When you grab a Finisterre product you know it is going to be quality and that it will not be available in TK Maxx or Target come spring. You also know that it is cold water product built specifically for surfers by surfers – but does this matter? Chiming with the release of their new cold water surf range (CWS) we collared Finisterre's Ernie Capbert and asked him a few searching questions about their new garments.
Ernie, what is the range about?
It represents a decade of work within cold water surfing, fabric innovation and the application of responsible manufacturing. It's about building products for cold water surfers to travel and live within cold water surf environments. If you travel to the north east of Russia, the Aleutian Islands, or islands off the north west coast of Norway in the middle of January, you have to be wearing products that protect and keep you alive. Our CWS range has never been attempted before, we've looked at cold hands, entry systems and fabric innovation to deliver a range of products to help surfers travel to and live comfortable within some of the harshest environments in the world.
Does it have a particular philosophy?
It does. We are the first company in surf history to build a range of products specifically for surfers when travelling to and living within cold water surf environments. CWS is a specialist range designed around the needs of cold water surfers, allowing them to go deeper and colder, living and surfing in the harshest of environments.
We wanted to build products that would improve the cold water surf experience, built specifically for them.
What drove you to create this range?
There was no one doing it. There is no company in the world dedicating themselves to building clothing specifically for cold water surfers, so that they can travel to, and live within these environments. There are more surfers going further to surf cold waves and the only products they can buy are from brands outside the surf industry, which are products designed for something different all together. We wanted to build products that would improve the cold water surf experience, built specifically for them.
Can you describe the technical benefits?
We are using award winning fabrics and factories, they are literally the best in the world. They have undergone wind and rain room testing, product testing and years of R&D. The technical benefits are simple: waterproof, windproof, warmth and built to last. Technically, you will not find any other garments like these.
We could use your normal three layer membrane based waterproofs/breathable fabrics used by all the major outdoor brands, but certain things just didn't match up.
Ok so these technical, award winning fabrics like in the Caelus Parka which are exclusively developed for Finisterre in Japan (I had looked at the website). Can you tell us a little more about why you chose the fabrics and specifically what they achieve?
Sure, we could use your normal three layer membrane based waterproofs/breathable fabrics used by all the major outdoor brands, but certain things just didn't match up from a functionality point of view. Membranes are oil based, so if exposed to an open flame, they go up in smoke. They're also designed for lightweight movement, hence the breathability, but this leaves them susceptible to degrading, rips etc and we’re not running miles to headlands. When it comes to membranes internally, they're cold to touch and do not wick away moisture, not ideal when getting out of the sea. So we factored in functionality, protection from the elements, durability and built a fabric around this. We imagine this fabric is going to lead the way within cold water surf outerwear.
So what is material mix you have created, does it have a name, or it it just Caelus?
The Caelus is the name of the jacket, the material mix is something different. It's an incredible mix of fabrics, fabrics that are out there, but ones that have never been used together. so we've taken a beautiful two layer membrane (made from a blend of recycled polyester and organic cotton, we've then inserted Primaloft synthetic insulation, we've then covered this insulation internally with a Japanese ripstop windshell and they taped every seam. You will not see this blend of fabrics and technology in a parka. One of the reasons is this 'designed specifically for cold water surfers'. again, we are not running to headlands, so breathability is not the priority here - warmth and waterproof are, so we can tweak fabrics like never before, specific to our needs. This parka is bombproof, keep you warm and dry while you look at surf, live under canvas, maybe even walk over the next fjord to see if a wave is working in the bay adjacent.
And for the Camber jean, what is the benefit of the Merino wool and cotton mix?
Cotton kills within an outdoor environment. It dries at a very slow rate, absorbs all heat from the body and is the first thing you want to get off when suffering from heat loss, especially when wet. Other fabrics can withstand moisture and actually adjust when wet, to protect the user, Merino is one of these fabrics - it dries quicker, retains warmth when wet and is antibacterial.
So we took all the functionality of Merino and blended it with a Japanese denim (the best denim in the world) to help move cold sea water away from the wearer's legs post surf and to help start generating warmth quicker. These types of technical innovations in fabrics have been going on within the outdoor market for decades, allowing climbers and mountaineers to weather harsh environments and pursue what they love. We are taking all the innovation, adjusting them functionally and delivering a beautiful denim to the surf market, so cold water surfers can be more comfortable and withstand harsh cold water surf environments. These jeans represent the beginning of a huge shift within the action sports: using product innovation from the outdoor industry and making it relevant to the cold water surfer.
What lengths do you go to in terms of testing your products?
It never stops here, there are always new fabrics and designs in testing. Athletes, underwater cameramen, explorers are just a few types of individuals that we work with before a garment is signed off. Take products to the ends of the earth and if they return, we begin to think about production.
Why does is matter that gear is made for ice climbers, snowboarders, runners, cyclists? All of these industries grew out of a genuine belief in the things they did.
And how do you quantify the results of your testing?
The fabrics we use are tested in a state of the art facility. They use machines that test the hydrostatic head of a fabric/breathability, rain rooms to test seams, durability etc. We then make bespoke changes to these fabrics, sometimes change them entirely and then test them again. Once we're happy, we go into a prototype phase i.e. wear test for up to 6 months and then if we're happy with the results, we go commercial.
I think the thing to remember here is that if you're going to build clothing for cold water surfers, you have to look at the environments they live in, what they need and the way they interact with this environment and then design around these variables. The clothing surfers need to travel to and live within warm regions do not require anything technical about them (jeans, shorts, t-shirts). The clothing surfers need to travel to and live within a cold water surf environment are totally different (insulation, waterproofs, base layers, innovative denim etc), why no brands have not made this observation within surf blows us away. This is the beginning, CWS is the beginning, cold water surfing and the industry it is going to become is going to be fuelled by products cold water surfers need - both in and out of the water - let's get it started.
Why does it matter that your gear is made for surfers?
Why does is matter that gear is made for ice climbers, snowboarders, runners, cyclists? All of these industries grew out of a genuine belief in the things they did and in order to make them more enjoyable etc, they built products specifically for them. If you tell me that surfers only need a wetsuit and a surf board to surf Alaska, I'm going to ask you to open your eyes. In order to surf cold remote surf spots, you have to have clothing (to travel to and live within)/wetsuit and board, we are providing the clothing.
When you created Finisterre, what gap in the market did you spot?
When Nixon created surf watches, what did they spot? When Apple created the iPhone, what did they spot? When VW created the hot hatch, what did they spot? A genuine need. What do you think we spotted? More people going to search for uncrowded perfect waves and those are going to be found mostly in colder regions, it's happening, it's going to happen more, just as it did when surfers 40-years-ago dreamt about uncrowded waves on islands in the middle of the Pacific and look what happened there. Same thing is happening with cold water surfing and we need to make sure that surfers dreaming about cold remote uncrowded waves have the products for this.