Ruby Fresh are Open Water Swim wetsuits expressly designed for swimming in fresh water where the need for greater buoyancy, warmth and visibility are heightened. Backed by the swim event The Ruby Swim, itself a creation inspired by the amazing geographical location with the existence of an island to swim around - all set in pristine alpine waters.
So, from the natural environment, and then from the event, a story and authentic base is formed to give a strong background for the creation of a product directly related to a perceived need.
Most, if not all triathlon and open water swim wetsuits, are designed based on use in salt water, and predominantly, warmer water.
Ruby Fresh wetsuits - the 'Flow' male and the ‘Echo’ female are designed around the needs of fresh water i.e. lesser buoyancy and for predominantly cooler waters, and added to this, such is the nature of open water swimming - it’s also important to be seen.
So the three points of difference are: Buoyancy • Warmth • Visibility
The wetsuit combines these three separate attributes not previously seen together in this product space.
The suits are designed to enhance body position in the water; enhance comfort in colder water - to keep you warmer for longer or to increase swim duration; and to be seen - additional safety in a multi-user environment.
The first 110 suit production run was financed by a successful crowd funding campaign on Pledge Me. The first suits hit the shores of New Zealand on January 8th, 2019.
• Improved bouncy for freshwater use rather than salt water use - introducing the ‘Buoyancy Tray’. • Yamamoto Ti-Alpha Titanium layers. Warmth. Thin. Light. • Open Water visibility. Gold and day-glo graphics. • Improved arm maneuverability. • Body core stabilisation. Swim-Roll dynamics. Enhancing how open water swimmers ought to swim. • Easy on. Easy off - ease frustration. Especially for older swimmers.
The suit is targeted for mid range ability swimmers and upwards. As a triathlon wetsuit it has shown to be fast in competition due to the buoyancy profile creating an improved streamlined position in the water. It adheres to FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation) rules.
A prime requirement of the design is to enhance the 'feeling' you are swimming well. This is as important as 'actually' swimming well. Creating the streamlined body position by altering the swimmers position in the water, combined with the extremely maneuverable arms (which has been the single biggest point of feedback) - this all adds to the intended overall improved user experience.
Yamamoto limestone-derived neoprene types, and subsequently, thicknesses, were researched and positioned with reference to swim ergononmics to create the attributes the design required.
Yamamoto #40 1.5mm neoprene is used throughout the entire arm / shoulder / latissimus dorsi sections (panels 3, 5, 9 & 11). It has excellent modulus, features a strong skin surface and flexibility and is the most stretchable neoprene on the market. Such extensive use of #40 grade is not normal among other suit manufacturers.
The torso section of the suit, waist up, is lined with thermal Ti-Alpha, a titanium layer between the outer neoprene and the nylon lining reflecting 35-40% of generated body heat back towards the body and the thin water layer between the body and suit lining, rather than being dissipated immediately to the water. In addition the calf panel also benefits from a Ti-Alpha layer in an effort to reduce calf cramping.
The one-piece core panel section (panel 1) is designed to be very buoyant in specific positions. The entire panel uses 5mm Aerodome Yamamoto Neoprene which is 20-30% more buoyant than non-aerodome neoprene material. It is active from below the knee, the entire front thigh, wrapping entirely the hips, buttocks and lower abdomen. The positioning lifts the hips and legs noticeably and promotes hip roll. The panel incorporates a central chest 'pivot' section to the neck cuff. Its width is gauged to provide less buoyancy to the sternum region in conjunction with the 3mm chest panels (panel 2). This is to further aid the 'downhill' body position, in conjunction with the raised hips/legs. We term this entire panel the 'Buoyancy Tray'. The rest of the suit uses #39 grade which is lightweight and soft. All panels use Yamamoto 'SCS' (Super Composite Skin) proprietary hydrophobic coating.
Overall, the wetsuits' neoprene panel positioning promotes the more efficient swim-roll dynamics technique rather than a flat swim positioning. This technique enhances reach and creates an improved power phase in conjunction with hip roll movement.
An improvement in ease of manufacture was achieved through:
• No wrist-cuffs. After studying their need and function and by then eliminating them.
• No internal forearm 'catch' panels - omitted by design after the realisation catch panels were almost useless and little more than a marketing gimmick.
Combined, these two design details allow the use of a very long taped seam on the inside of the forearm (duplicated on the calf leg section) which allows these sections of the suit to be cut to desired length. This enhances speed of removal in a racing situation (by cutting shorter) or to allow a better arm / lower calf fit.
The calf panel made from 2mm titanium lined #39 grade neoprene allows very quick and easy removal over the heel. Better than elastic stretch panels that were trialed. This is great for T1 times in Tri races but also too for those with difficulty reaching that area of the body. This can be quite an issue for some.
We have a verified Yamamoto Code of Authenticity.
The Ruby Fresh wetsuit is not primarily NZ focused, but global. However, at this stage the company is focusing on New Zealand and the UK for opposing hemisphere sales periods.
There exists a diverse and mixed user base. Firstly the broad base triathletes of intermediate ability (the largest segment Age Groupers) to which the suit's design parameters have been aimed at. Think - Challenge Wanaka and the Ironman events in Taupo and Auckland.
Next the ever growing segment of open water swimmers who do not 'compete' but are regular swimmers and a major part of the scene. These are very different people than the triathletes, both in mindset and body type. Swimmers competitively trained at an early age never forget how to swim with great technique, and although they may become unfit in other types of activity, you would be foolish to place a bet on how good a swimmer is going to be based on body size and shape. It never ceases to amaze...
Swimmers as a demographic have a very broad range of ages. From 15 to 75 (or more, but 75 is a realistic upper age), male and female. It's a big market.
In addition as part of market size data, a triathlon / swim wetsuit has a use-by date of about 3 to 4 years, so they are a constantly revolving ‘consumable’.
Ruby Fresh wetsuits and The Ruby Swim co-founded a direct action lake and water focused initiative called The Touchstone Project.
People are reminded of the ‘Check Clean Dry’ philosophy to stop the cross contamination of lakes from ‘Lake snow’ (Lindavia) and Didymo.
The Touchstone Project is a direct action initiative to support those concerned about the Lake Wanaka water catchment, raise awareness of impacts around the lake, and how people can have a positive influence on the water in the lake. For instance a persons personal contribution in how to minimise bad stormwater and runoff.
By working with people who 'do stuff ' - those making tangible differences, and by starting to gather and understand information about what affects lake water, Touchstone supports actions that directly improve lake values.
Although limestone derived neoprene (neoprene is actually a brand name owned by Dupont. Its correct term ought to be CCF or Closed Cell Foam) is ‘greener’ than petroleum derived neoprene, it is hardly ‘green’. A great deal of energy goes into its manufacture which involves crushed limestone at very high temperatures reacting to produce acetylene gas, and then hydrochlorinating it, becoming polychloroprene rubber, commonly known as neoprene. One particular benefit of limestone neoprene over petroleum neoprene is the cell count with approx 60% more bubbles (closed cells) than the petroleum version, which improves buoyancy and warmth. Yamamoto neoprene is regarded as the best.
However a sustainable rather than exhaustible and energy intensive source method of producing the raw rubber would be a better outcome for the planet. To this end a latex extracted from hevea trees, a biobased renewable ingredient, farmed under Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certification and put through Yulex's proprietary process to remove biological contaminants common in natural rubber, is available but production is 100% taken by the brand Patagonia for their surf wetsuits.
With contact established with the Yulex company, Ruby Fresh have secured enough sample material to manufacture an R&D suit to test its viability as a swim wetsuit material rather than in a surf wetsuit capacity. It is the longer term aim to create a swim wetsuit, exhibiting all the attributes of our current suit but manufactured from a sustainable latex rubber source.
The Ruby Fresh business model is being crafted to address one important factor which throws up a large economic shortcoming very relevant to us in particular, and emerging strongly in the online ordering apparel industry as a whole; while ultimately aiming to create a boutique brand.
That crucial factor is Sizing. The current sizing charts (all wetsuit brands) do not tell the whole story when it comes to fit / body type. This has become apparent during the first five months of Ruby Fresh wetsuits.
Building on the 3D surface mapping research and development of New Zealand innovations now based in Japan, Zozo®, to create a library of user types, our future business model is based around three interrelated aspects - consumer online ordering backed by in-store sales knowledge/expertise partnerships; trust in 95-98% correct sizing with online ordering; and lastly, modular assembly to diminish overall stock holding. Together these three components form a superior value proposition.
Until our proprietary Sizing App is deployed (currently in development), we follow a traditional model of distribution with wholesalers and stores (we currently also sell direct via our eCommerce website). However this always results in left over stock-holding of less popular sizes and thus when sold ‘on-sale’ reduces the overall profit margin. It also means people often wait for sale offers at the end of season, further reducing margins. This is difficult to overcome in the traditional distribution mechanism. It also creates seasonality.
However, with our Sizing App in place we will introduce a new model of customer/store interaction and distribution whereby the customer orders from the website, with the full knowledge and trust of a correct wetsuit fit, but the product is delivered to the local store (or the customer), where the customer perhaps underwent a Ruby Fresh familiarisation experience (but with perhaps the incorrect size or even sex of wetsuit). The customer will receive a ‘nearly bespoke’ wetsuit based on correct sizing from our Sizing App and our modular manufacture.
Dealers hold minimal stock, perhaps only sample stock, as we provide the customer their wetsuit ‘direct’ (or via the store). The store can also order smaller quantities with 'just in time' delivery of additional stock when required. Stores receive an agreed margin from the retail price which is set to maintain our margin whilst also providing adequate margin to the store. This mechanism disposes of a whole layer of cost and margin dilution i.e. factory to retailer/customer, no distributor.
Fixing the sizing factor solves a myriad of customer service issues.