It’s a little past daybreak...
My family — me, my twin brother Tyler, and my dad — finish our coffee in the dark kitchen and rinse our mugs in the sink as quietly as we can. Dad eases the door to the garage open and we slip out, jumping barefoot on the freezing concrete.
It’s Christmas in Wrightsville Beach, NC, and an early morning surf is our family’s tradition. It has been since Tyler and I got our first surfboards when we were eight. We didn’t surf that year because we didn’t have wetsuits, but we hauled our new boards down to the sand and jumped on and off of them while our parents paddled out. The next year we were right there with them, and with few exceptions (broken bones, out-of-state weddings) we observe the ritual faithfully.
Tyler and Dad make a break for the wetsuits, which they think are stashed hanging in a closet. They are not. The hangers are empty. There are a few moments of confusion, then disbelief.
“Have the thugs roaming the streets of this prosperous beach town made off with our wetsuits?”
I procure three new wetsuits from my Jeep. “These aren’t our wetsuits,” says my dad.
“They’re too nice,” says Tyler.
“These are our wetsuits,” I say. “Merry Christmas.” My brother lets out a loud whoop, forgetting that my mom is still sleeping upstairs. My dad is grinning ear to ear. It’s exactly the reaction I was hoping for.
“They’re Patagonia,” I say.
“Sweet!” says Tyler.
“Yeah, they’re guaranteed for life,” I say.
“Very responsible, son,” says dad.
He’s got his suit on and it fits great. He bends deep at the knees.“It’s nice and stretchy,” he says. “And soft.”
“That’s because they’re not neoprene. They’re made of yulex. It’s a biorubber made from the guayule plant.”
Dad and Tyler look at me like I’ve just sprouted horns.“Guayule is a desert shrub,” I say. “It’s a renewable resource, and the water used to process it can fertilize other plants. The wetsuit is biodegradable, actually.”
It's something else...
The suit is a blend of 60/40 blend Yulex/regular rubber. Yulex comes from the guayule plant, grown with no pesticides and very little water, which is awesome.
Guayule plants aren’t grown organically, but they use low amounts of synthetic inputs and water compared to, for example, cotton.
They look at each other, then back at me.
“Let’s just test them out,” I say. We march down to the beach with our boards as the sun is starting to rise over the Atlantic.
The surf is terrible, just chop. We just hang out in the water for a while, eyes peeled for porpoises. A few early birds are starting to wheel around overhead as Dad waves and starts to paddle in.
A few seconds later, there’s a shift.
I can almost hear the tide changing. A swell is starting. I see Tyler’s relaxed profile straighten, alert, then noses his board toward the beach, and starts paddling, cupped hands scissoring through the water. The wave picks him up like magic, folding around him. He reaches out a hand to brush the wave’s face, then slows and topples gracefully from the board as it breaks behind him. It’s beautiful.
Dad rushes back in to catch the set, all smiles. We catch wave after wave, the joy building and building...
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