Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Cutting edge tech......

I left the North Shore and instead of ending up in Alaska I found myself surfing the north-west in 1979.... the water was cold, the air was colder and I being a warm water surfer up till then, was horribly uncomfortable. Seattle and the coast was a surfing wasteland in that there were no surf shops to be found. Coastals headed south to buy gear and I had picked up a wetsuit maybe in Portland I can't remember where, a White Stag. A diver's suit really thicker and stiffer than usual seams untaped and it leaked through every stitch hole like a sieve, what a disaster that was.

Before getting another wetsuit I started looking into dry suits. Windsurfing was starting to take off and Helly Hansen made one, paper thin, all white a great adjunct to the all black wetsuits required north of the Golden Gate bridge, nothing to it....... that's what's I had to have and only $200 in 1981 dollars!
(Whidbey Island 1982)

I figured with some decent polypropylene underneath I should be warm as toast and extra flexible as I was not being wrapped in a 5mm wetsuit...... these are the sorts of things dreams are made of. For once I was spearheading a new trend not just part of the masses. I envisioned a possible sponsorship from HH as their sales in the north-west skyrocketed amongst surfers!

Damn was I wrong! That thin latex gave very little thermal value (i.e. I was colder than ever!)..... and I sweated now and the sweat got cold, this was going badly! If I got a pinhole leak, I was drenched and instantly cold. And a constant flush came through if the leak was in the water. A rip and it could be serious, like sinking to the bottom serious. There was no way it was possible to get out of the suit in an emergency of that sort anyway, it was not well thought this plan of mine....... And I had all kinds of issues with getting gloves to work too and ended up wearing dish washing gloves the most because they worked with the wrist gussets best, but my hands froze!

I also had to "burp" the suit whenever I zipped up, the gussets were tight enough to keep all the air inside and it made duck diving impossible! But the fear of a fin cut and the clammy underclothes after each session that defeated the word "dry" inherent in the suit, forced me to return to old ways. I gave it a decent shot, surfed that suit in some good conditions, averting any catastrophes along the way, but after a few months I returned to rubber. No sponsorship and no revolution.....

(unknown spot)


finger said...

That was you in the white dry suit?

Back then, I had a 1/4" Harvey's Farmer John wetsuit, with beavertail jacket-made for diving. Trying to paddle with it on caused a serious rash in your armpits and an erosion of your nipples. Out of the water, you could always tell who surfed by their lack of using deodorant (as it stung like hell putting it on) and their hunching over so our shirts didn't touch what was left of our nipples!

Good times!

Doughboy said...

My success' are a direct result of my failures. Not the other way around. One cannot fail, unless one attempts. Plus, I am certain the white suit with the dish gloves looked super bitchin and drew the chicks in.