As ambassadors for an environment that few people get to see firsthand, divers are more conscious than most about issues of ocean conservation. So when products come out that address those concerns, it’s really exciting and there’s a temptation to offer our support uncritically just to keep the momentum going. Yet, in order for an eco-conscious product to be viable it also has to be functional, and in the case of swimwear that also means comfortable. The Fourth Element OceanPositive line is made from recycled ghost nets and designed with the needs of active divers in mind–both good reasons to buy, but the most important question remains: how does it wear?
In order to find out, I decided to try out a few of the items in the line — two of the one-piece swimsuits, and both the short and long-sleeved Core Hydroskins. Straight out of the box, there was a reason to be impressed: the pieces arrived in biodegradable, sustainable packaging made from cassava starch. Extra points for internally consistent conservation efforts!
Next, a word on construction. Each piece is designed explicitly for the comfort of divers, with athletic lines that offer both support and coverage. The Salina swimsuits have light padding sewn into the bust and both the Salina and Aruba have sturdy straps that won’t slip down your shoulders, even during the most strenuous activities. There are no zippers, hooks, or ties to bunch up or turn sideways or sit awkwardly under a wetsuit, so you can save your focus for the fish. The long-sleeved Hydroskin has thumb loops to help you slip your arms into a wetsuit without bunching.
The true acid test, though, is performance.
My Ocean Positive gear is now on its third trip across the world, has gone with me scuba diving, freediving, beach swimming, and inner tubing and it’s all still going strong. There have been no instances of tearing, unraveling, fading, or stretching. The suits really do sit comfortably under wetsuits and dive skins and can be layered with the Hydroskins for flexibility of coverage. Put a Hydroskin over a suit and under a dive skin for a little extra warmth, or pair the long-sleeved version with just a swimsuit underneath to minimize the amount of skin you expose to the sun (though with nylon against nylon expect the Hydroskin to ride up a bit). That means less skin to cover with sunscreen, and thus less sunscreen leaching into the water column: bonus points!
The full-cut styles of both the one-piece and bikini suits will help you keep your mind on your dive, not on adjusting your rear-view. The line is very versatile overall. During one adventure, my long-sleeved Hydroskin did triple duty: protecting me from the sun during a tubing trip on the river, then keeping me cool with its slight dampness as we packed up, and finally protecting my hands as I returned the sun-scorched inner tube!
A swimsuit made from abandoned nets that would otherwise be causing senseless destruction in the ocean? Check. Eco-friendly packaging? Check. Comfort and mobility? Check and check.
Is it too much to hope that the line would also be attractive?
As it turns out, no. The simple silhouettes are flattering to all body types, athletic in style with large blocks of solid colors–black and turquoise, fuchsia and purple. The logos on the swimsuits are unobtrusive and classy, and the OceanPositive logo that graces the back of the Hydroskins is an elegantly-rendered reference to the ghost nets from which they’re constructed.
The size range is a bit limited — I ordered the US 14, their largest size, and though it fits well when donning and doffing I’ll sometimes hear the worrisome crack of a snapped stitch. None of the seams have begun to fray or unravel, so that may not be a problem in the end. Only time will tell. Another small issue I’ve encountered is with the lining, which seems to have a bit more yardage than necessary. The net result is that it will sometimes balloon out just a bit around the leg holes, which requires periodic tucking in. The fabric is pleasant to the touch, as smooth as any other nylon/lycra swimsuit I’ve worn, allaying my fears that recycled ghost nets would feel like burlap against the skin.
Another limitation of products that are truly conservation-minded (rather than simply green-washed), is that consumers absorb some extra cost. Eco-conscious processes are often non-standard, and thus a bit more expensive to implement. The Fourth Element Ocean Positive pieces are right in-line price-wise with other performance swimwear, although might seem more expensive than standard activewear. On the plus side, they hold up to a lot of enthusiastic use, so they should see you through many a dive.
Women’s Ocean Positive Features
- 4-way stretch premium Italian LYCRA® is composed of 78% recycled Nylon and 22% xtra life™ LYCRA®
- xtra life™ LYCRA® is developed to have improved chlorine and salt resistance
- UV Protection: UPF 50+
- Available for women in US sizes 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14; UK sizes 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16
- 100% biodegradable, 100% compostable, 100% earth-friendly packaging made from cassava starch
- For the guys out there – don’t worry Men’s Ocean Positive wear also available!
- Aruba Athletic Swimsuit MSRP: £49.95GBP (~$65USD / €55EUR)
- Salina Athletic Swimsuit MSRP: £69.95GBP (~$91USD / €78EUR)
- Long-Sleeved Core Hydroskin MSRP:£44.95GBP (~$59USD / €50EUR)
- Short-Sleeved Core Hydroskin MSRP:£38.95GBP (~$51USD / €43EUR)
BUY NOW – life.fourthelement.com