than 3 mm in total, I would’ve hand stitched the pieces together. Totally doable with a sharp heavy hand needle, some heavy nylon thread, and a basic whipstitch.

 

2AFE3B5F-C00A-4007-AEDD-83CF2145D7CC

Two pieces of the beanies serged along the edge, with the top left open

 

8EFA2835-0ECA-410C-ABBE-54A9FBF50CB7

Fit check!

 

For the hat band, I used 1″ fold-over elastic in black. I measured the elastic about 3″ shorter than the hat’s circumference, and stretched as I stitched to fit.

3B2AD538-9AE9-48C7-807B-1FC5A1893EFC

After the hat band (fold over elastic) has been sewed on

 

On the crown, I hand stitched grommets (2 at the top of each quarter, 8 total). I made these grommets so I could pull elastic or a drawstring through to close the crown. I made my own drawstring ribbon from some scrap Lycra in a fun purple paisley print. Just because it’s so freakin’ jaunty. You can use elastic cord, or other drawstring materials.

 

6CD63FCC-A534-4A40-A748-F81EAD6ED2A0

Different things to use as drawstrings

 

97739A58-E45C-4F10-BA41-0909FD88B5E3

51912073-AD4E-4539-AD36-F9B0E8727BDB

Last fit check

 

Done! Now, I can thread my ponytail through, and it will help as a pseudo-tether as well.

C1231D37-7DC1-497A-AFC5-C965F292E74B

Better than a chinstrap

 

Hey, surfers may get a bad reputation as stoners, but at least our beanies and hats don’t turn out like the skiers’ and snowboarders’. Ya hippies.

 

0BE15F43-D031-4C92-8FC9-37F374217D06

I’ve skied in one of these, full disclosure

 

My Neoprene Hopes, Dreams… and Screams

Sounds like a scene from Fifty Shades Darker, but how else can I describe this roller coaster journey I’ve undertaken with this strange and wonderful fabric? Here’s some thoughts on the subject as we get into talking about neoprene…..

***

A lot of people revere neoprene as sacred (hey, it is pretty cool). But, that can be a shame when you become SO worried about altering your $350 fancy wetsuit, swimsuit, or questionable lingerie (we don’t judge here) to work for your needs, you don’t even wear it. Or you sell it and lose $200 on it since you tried to give it a few chances. Or, the worst case, you have to donate it or even ditch it in the trash. Then you have to buy yet ANOTHER one to replace it. More future waste.
For most healthy minded adults, the days of resale and purchase of used wetsuits have ended. I mean, yeah, the kids out there trying to save a few bucks might buy a used suit from you, but you just can’t expect to get even 25% of what you originally paid for it, especially if you used it for a season. Gross. If you expect more, well, that’s just being a mean grinch to the poor kid.

Still funny the millionth time I see it

That being said, a surfer should get to know a little about their neoprene, since wetsuits are usually part of a surfer’s life at some point. I’ve had to teach myself quite a bit since I’ve started surfing, and now I find my friends asking me questions about fixing and altering their own gear to what they need. Figured I’d share what I’ve discovered, tried, and certainly FAILED at, so all of us can keep some extra neoprene out of landfills!
We’ll start off the series with this intro, and go through a wetsuit modification, then make some new projects from scrap neoprene as we go along, since I’ve got a LOT of scrappage around!

About Neoprene

Neoprene is a synthetic (non-natural) material created chemically by DuPont in 1930. The original process to make the stuff was SO smelly and made the material smelly too. No one wanted to buy it for anything back then because of it. Do you blame them?

It still smells like chemicals

As the process for making neoprene was improved by DuPont, it became less stinky, and much more usable. The type of neoprene we use as surfers today is made from what’s called neoprene “foam”.

If you look closely at your wetsuit, it’s probably made from neoprene foam about 2 millimeters or 3 millimeters thick, maybe even up to 7 mm! This is neoprene rubber that has been injected with tiny nitrogen (inert gas) bubbles, helping to provide that nice insulation. Yours may even have some nylon or spandex rubber mixed into the neoprene to make it “ultra stretch.” This mix also tears ultra easy, but you may already know that. Unfortunately I do.

If you would like to follow along with this mini series drama (hey, I post on the days I can, yo) I would recommend picking up a few tools for working with neoprene on the regular:

Tools For Working With Wetsuits

60 mm Rotary Cutter

Two brands of cutters, the one on the left is a lot pricier

The handles for these aren’t expensive, but the blades ARE. And they are SHARP. But if you want a good, even, professional looking cut, this tool is a must with neoprene. The smaller diameter rotary cutters can be useful sometimes, but the 60 mm rotary seems to get the most action here in Cocoa Beach among the surfing squad.


Shears for thick material

Surprised at how well these work

I have a pair of heavy duty Fiskars I picked up that seem to work well for curves and tight places that the rotary cutter can’t do. These are mostly good in projects, or specialty modifications to wetsuits.


GOOD Cutting surface

My table, and my self healing cutting mat

It can be a self healing mat on the concrete floor of your garage, just make sure it’s clean, level, and accessible from all sides. The cutting mat will help keep you from dulling those costly rotary blades you just bought. 

If you can, wait until around until September/October when they start having sales on quilting stuff and pick up an entire cutting set from a craft store like Michael’s or Joann’s. It’ll be around the start of wetsuit season (at least in the USA), so you’ll be set! Split the cost with your surfing buddies- even better. 
Dulled Seam Ripper

Just a bit of sanding is necessary


You’ll need a seam ripper on occasion for doing any type of modification, but some of these seam rippers they make today have a stitch pick that could double for an ice pick! Since stitches on neoprene are usually not ultra fine, I’d rather use some sandpaper to dull a dedicated seam ripper to lessen the probably of poking a nice hole in the neoprene foam. I’m sure lots of others do this too!
Neoprene Foam Adhesive 

Since I have learned THE HARD WAY that my home sewing machine cannot sew more than 2 mm of neoprene thickness comfortably (even with a walking foot), I use neoprene adhesive for seams. Good for repairs AND projects, so it’s a must for all surfers.
Fire-line (fishing line) in Clear OR 

Polyester thread of a matching color, and heavy gauge repair needle

Use lightweight fishing line

This is also a must for making minor repairs to seams, or sewing recycled neoprene projects. Always important to have on hand and know how to use it case a seam rip happens. Use a sharp point needle since you do need to “poke holes” in the fabric, or follow previous stitching holes- I’ll explain later why neoprene is tricky to stitch (hint: tear factor!).

Clips, Clips, Clips (sometimes a staple or two….)

Gotta get creative!


Since using straight pins to hold neoprene together can really distort it, the best bet is to clip it. The green clips in the pic are quilters’ clips, which are ideal, since they are designed to hold thick material together while it’s being sewn.

The cheaper options are hair clips and barrettes- you probably have these, or know someone who does.

Stapling neoprene together is an option that I Save for crafting with neoprene, since it can poke holes, obviously. It works great, though.

***

Ok, so in the next post, we’ll do a little wetsuit alteration that I’ve wanted to get around to for a while. Hopefully, I’ll be able to use it in the Fall too. 

Every Fall it’s the same thing. You macho surf guys in the lineup, EVERY time you say something about me wearing a wetsuit “too early”, all I can picture is this: