“Freedom Wetsuits, since Saturday,” said the sign pulled behind the plane flying over Huntington Beach, California during the crowded final day of the U.S. Open surf contest.
With tongue-in-cheek, a new rubber company was launched within the crowded wetsuit market, in front of one of the largest surf crowds assembled all year long. But humor isn’t the only way that this rubber company is planning on winning over consumers. Technology will be its main focus.
Freedom is the brainchild of longtime wetsuit guru Marty Gilchrist, along with suit designer John Federoff, and former shop manager Rod Tomlinson. Backed by Icon Trading, which owns TSA Clothing and Diakka watches, the company is coming out with a series of ads in major surf magazines, in addition to signs flying over beaches.
Federoff explains that a lot of the recent wetsuit advancements have been with the new stretchier neoprenes coming from Japan, but the actual way of putting the suit together (with a sewing machine) hasn’t changed in 50 years.
“Were bringing a new technology to the wetsuit market,” says Gilchrist. “We’re making suits without threads in the seams.”
A thread-free wetsuit seems pretty farfetched at first, but Gilchrist outlines why the threads in a wetsuit are a huge detriment: “Threads make suits weaker, put holes in the neoprene, and make it harder to stretch,” he says. “It’s really the weakest part of wetsuit. We have a patent-pending process that we’re working with for these new suits to attach the seams together without strings or stitching.”
Although Gilchrist remains vague in just how the seams are actually attached, you’ll probably have seen the suits by the time you read this and will have a better idea of their methodology. But by taking the thread out, Gilchrist assures that the suits will be warmer, stronger, and stretchier.
The company is hoping to ship its first line of three suits in various sizes and thicknesses by late October or early November, with demos hitting the shops in mid August and early September.
In addition to wetsuits, the company will also be coming out with wetsuit boots and gloves. While the latter two will be produced in Asia, the fullsuits will be partially assembled in China and finished in the company’s new offices in Oceanside, California. An expanded spring line of spring suits, jackets, and other warm-water products will follow.
The offices in Oceanside, California will also have repair facilities in addition to warehousing, customer service, product development, and management.
Freedom has signed Chris Ward and will be adding other team members in the near future. In addition, it will be looking for local heroes to promote the brand at a grassroots level.
But for now, the staff is focused on getting the company rolling. Gilchrist says the response to the first magazine ads and the Web site has been overwhelming. “We love working in this industry and with all the accounts,” he says. “I’ve known a lot of these people for a long time, and it’s great dealing with them.”