As plastic pollution threatens ocean health, dive gear companies are stepping up in innovative ways to make a difference with sustainable swimwear.

As plastic pollution threatens ocean health, dive gear companies are stepping up in innovative ways to make a difference with sustainable swimwear and eco-conscious wetsuits. These products, created in part from ocean plastic, are functional, look great and help support ocean conservation. Here are our picks for seven awesome sustainable swimwear brands.

Fourth Element OceanPositive

This popular dive gear company from the U.K. produces a broad range of sustainable swimwear and is well-known for a commitment to ocean conservation.

Products tested:

  • Light coverage: Thresher bikini
  • Medium coverage: Mako bikini & Harlequin swimsuit
  • Full coverage: Long-sleeve Hydroskin and Hydro Leggings

What makes OceanPositive swimwear great for divers?

  • Broad range of swimwear styles for all shapes, sizes and preferences
  • Wrist loops prevent Hydroskin sleeves from bunching up when donning your wetsuit
  • Lightweight, quick drying materials
  • Affordable options for all budgets

What are the products made from?

  • ECONYL, a recycled nylon made from recovered ghost nets and other ocean wastes.

 Sun protection and degradation resistance

  • Chlorine, heat and sunscreen resistant
  • UPF50+ sun protection 

How did the products perform?

All of the products were true to size and didn’t pinch anywhere despite not having adjustable straps/sizes.

Of all the swimwear brands tested, the OceanPositive products were the quickest to dry between dives, even in the shade, making them ideal for multi-dive days.

While the Thresher bikini offers a sleek and minimal design, the removable padded cups and racer-back straps were still supportive.For fuller coverage, I recommend the Mako bikini and swimsuit. The Mako bikini top clasp and the swimsuit straps were a bit fussy, but they have one big advantage — you can tie the swimwear onto a liveaboard rail for drying without worrying they’ll blow away.

How is Fourth Element supporting ocean conservation?

  • Constantly reviewing old products to add more sustainable fabrics
  • Working closely with Reef World International and Global Ghost Gear Initiative
  • Regularly helping with beach clean ups and retrieving ghost fishing nets
  • Working to environmental standards that minimize the use of harmful chemicals
  • Using biodegradable packaging 

SlipIns 

Robin Chesnie and Rick Rickman created SlipIns because of Chesnie’s struggles getting in and out of thick wetsuits. Seeing many other women struggling in the same way, she came up with products that make it easy to get in and out of our wetsuits.

Products tested

  • AquaMermaid Swimsuit
  • Whale Shark DiveSkin

What makes SlipIns swimwear great for divers?

  • Material has plenty of stretch for comfort and easy movement in the water
  • Foot stirrups and thumb holes keep the suit in place when putting your wetsuit on
  • The one-piece DiveSkins provide protection against abrasions and stinging ocean critters

What are the products made from?

  • Nylon, polyester and Spandex

Sun protection and degradation resistance

  • UPF 60+ rating and full-body sun protection

How did the products perform?

Admittedly, I was self-conscious about being dressed as a whale shark on a boat full of guys but I felt fabulous from the moment I put the DiveSkin on.

The material is unbelievably silky and lightweight. Both the DiveSkin and swimsuit are also extremely flattering and stretchy. As well as being perfect under a wetsuit, the products were great for snorkeling and for covering up in the sun.

How is SlipIns supporting ocean conservation?

  • SlipIns eliminate the need for sunscreen during water sports, thanks to a full range of high-coverage swimwear for men and women
  • Helping to minimize harmful chemicals entering the ocean by decreasing our use of sunscreens

Gemma Lee

Founded by ocean-loving Kiwi and fashion graduate Gemma Lee, this eco-conscious surf and dive label really stands out from the crowd with its vibrant swimwear and wetsuits.

Products tested

  • Retro Tides 2mm Springsuit

What makes Gemma Lee wetsuits great for divers?

