New Year, new wetsuit... could it be a new you?

By Claire Smail

I always find that January is that time of year; that time of years for resolutions, that time of year to try new things, that time of year to have a good clear out.  So far 2019 has started out for me with all of the above!  The beginning of this year saw me suddenly inspired to undertake a ‘spring clean’. I found amongst other things draws of old clothes, stacks of books I have read, boxes of left over DIY material and a surprisingly large amount of wetsuits. Now it is fair to stay I have been surfing for quite a few years and yes, I surf a lot which it seems to I own a lot of suits. On reflection, during my clear out last month, I came to the conclusion that I don’t think I have ever (in over 15 years of surfing) actually just binned a wetsuit, as this has always seemed such a wasteful thing to do. I have over the years passed on old suits to friends and family and I have definitely hidden a fair share around my mum’s house and garage.  I never wanted them to just sit in a landfill. Surrounded by a pile of variously worn suits I started to think what could be done with an old wetsuit, surely there is some way of recycling or up-cycling them

In terms of recycling, at the end of last year I got in touch with Alder and found out the best way to care for my wetsuit so that I could make them last as long as possible (see my blog What To Do About Your Wetsuit) but at the time they did mention that at the moment there is very little in place to actually recycle old neoprene fabric in this country.  In fact there seems to be so little knowledge about the potential for recycling this product that some surf brands have in recent years created research roles to explore the idea. This got me thinking and so I started to ask around in North Devon, as surely I am not the only surfer with a growing mound of leaky, weathered wetsuits?

Suits in reasonable condition can of course be sold or passed on to the charity shop but if you are like me and your suits inevitably get ‘worn to death’ or seriously damaged, then are they still good for something? The answer is yes!  It turns out any of your too small, too big, old, stretched or torn suits of any thicknesses and pretty much any condition can have another life. Reed Chillcheater Ltd of Braunton will always be happy to receive any clean, dry wetsuit. I popped into Reed’s this week to find out exactly what they do with them all. I was amazed to find out that not only could my ‘at deaths door’ wetsuit be cut up to use for patching up other suits but more importantly can be either donated or used to fix (depending on the condition) donated wetsuits for The Wave Project.

Photo curtesy of The Wave Project

Photo curtesy of The Wave Project

The Wave Project, North Devon is a charity that has been providing free 6 week long surf programs and surf club for local children since 2013.  Their aim is “to help young people become more resilient and celebrate their amazing using surfing and the ocean as our tools, we help them realise they can overcome any challenge”.  Every year this fantastic charity, with a committed group of passionate volunteers, help introduce surfing to a wide range of children who might not normally have the opportunity to experience one of the greatest activities North Devon has to offer. The realisation that just by giving my unwanted wetsuit to Reed I could support The Wave Project and help continue to change the lives of these children definitely seems the perfect solution to recycle or in fact re-homing my old wetsuits.

Photo of The Wave Project Volunteers (Photo from The Wave Project)

The Wave Project Volunteers: Photo curtesy of The Wave Project

If you want to donate your old wetsuits to the lovely team at Reed Chillcheater Ltd, they are open every Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm or you can get in contact with them at or find them at 

With the new and tidier you, you might also want to give back even more this year by signing up to volunteer with The Wave Project.  I have found it is a fantastic opportunity to meet new people and see first-hand how surfing can positively change children’s lives.  If you want more information about The Wave Project take a look at their website here:

Photo curtsey of The Wave Project

Photo curtesy of The Wave Project