As we were doing our research for our South Coast Wetsuit Buyers Guide for Fall / Winter 2014 we were lucky enough to score an interview with the Global Product Manager at Quiksilver Chris Gonzalez. Now we are passing his vast product knowledge on to our community with the interview below where we asked Chris what’s new with Quiksilver wetsuits this season?
1. What new technology is Quiksilver putting into their wetsuits? What has changed from last season?
For Winter 2014 we are using our F’N Lite neoprene in all of our wetsuits. It’s a much lighter weight neoprene with more air cells blown into foam. This provides increased warmth while decreasing the weight of the neoprene itself. We really pride ourselves in using our best neoprene in our top of the line Cypher suits all the way through to our Syncro series suits. We have 100% performance materials in our range of wetsuits. We have also introduce our new thermal jersey in our Cypher series called “Dryoprene”. It’s a combination of our F’N Lite neoprene with the coconut charcoal infused polyester thermal lining laminated to the inside of the neoprene. The coconut charcoal infused polyester acts as a heat conductor, maintaining body warmth in the jersey longer. We also found that it holds much less water than other jerseys. It our warmest, lightest and fastest drying thermal lining to date.
2. Tell us about your product testing process. What specific role do you play in this process?
We put a lot of testing into the products and material before they actually make it to market in a finished wetsuit. We have actually partnered with a university to help us be a bit more scientific with our testing. Everything from stretch, to drying, to heat retention of the materials can be put through a testing process to help give us hard facts. We can then use these facts to translate into marketing information for our sales team and for the consumers, to educate them about the product they are selling/buying. The other side of it is as simple as going surfing. You need to have the scientific facts, but also the feedback from actually getting in the water and surfing in the suits. Seeding the prototype suits on people who surf a lot and can give good clear feed back on how the suits perform and fit is key to a good finished product.
3. We’ve noticed that Roxy wetsuits have become to the go-to women’s wetsuit brand. How do you explain the success?
Yes, I think we are really fortunate to have such a strong women’s specific brand in Roxy. There’s two sides to the strength of the Roxy product. First, it’s really the only Women’s surfing brand that stands alone. It has it’s own logo and it’s own look and feel. We don’t have to put our Quiksilver mountain and wave on the women’s suits and call them Quiksilver Women’s. So I think women feel like they are wearing a true female brand. Secondly, we’ve really tried to involved our female design team when developing the Roxy suits. It’s their input and concepts for how the panels of the suit specifically fit a women’s body and help make the suits look more flattering when they are on.
4. We’ve seen a trend in zip free wetsuits, how did that happen? How did you decide to go in that direction?
Zippers have always been a necessity in wetsuits to help get in and out of the suits but still maintain the fit of the suit once it’s on the body. They naturally create extra bulk and extra weight. Naturally everyone would want a suit that’s lighter weight. Really the evolution of the zipper less wetsuit has become possible because of the amount of stretch that you are able to get with the newer neoprenes. You can stretch enough to get in and out of a wetsuit all while having the pattern of the suit still fit properly to your body. I don’t think they are for everyone. It comes down to preference of each person and how flexible they are or how broad their shoulders are. The first time I saw a prototype made of our zipperless wetsuit I thought, “There’s no way to easily get that suit on”. But really, our zipper less wetsuit is no more difficult to put on than one of our chest zip styles. It’s by far my favorite suit to wear.
5. Do your athletes have a say in your creative process? Do you look to them when you are deciding what to develop next?
Yes, we definitely take into account feed back that we get from our Athlete’s. In terms of having technical feed back based on the most amount of use on a wetsuit, our Athlete feedback is key. They surf more than any other surfer. So if product checks out to their standards and their level of use it helps to feel confident about the suits once they hit the market. Many times they will have direct input on colorways or logos as well. But there is a fine line sometimes between what our Athlete would like to wear and what is still a marketable product. So that has to be taken into account as well when determining what is next for development and design.
And finally, are there any fun facts that you can tell us about the Cypher, Pyre and Roxy Syncro back zip?
Cypher is probably the best of both worlds when it comes to warmth and flexibility. F’N lite neoprene is strategically used in areas of the suit where you need flexibility the most. Likewise the Dryoprene thermal lining is only used where the body will benefit most by it’s warmth characteristics with out sacrificing flexibility.
Pyre is a great suit.. It’s the best suit on the market hands down at $195 for a 3/2mm and $205 for a 4/3mm. It comes in a back zip, has the same neoprene we use in the Cypher, has liquid sealed seams and it uses the thermal lining we put in our high end suits from last season (Bio Fleece). It’s as warm and flexible of a suit as you can get for right around $200.
Syncro is an amazing suit for it’s price. It’s basically the Pyre but with out the liquid seam seals. This suit is built around the person who wants to spend $145-155. Again.. We use the same F’N lite neoprene that we use in our top end Cypher wetsuit. It also has the same thermal lining we put in our high end suits from last season (Bio Fleece). It’s the best bang for your buck $$…
-Interview by South Coast’s Emily Southwick
We asked him for a bio about himself for this interview:
“I’ve been surfing for 25 years. I think I started surfing when I was about 11 years old. I’ve been with Quiksilver for the past 14 years. 10 of those years have been in the Wetsuit Division. As Global Product Manager my role is to help facilitate the development of a global wetsuit product line. I work with Design, Sales and Marketing to help determine market needs, relay the design team’s concepts to our vendor to turn into a finish products and brief marketing team on finished product so they can create their marketing stories to support the finished line. Surfing has always been such an important part of my life. The best part of my job is I get to be completely absorbed in the sport. Whether it’s actually surfing, testing product, spending time in surf shops, or being around brand new wetsuits. These are all things I would love to be doing even if I wasn’t getting paid to do them. I just feel really fortunate about my career path. I’ve had a lot of mentors and co workers that have given me opportunities and I’ve learned a ton from. I’m thankful for all of it!”
Thanks for the great interview Chris!