  • Vibrant colors and limited-edition designs
  • Ideal for underwater photography subjects
  • Flat-locked stitched seams for extra comfort in the water
  • Lightweight suits offer flexible layering for warm- and cool-water dives
  • Front zippers make it easy to wear and remove the suits

What are the products made from?

  • Eco-conscious 2mm limestone-based neoprene
  • All nylon features are made from recycled PET bottles.

Sun protection and degradation resistance

  • High sun protection from neoprene wetsuit coverage

How did the product perform?

The vibrant patterns on Gemma Lee suits add a great pop of color to your dive kit. At 2mm, the Springsuit is thin enough to easily wear under a wetsuit but is also suitable for and tropical diving on its own.

Personally, I loved the suit for extra warmth when snorkeling. It didn’t restrict my movements in any way, even when going up and down dive platform ladders.

The fit was true to size and the low rise cut on the hips is ideal for coverage over a bikini. It’s a great lightweight suit for travel when you’re tight on luggage allowance but want a warm layer that fits like a glove.

How is Gemma Lee supporting ocean conservation?

Gemma Lee has taken numerous steps to ensure her products are sustainable, ethical and eco-conscious, including:

  • Yarn made of PET bottles
  • Using limestone-based neoprene instead of petroleum-based neoprene
  • Gemma Lee’s textile supplier does not use hazardous chemicals in the dyes
  • The dyeing process uses 80 percent less water than standard dyeing techniques

Ocean Mimic 

Ocean Mimic is a charity and global movement empowering individuals to reduce the amount of plastic entering the oceans. As part of their mission, Ocean Mimic has created recycled swimwear inspired by the creatures they aim to protect.

Products tested

  • Parrotfish bodysuit

What makes Ocean Mimic bodysuits great for divers?

  • Variety of ocean-themed designs, from parrotfish and clownfish to whale sharks
  • Soft and breathable fabric with two-way stretch and unrestricted movement
  • Lightweight and versatile for dive travel
  • Thicker panels front and back for coverage without need for a swimsuit underneath

What are the products made from?

  • Made from 100 percent recycled material: 78 percent recycled ECONYL yarn; 22 percent Elastane

Sun protection and degradation resistance

  • UPF 50 sun protection
  • Chlorine, sunscreen and saltwater resistant

How did the product perform?

The high neck and low-rise hip design provided great sun protection and the suit was very comfortable (and warm) under a wetsuit.

I really liked the thicker fabric panels at the front and back of the suit for modesty. You could easily wear this suit without a bikini underneath. The suit sizes are quite small and less stretchy than other suits I tried, so go up a size for comfort.

The sleeves stayed in place perfectly under my wetsuit, despite having no thumb loops, and the zipper is built to last.

How is Ocean Mimic supporting ocean conservation?

  • Organizing beach clean-ups
  • Educating local children about why plastic is a problem and providing solutions to plastic pollution
  • For every $10 you spend with Ocean Mimic, the charity pledges to pick up 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of waste
  • Product packaging is entirely recyclable and plastic-free

Waterlust

Waterlust began as an experimental project by ocean science graduates and has evolved into a popular dive-clothing brand supporting ocean science and conservation initiatives.

Products tested

  • Whale Shark Warrior leggings and reversible top

What makes Waterlust leggings and tops great for divers?

  • Seamless, reversible top with no tags
  • Good mid-level support and moisture wicking: ideal for diving, yoga, swimming, etc.
  • Resilient 4-way stretch and shape retention
  • Customizable legging lengths
  • Internal front waistband leggings pocket
  • Deep side pockets for other essentials

What are the products made from?

  • Repreve, a material made from post-consumer plastic bottles

Sun protection and degradation resistance

  • 100 percent chlorine, sun, saltwater and sunscreen resistant
  • UPF 50+ sun protection

How did the products perform?

Waterlust leggings are thicker than other dive leggings and add plenty of warmth when diving and snorkeling. I found the fabric took a while to dry because of its thickness but the product versatility made up for that.

