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With a long history of making products for people who spend their free time outside, Patagonia is now focusing energy on kitesurfing. With a huge apparel line, expanding wetsuit options, and a new drysuit designed with kiting in mind, Patagonia has a lot of products that suit the needs of windsport enthusiasts. Patagonia’s Jason McCaffrey let us know what to expect from the brand in the coming year.
A lot of kitesurfers have been excited to see a brand like Patagonia involved in kiteboarding. What has made Patagonia interested in kiteboarding now?
Self-propelled sports have always been at the core of the Patagonia ethos. Patagonia and FCD’s Fletcher Chouinard has been kiteboarding since the beginning when two lines and Nantucket slay rides were the norm. His early adoption eventually rubbed off on friends and it became an extension of what we did when there wasn’t any surf or when the surf was blown out.
If it weren’t for kiting we would go crazy around here. I used to hate the wind coming up on the best days of the year, but now I look forward to it because I can catch ten times more waves with a fraction of the crowd. It’s a no brainer.
What are a few of the features that make Patagonia suits different than others on the market?
We use the most recycled fabric content and we have a proprietary wool grid pattern that really sets us apart from what everyone else uses. We also drive factories crazy with our quality standards!
Some riders are confused by the Patagonia wetsuit ratings (R2, R3, etc.) How do these translate for people used to referring to a wetsuit as a 4/3, 3/2, etc.?
Well, when we were trying to figure out a way to tell people what to expect from our suits warmth wise we realized that if we used a millimeter thickness description we weren’t even close to how warm our suits are because of the wool lining. That’s when we decided to create the R rating, kind of like insulation for houses. The best way to buy the right suits is to know how cold it is where you are or where you are going. Once you have that information it’s pretty easy to find the R rated suit that’s right for you.
What is the guiding design philosophy behind Patagonia products?
Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to implement and inspire solutions to the environmental crisis.
The wetsuit line recently got an update. What are some of the major changes to the suits?
There’s a few new styles including an R1 front zip, an R2 hooded full suit, and an R4 back zip to name a few. We’ve also introduced a new proprietary mid-weight wool that we use in our R2, R3, and R4 series and we’ve placed it strategically to improve flex and weight without compromising warmth or durability. On the outside we now have 100% seam sealing across the entire line of full suits.
Patagonia is also introducing Yulex. What is it?
Yulex is a natural rubber grown in the US. It’s an alternative to the synthetic neoprene used today that requires very little water and no pesticides to grow. We’ve been in development on this for about five years now and are confident that it is a viable product. In fact, we released the technology to the rest of the industry for use so that they can try it and hopefully incorporate it in their wetsuit lines.
We met with all the large brands and everyone was stoked. Brand marketing battles aside, this is something that we as people who use the ocean a ton can do to help clean up the production side of one of the most important pieces of equipment we use. It’s really cool to see the enthusiasm and support from our competitors on this. In this regard, we’re all on the same team.
You recently launched a drysuit aimed at kitesurfers. How is it different than other drysuits on the market?
This is a neoprene drysuit. We got the idea from seeing them being used in Japan but made a few modifications in fit that we feel really lend themselves to being kite friendly. Jason Slezak and I just used these suits a ton on a recent trip to Alaska and we were blown away by how great they worked. We were in water with icebergs for hours and never got cold.
Currently all the wetsuits are designed for surfing but work for all water sports. Will you be introducing any windsport-specific suits?
Yep, next year I think people will be pretty stoked on what we have coming out. You know, in a perfect world we would be able to design one kind of suit that works equally well for both surfing and windsports. But until we nail that, we’ll offer leg customization and modify suits for people that kite more than surf to prevent the balloon leg effect. We can do that on site when people order their suit. For us it’s just trying to be able to offer really good customer service.
What are some other Patagonia products besides wetsuits that kitesurfers should look at?
We have some really great lightweight pieces that are warm and windproof. They travel well and compress down into their pockets. Our boardies get as much water time kiting as they do surfing, and they’re all tested and abused by our athlete ambassadors.
I can go on pretty much any trip with the same few pieces of gear and be totally dialed. Wool base layers underneath drysuits are insane, the insulated Torrentshell (Torrentshell Plus) is my new favorite, and the light and variable Stretch Planer boardshorts pack in their own pocket and fit nicely in the top of a pack.