Last year we were approached by Blair Quane of the Sumner Lifeboat / Coastguard Sumner crew about making custom suits for their team, encompassing additional pockets, functionality, warmth, comfort and quick ease of access.
Getting into the Suit
Firstly, as with any rescue service, ease of access is a priority, valuable seconds can be saved by having the ability to get in and out of a wetsuit with ease and speed. Installing 14cm zips at the wrists and 18cm zips at the ankles is a perfect solution to this, even if the wetsuit is slightly damp having the zip means no struggles getting cold hands and feet into the suit.
The legs of the suit were also shortened so boots can be put on and fastened up without having too much wetsuit material at the ankles which prevents a boot from being fastened up fully.
The suits are back zip entry for speed and ease.
Equipment and Pockets
The Lifeboat crew don't just have to have a wetsuit that fits well and functions as a wetsuit; it also needs to hold a bit of kit. So we added a chest pocket measured to fit the radio's which the team use, with a velcro cover flap and a reflective strip. The pocket is diagonally positioned so the crew member avoids being jabbed in the face and neck with the radio's aerial.
One of the challenges here was the size of the radio pocket on a women's suit. The chest panel on a women's suit isn't broad enough to facilitate a radio pocket, so the women's suits will have the radio pocket on the upper arm of the suit.
The suit has a large compartment pocket on the left leg for personal equipment and use, whether that be preferred tools of the trade, energy bars, or a lucky charm. Also with by a velcro cover flap with a reflective strip, plus 3 drain holes so the pocket won't fill with water.
On the right leg is a knife pocket. This is more sleeve than pocket, which keeps the knife in close to the body substantially lowering the chances of it falling out or moving.
The final piece of the puzzle was to customize the wetsuits to the individual crew members. With small tweaks here and there along the way, and with huge input from the Lifeboat crew and our team of skilled seamstresses we think we have produced something excellent; A functional and comfortable suit made to aid rescuers. We are pretty proud of that.