Updated 2017: We no longer use smoothie on any of our full wetsuits.
A number of our wetsuits allow you to choose between having smoothie panels or not. Here's some helpful information on what smoothie is and how to choose the best option for you.
What is smoothie?
'Smoothie' has become a common way to describe single-sided nylon neoprene. This is neoprene with a nylon (fabric) finish on one side and a rubber finish (smoothie) on the other. Smoothie can have a faint or heavy pattern embossed into it, and can go by other names. The light patterned smoothie we use most at Seventhwave is called mesh skin.
When and where is it used?
The trend over the last 20 years has been to use smoothie in the center chest panel and center back panel. It was originally used in these panels to lower the wind chill factor, as after immersion in water the smoothie drained away any water particles. Because the smoothie did not hold water the wind chill factor against the chest was much lower.
For petro chemical neoprene with a nylon outer (as opposed to Limestone neoprene, which we will explain below) the opposite happens—water particles are stuck between the nylon weave and when hit by wind it can have a cooling effect.
Another reason smoothie is used is for looks. Many customers like the look of the smoothie on the chest area. It also has a certain feel to the way it sucks onto your skin and tends not to move at all.
Finally, smoothie is considerably cheaper than nylon neoprene, which is why large manufactures prefer to use smoothie.
Why is it good?
For wetsuits made of petro chemical neoprene it has a lower wind chill factor than nylon. Smoothie can look better to some people, and is marginally cheaper.
Why is it bad?
Smoothie can rip easily and is usually the first panel on a wetsuit to deteriorate over time. Repeated rubbing on the same spot ie from ribs against a board causes the smoothie to wear thin. This is because smoothie is not as strong as neoprene with nylon on both sides (nylon/nylon)—the strength of neoprene is in the nylon and not the rubber. For the same reason smoothie is not as strong around seams, and is very susceptible to sharp objects, especially fingernails. This means you have to be extra careful when you grip it.
Also due to its texture, most bodyboarders prefer non-smoothie nylon over smoothie.
Why does neoprene type make a difference when choosing smoothie or not?
As well as the reasons mentioned above, choosing to have smoothie or non-smoothie is dependent on what type of neoprene your wetsuit is made from.
There are two totally different types of neoprene in existence. The original type of neoprene (first invented in 1931) is made from a petroleum base and is known as petro chemical neoprene. Because the main ingredient of this neoprene is a liquid it is heavy and absorbs water like a sponge. In fact it has a cell penetration count of 64%—making it even heavier during and after use.
The other type of neoprene—the neoprene we use at Seventhwave—was invented by Yamamoto Corporation (c.1964) and is made from calcium derived from pure Limestone. Limestone neoprene has nitrogen cells with a cell penetration count of 94%, making it much lighter in weight and less absorbent. In other words, it is more water repellent than petro chemical neoprene.
Because the Limestone neoprene does not absorb any water, we have found that our nylon/nylon neoprene is actually warmer that petro chemical neoprene with a smoothie finish. It is also more durable.
Why choose the non-smoothie option?
To summarize, if you choose not to have smoothie on your wetsuit you will definitely get a much longer life from your wetsuit and it will be just as warm (or warmer) if it's made from Limestone neoprene.