Rashguards Go Hi-Tech

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New water repellent fabric surf shirts allow surfers to stay better insulated and more comfortable.

Most rashguards and surf shirts manufactured for surfing and other action water sports shops are viewed as little more than an afterthought.

Although popular with those eager to protect themselves from the immediate risk of sunburn in the tropics or the long-term specter of skin cancer, these shirts seem simple enough to the uninitiated.

But sun protection is only part of the water sports story. New, high tech water repellent products are now hitting the market that not only protects against the sun, but also the one element that can make even the most avid water sports enthusiast shiver: the wind.

One company has responded with new technology that has turned the surf shirt business on its head, with a high-tech fabric that can repel water and provide maximum UV protection. KoreDry, from Victory Tropiskin, features a revolutionary advance that allows water to bead up and fall off. The fibers of the fabric are embedded with a proprietary water repellant process so they stay dry at the fiber core. The result is a shirt that provides insulation from hot and cold, doesn't cling and dries as soon as you get out of the water.

Victory Tropiskin makes KoreDry garments of various styles in both a nylon lycra stretch fabric that fits like a rashguard, and a 100 percent nylon non-stretch fabric designed for a loose fit. Only an in-person demonstration can truly do justice to the water repellent nature of this proprietary fabric. This is no light beading; these are major globules of water that roll around on the shirt like mercury from a broken thermometer.

Tak Kawahara, who operates CHP Surf in Redondo Beach, California, knew he'd found a winner three years ago when he tested KoreDry surf shirts and rashguards. "The proof is definitely in the product. If you are a comfort creature, it's a practical garment, because with KoreDry you really can be comfortably warm out there," he said.

Kawahara said the new fabric is a major improvement over T-shirts and standard spandex rashguards, which take in and hold water. "What you end up with is a soaking wet garment. It's pretty harsh to have the cold material against your body," he said. "I have a lot of customers come back and buy it for gifts or kids. It really does what it says it will do."

On the island of Oahu, clothing buyer and surfer Ryan Sugihara said KoreDry is likely, among other things, to unite sun worshippers because the fabric is 99% protective against damaging rays.

Sugihara, who buys for all eight T & C Surf Design shops, also likes the product because he believes it will enjoy a wide appeal. Kayakers, surfers, boaters, rafters, paddlers and so on will benefit from the water-repellant breakthrough. But so will tourists with kids, who may not surf, snorkel or paddle, but like to splash in the water.

Lee Gerachis, owner of Malibu's Surf Shop in Ocean City, Maryland, has seen the product outsell any other rashguard regardless of the price. "The sales of rashguards have gone through the roof, it is especially appealing to the older crowd. My advice to stores, bring it in, it sells."

For more information about KoreDry products contact Marc Spitaleri at VictoryTropiSkin; 18281 Enterprise Lane, Huntington Beach, CA. 92648; Call (888) 8 SURFIN; Email marc @ victorywetsuits.com; Or visit the website at http://www.victorytropiskin.com.

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HEATHER METCALFE

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