Designed for use in numerous sports, the leggings and top fit closely and the high waist was secure and comfortable. It was easy to fold the waistband over for a lower waist if preferred.

The deep pockets on the leggings are great for safely storing essentials. You can wear the leggings long or easily pull them up just under the knees.

Top tip: Keep the legs long for wearing comfortably over your feet with closed-heel fins.

How is Waterlust supporting ocean conservation?

  • 100 percent recycled and recyclable packaging
  • Mailer bags are made from 100 percent post-consumer material and dual-adhesive strips mean you can reuse the bags
  • Partnering with researchers and educators on ocean conservation work and sharing their findings online
  • Donating 10 percent of profits to support ocean conservation and research initiatives

Batoko

Batoko, a small, fun swimwear brand in the U.k. creates swimsuits that are bold, flattering and eye-catching.

Products tested

  • Orca swimsuit

What makes Batoko swimwear great for divers?

  • Classic shape and great coverage
  • They’re fully lined, so no see-through swimwear when diving
  • Great bust support without cups or wiring
  • Work for a variety of body heights and shapes, making them ideal for active pursuits
  • Batoko produces matching adult and kids swimwear for the whole dive family

What are the products made from?

  • 100 percent recycled plastic (polyester)
  • Vegan-friendly products

Sun protection and degradation resistance

  • Not tested for sun protection, but polyester has a high resistance to UV radiation and the fabric is tightly woven
  • Polyester is very resistant to chlorine

How did the products perform?

I couldn’t stop smiling when wearing the orca swimsuit. The suits are great fun and offer unique designs. The material was very soft and yet thick, with support that withstood multiple dives.

I recommend buying a smaller size than usual for these suits if you’re petite, as I found the straps tended to slip off my shoulders.

How is Batoko supporting ocean conservation?

  • Recycling the equivalent weight of 300,000 plastic bottles into swimwear so far
  • Workplace powered by renewable energy
  • Vegan supply chain
  • Donating a proportion of their annual profits to the Marine Conservation Society UK
  • Participating in reforestation projects to offset their carbon
  • Plastic-free packaging and eco-conscious swimwear printing processes

Shapes in the Sand

Born from a desire to help restore the environment and represent the diversity of women, Shapes in the Sand produces a broad range of sustainable on-trend swimwear for all.

Products tested

  • Mystic Wrap Over crop
  • Mystic mid-rise V-Pant
  • Mystic cropped rash guard

What makes Shapes in the Sand swimwear great for divers?

  • Broad range of mix-and-match swimwear separates are ideal for dive holidays
  • Variety of coverage and support options for all body shapes
  • Seasonal collections support ocean conservationists
  • Made of EVO, which dries 50 percent faster than standard polyamide
  • Thermal-isolation fabric protects you from temperature variations

What are the products made from?

  • ECONYL yarn
  • EVO, a yarn made from castor bean oil

Sun protection and degradation resistance

  • UPF 50+
  • Chlorine resistant

How did the products perform?

The patterned fabric and embellishments on the ties made Shapes in the Sand fashionable and yet functional when diving.

The black Mystic cropped rash guard is an eye-catching change from standard length rash guards and offered plenty of warmth despite being cropped. The rash guard looked great with the bikini bottoms and didn’t ride up at all

Despite being a wrap-over design with a low-cut front, the Mystic crop provided plenty of support and kept everything in place in the water. If you have a large bust, try a different style, however, as the cup size is relatively small.

Ties at the back of the bikini top made it easy to dry on a rail when liveaboard diving.

How is Shapes in the Sand supporting ocean conservation?

  • Using EVO, which is a totally renewable resource that requires little water and has no food-chain impacts
  • Local printing method does not use water or any harsh chemicals
  • Fabric remnants become accessories such as head wraps
  • Packaging and labels are recycled and sustainably sourced, down to the swimwear tags and care labels
  • Partnering with ocean conservation initiatives

Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer wrote this article. Follow her adventures at www.kathryncurzon.com

 All images courtesy of the author unless otherwise noted.

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