By Vegan Recipes and Vibes - Not sponsored
I grew up going to the South Jersey beaches every summer. I would spend hours in the water with my cousins trying to catch the best of the small waves Sea Isle had to offer. My stomach and upper thighs would become raw from laying on a wax-covered surfboard, or my bikini top would become too annoying to fix, forcing me to sometimes throw on a rashguard. On flat days we'd fight over who got to take the paddle board out, practicing our balance as the wind and choppy waters would try to topple us overboard. It never crossed my mind to consider wearing a wetsuit since the weather and waters were always so warm - until I went to California.
My first wetsuit experience was in San Diego where I borrowed my friend's 3/2mm she had snagged from the Ripcurl outlet in town. After struggling to get in it for 10 minutes, I felt like I could barely bend my legs! But since I wasn't used to the cold water at all, I was grateful for the layer. After a few weeks of mooching off her, I decided to start shopping for my own to keep me warm during our travels. I knew I didn't want a full wetsuit; I wanted something light and easy to throw on, and one that I could wear during other watersports activities.
But during my online shopping and research, I quickly discovered that the wetsuit world had a dark side: Neoprene.
Neoprene is the rubber that is extremely common in wetsuits. It's durable, waterproof, and insulating, making it perfect for surfing. But my online shopping spree was becoming way less fun as I learned about the manufacturing issues. Wavelength Mag states that "Neoprene can be manufactured in two ways. Firstly, there is oil-based neoprene, created by a vast amount of oil drilling and transportation. Secondly, there is limestone-based neoprene, which involves mining to great depths. Both are non-renewable and have significant, long term detrimental effects on the earth." Additionally, the chemical chloroprene which is used to make neoprene may increase the risk of cancer.
According to this Ecocult article, "Californian Proposition 65 includes chloroprene amongst its list of carcinogens, requiring businesses to determine if they must provide a warning on certain neoprene wetsuits. Similarly, in 2009 the Environmental Working Group (EWG) named neoprene the allergen of the year, mentioning that neoprene products can cause an allergic reaction when touching the skin."
Wait, there's more. Neoprene also breaks down more quickly when constantly exposed to UV radiation, causing those harmful chemicals to potentially leech out of the wetsuit and pollute the ocean, and therefore harming ocean life. So dealing with Prop65 cancer warnings, potential allergic reactions, and possibly harming the fishies wasn't really worth the risk.
I definitely knew I didn't want a neoprene wetsuit, so I was super happy to discover that many brands were already ahead of the game. Patagonia, Billabong, and Hyperflex all offer neoprene-free wetsuits and have fantastic sustainability missions. But sheesh, my wallet and I were not ready to drop $400!
Luckily enough, I stumbled across the AXESEA brand. While they do offer a few wetsuits that contain neoprene, their Pentashell™ THERMAL One Piece Surf Suit is completely free of neoprene and chemical adhesives. Plus they were within my price range at only $70.
The 1mm lining has been perfect for my afternoon surf sessions in San Diego, snorkeling in Baja Mexico, and wakesurfing on the Chesapeake Bay. It's thin enough where I can move freely and not get overheated during east coast summers, but thick enough to keep me warm in west coast waters. It's super easy and fast to throw on over a bikini, letting me jump into the water in minutes. I also love the thumb holes that keep the sleeves snug on my wrists while paddling and swimming.
It's been over a year and I have gotten A LOT of use from my AXESEA wetsuit. There are a few threads loose around the thumb holes now, but the rest of the suit is in great shape. The seams are all intact, the color has only faded a tiny bit, and the adhesive lining is not cracking. I know I'm going to get at least another few years out of it and I've reached out to the AXESEA brand to learn about recycling/disposing of the suit if it becomes too worn out (will update when I hear back).
My ONLY complaint is not about the product itself, but about the shipping methods. The AXESEA products are available on their website and also through Amazon and unfortunately does not come in sustainable packaging. It still makes no sense to me why ocean-conscious brands choose to use plastic packaging during shipping.
I'm hoping that AXESEA gets on board with zero-waste shipping, though I would still highly recommend their Pentashell™ products in the meantime. They do have other conscious sustainability efforts such as eliminating harmful chemicals from their production process, using water-based silicon dyes and adhesives, and is committed to helping preserve and restore beaches and oceans around the world.
If you're in the market for a new spring or summer wetsuit, AXESEA Pentashell™ is a great affordable option that will allow you to enjoy many different watersports while feeling confident that you're doing what you can to protect the environment.
✓ Neoprene free ✓ Chemical adhesive free ✓ Water-based silicone dyes
✓ Conscious sustainability efforts ✓ Fair labor conditions ✓ Free shipping ✓ International shipping
✓ Committed to helping preserve and restore beaches and oceans around the world
✓ And of course: Animal friendly
Cost: $69.99 + shipping
Free US shipping on orders over $90
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This post is completely unsponsored and is not a paid advertisement. I was not given free products or discounts for this review. There are no affiliate links and I do not work for the AXESEA brand.