|Some of the “revived” wetsuits in action for a Dublin youth group|
Windsurfer Rose Barrett is somone who acts on her ideas. When she heard a youth group in Dublin had their wetsuits stolen last year, she instantly thought of the old wetsuits being cast aside by her friends in the water-sports industry. And did something about it.
Wetsuits which are no longer suitable for elite standard sport or for use on expensive courses can still be used elsewhere. They might need a bit of TLC ie the odd neoprene patch. And for most kids knocking about in kayaks or splahing in the water, the label or year a wetsuit was made is the last thing on their mind.
Sounds brilliantly simple now but it took Barrett to put it all together under the Wetsuit Revival Project. I spotted the project on Twitter – re-tweeted by surfer Easkey Britton – and caught up with Barrett by phone a few days ago.
She said: “Word came through on Facebook, I think it was last April, that St Michael’s group in Dublin had their wesits and all their gear stolen. The idea popped into my head; people have stuff just sitting around in their sheds. I knew a lot of the water sports centres dump wetsuits.”
Starting with the University of Limerick’s windsurfing club, social media soon spread her ideas through Ireland and even over to Scotland.
It’s not been completely straightforward. Finding people willing and able to deliver a van-load of wetsuits isn’t always easy. One eager donor needed to know by 11pm on a Friday if Barrett could move the suits. Nothing came by the deadline, the suits went in the bin and then she got a call at 11am on the Saturday from a charity. But it was too late.
Barrett said: “I don’t want to deal with money, so we’re leveraging every contact! I delivered a bunch of wetsuits myself last week to Lanesborough. The guy there works with teens who have a chequered background, he was delighted to get them out on the water.”
No matter how brightly the sun shines, Irish waters are simply bitter – or Baltic as many ocean-goers grimly joke.
“A wetsuit can make all the difference between trying a watersport or not. I’ve seen kids in the water in T-shirts, they’re frozen. They get so much more out of with it this way,” Barrett said.