With the economy barely edging by as gas prices start to creep up again, Europe continuing to fall apart at the seams, and Iran getting nasty with its nuclear toys, there’s no doubt that what’s first and foremost on your mind is how the heck you’re going to afford a new wetsuit! Sadly, you probably aren’t. So you’re best bet will be to keep the wetsuit you do have in tip-top condition. Under warranty, you say? Ok, have fun with that. What’s on order here is not repair, but preventative maintenance.
The fact is, nothing wears on a wetsuit more than the way we store it. For most of us that means tossing it over a railing to dry or draping it on some flimsy clothes hanger – sometimes overnight, sometimes for days, and sometimes for an entire season. These sharp edges of a railing or hanger can destroy a wetsuit over time. Allowing a suit to dry like this also places an incredible amount of stress on the length of the wetsuit causing it to stretch and ultimately compromising its ability to retain heat.
Hang It Like A Pro
This was not lost on Phil Ritchie when he first fashioned what would later become the “SlideHanger” wetsuit hanger from scrap pieces of PVC pipe and plywood. The genius was in its simplicity – a sturdy open ended hanger that allowed for a wetsuit to be dried and stored folded along the waist rather than hanging from its shoulders. What started out as novel presents for friends eventually turned into a full time commercial production under a company called HangPro. After a lot of work finding a way to manufacture locally; somehow fashioning the entire hanger from a single piece of plastic; and all while keeping everything environmentally friendly, Phil ultimately introduced his wetsuit saver in November 2010 marking 2011 as the first full year for which the SlideHanger has been on the market.
In that short period of time, Phil has managed to get his SlideHanger into over 30 So Cal surf shops including local icons like Harbour, Frog House, Hansen, and Mitch’s as well as the big names like Patagonia, O’Niell, and Rip Curl. Block Surf liked the idea so much, they’ve participated in distributing the SlideHanger. You can also buy the SlideHanger directly from the HangPro website for $14.95 each or $12.95 each when you buy two or more.
Worst Part of Surfing
Let’s face it. Cleaning up after a surf is the worst part of surfing. We’re tired and we’re stoked and the last thing we want to do is sit around putting gear away especially when they’re wet and still soaking in our natural heating fluids. So it’s no surprise that most of us are perfectly fine leaving our wetsuits draped over whatever rusty railing or edge we can find. Some of us might actually go out of our way to rinse our wetsuits in fresh water but storage is often an afterthought at best. Unfortunately, it’s this negligence that slowly results in the failing tape and ripping seams. And as we all know, it just takes a tiny rip to ruin a suit’s ability to retain heat. Our wetsuits can only take so much abuse and the SlideHanger is here both to keep us lazy and protect our protection.
At first glance, the SlideHanger doesn’t appear to be much more than an oversized hanger with one of its legs removed. But taking a closer look, you realize that this guy was designed to hold the weight of a wetsuit. Remember that when a wetsuit is even partially wet, it’s weight can be double than when it’s dry. The SlideHanger borrows from construction engineering and is designed like an I-bar bent and curved to form a hanger.
Given its strong structural design, the SlideHanger can easily hold a couple of wetsuits and maybe even more thinner wet- or springsuits.
Last but certainly not least, the SlideHanger is eco friendly. The hanger itself is made from 100% recycled ABS plastic and the labeling is also sourced from 100% recycled paper. Not only did you just save your wetsuit with the SlideHanger, you may very well have saved a whale. Or a tree or whatever it is people are saving these days.
Much Adieu About A Lot
So what’s the big deal with all this wetsuit preventative maintenance? I mean, you’ve peed in your wetsuit every session at least once per session, tossed it over some rusty fence to dry – in direct sunlight – and it works just fine, right? Or so you would have yourself believe. Maybe new wetsuits really aren’t as good as you think – it’s just that your old one’s were so beat up, a garbage bag would’ve felt like an upgrade.
The fact is, hanging your wetsuit on a traditional hanger (nevermind leaving it out in the sun which is the worst thing you could do) places tremendous stress on the shoulders and torso areas of a wetsuit where all the weight is being carried.
But don’t take my word for it, take it from the professionals many of whom pointed to the SlideHanger specifically (without mentioning anything about it) when asked about wetsuit care …
Tyler from Patagonia Wetsuits says:
If you hang a wetsuit at its waist it puts less stress on the shoulders which usually means the suit will last longer. For instance if you have a front zippered wetsuit and you hang it through the shoulders to dry and lets say you use it 100 times, then the suit is actually being stretched 200 times. It is just better if the suit is hung at the waist instead.
Another advantage is that the suit dries faster folded since the water only has to travel half way down instead of the entire length of the suit … We sell a wetsuit hanger called HangPro. Their website is www.thehangpro.com. They go for $15 and we sell out of them often.
Kristy from Xcel Wetsuits says:
NEVER hang your wetsuit on a traditional wire hanger, the wire hanger may rust and stain the suit and because of the weight of the suit it’ll most likely cause damage like indentations at the shoulders making you look like you belong in the movie Working Girl starring Melanie Griffith circa 1998 (but hey, I’m a product of the 80’s so I can empathize to the shoulder pad look). If you want to hang your suit up by a hanger it’s always a good suggestion that you find a thick sturdy hanger.
Hanging your wetsuit up at the waist is another good way to dry your wetsuit. This would alleviate the stress that it puts at the shoulders (if you were to hang your wetsuit from the shoulders with a hanger) thus keeping your wetsuit from getting stretched out. Plus, I’ve heard that the wetsuit dries faster since there’s a midway point from where the water works its way out of the suit then when hung straight up and the water travels from the top down.
Tony from Coral Reef Wetsuits, brief but concise:
Yes always hang by the waist, that’s the best. Much Mahalo.
While this is normally where I list out the obligatory pros and cons, let’s get real here, this is a hanger. It either works or it doesn’t. So pro – it works for holding your wetsuit and drying it appropriately. Con – it costs way more than a regular wire hanger. Nothing too complicated there.
Notwithstanding the fact that this is just a hanger, I would warn people against the thought that came to my mind – “Hey, I can make me one of these pretty easy! I got my Dremel and a thick plastic hanger so I should be all set!” Wrong. I tried. You’d have to have a pretty sturdy hanger to begin with in order to match the load capacity of the SlideHanger. So unless you were hoping to hang a single rashgaurd, I would consider just forking over the $15 bucks for a real SlideHanger rather than pissing off your wife with all the plastic shavings in the living room.
You can purchase the SlideHanger directly from HangPro. Currently, they are being sold for $14.95 each or $12.95 each when you buy two or more. You can also pick one up at a number of local surf shops all across California (check the website for an updated listing).
DISCLOSURE: THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE WAS PROVIDED THIS PRODUCT FOR FREE FOR PURPOSES OF TESTING.