Suiting up to do business – Ruby Fresh Wetsuits

3 minutes read
Posted 30 April, 2024
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One winter morning in 2017 Eddie Spearing woke up with an epiphany. “I thought, ‘I’m gonna make a wetsuit’,” the hardy, Kiwi Brit – a forerunner in Wanaka Lake Swimmers Club, says.

He spent a long time researching and searching the internet and found nothing worldwide that was designed specifically for swimming in fresh cold water. “On the whole lakes are colder than the sea and once the lake temperatures drop to below 14 or 15degC it’s too cold to swim so the season ends.”

His aim was to stretch out that shoulder season, with the number of those keen to take the icy plunge in our district’s lakes growing significantly each year.

Spearing, found that by introducing a titanium layer over the torso in between the suit’s nylon lining and neoprene he could greatly enhance the wetsuit’s ability to retain body heat. “It still feels cold but once you get moving the titanium lining reflects between 35% and 40% of your generated body heat back into you, rather than dissipating it out into the water.”

He launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2018 to raise the necessary $36,000 to get his first production run underway. The response was fantastic and by January 2019 Spearing’s first Ruby Fresh Wetsuits – named in honour of Lake Wanaka’s Ruby Swim event which he organises, hit the market.

“Since then, I’ve borrowed and funded it myself,” he says. “I’ve literally got 20 suits left from my second production run of 250 suits which I started selling in 2022.” He’s now working on his third production run of 600 suits on sale later this year.” The second run cost $65k to produce with the third likely to cost $140k.

However, Spearing keeps costs down by selling direct and is able to keep his price at $750 for a full-length wetsuit, whereas big brands can cost $1050 to $1200. His target market is open water swimmers – a growing breed, but the suits have become very popular with triathletes. “I get a lot of feedback from triathletes saying that they’ve done their fastest times ever. It’s been amazing. They’ve said they prefer my suits to all the big names and brands,” Spearing says, proudly. Two times Coast to Coast world multisport champion Dougal Allan told Spearing he’s done his fastest swim time ever in a 3.8km triathlon wearing one of his suits, great feedback for a small-town man who had a big idea.

Buoyancy is also key and Spearing’s used 5mm limestone neoprene, with aspects of the suit designed especially for freshwater use. The design of the central front column shape also promotes good swim-roll dynamics. Fluro-style arm panels – pink for girls and orange for boys, with white options too, make for great visibility in the water. Spearing sticks to the same design each year unless he can improve on technology and only updates once there is something worth updating and he’s sold most of his previous stock.

Vital to the business success has been manufacturing in Thailand. “It took me six months to find a suitable factory and three months to validate what I was doing at the start.” His sponsorship of Challenge Wanaka has helped boost sales through a booth at the event. However, it’s not just the athletic types that Spearing is targeting. He’s also designed a ‘Goddess’ range for post-menopausal women over 55, and is working on ‘The Short Stocky’ for middle aged men.

He’s also now hoping to break into Australia and the UK market.

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