Suit up

Whilst the concept of the dry suit in itself is not new, its general acceptance and use in the maritime market has increased substantially over the last 40 years. During this time, Ursuk Oy has been at the forefront of this market. Established in 1964 by the Kallionpää family, Ursuk began life selling the finest diving equipment in the Turku region, Finland, including diving cylinders, snorkels, fins, and at the time – state-of-the-art neoprene wetsuits. Even as early as this, Ursuk established itself as a bespoke producer by individually hand cutting each suit for the client.

The key difference between a dry suit and a wet suit is that dry suits are designed to prevent the entry of water, which makes them ideal for use in cold-water conditions where hypothermia from long-term exposure is a primary concern. Whilst the waterproof qualities of the product are a given, over the years Ursuk has continued to drive the development of its products with new technological innovations, which means that today’s suits are increasingly lightweight, comfortable, and durable.

“Although the basic function of each suit is to keep the water out and also to remove moisture from inside the suit, we manufacture different types of suits for above water use, and diving activities. Our range is further divided into different sports, such as kayaking and sailing, due to the individual demands of these activities,” highlights export manager, Mika Aitio.

As well as keeping the individual user dry and comfortable, Ursuk dry suits also offer increased safety in worst-case scenarios due to their ability to keep the wearer warm and dry for longer. As well as the general recreation market, Ursuk’s products have also found widespread acceptance in the professional sector including coastguard, police, and military operations. “One area where we have been particularly successful is search and rescue teams all over the world, and with major contract negotiations currently ongoing, this seems set to grow even further,” notes Mika. “We have also gained a strong position in the growing offshore wind energy market.”

Regardless of its intended use, functionality of the dry suits is Ursuk’s top priority and this can be seen in the company’s approach to all aspects of the business. Since product development began in the 1990s, the company has worked closely with its professional clients to fully understand the conditions in which they operate, and as a result incorporates these needs into the suit designs. In this respect product development goes beyond just customisation – it is a collaborative process that produces tailor-made suits for every need imaginable.

“Product development is also driven by the different materials manufacturers, as we are continuously searching for new materials that offer more durability or a lighter weight product. It is therefore crucial that we develop good relationships with the manufacturers of the newest materials,” adds Mika.

Certainly there is a trend within the textile industry to locate manufacturing in countries where labour and even materials costs are cheaper. In contrast, Ursuk firmly remains a European manufacturer, having moved into its current 2500 sq m facility in 2008. Explaining the reasons behind this approach, Mika says:“Labour costs are not as important a factor to the business. The quality of the products always comes first, and I believe that clients are willing to pay a little extra for the reassurance of a high performance product. Our core market is within Europe and therefore we want to remain close to our customers, and because we manufacture individual products as opposed to bulk orders, having the production process under the same roof as our sales team makes it easier to control.”

He continues: “Our minimum order is one item, not 100 pieces, so our business is very much about serving the individual client. Within our various markets there are different aspects of the dry suit that clients consider more important, and unlike conventional bulk manufacturers, we are able to react quickly to any changes and create a product that fulfils these individual requirements.”

Whilst other companies have suffered in the recession, Ursuk has continued to go from strength to strength, as the company’s focus on maintaining high quality levels has seen it gain both new clients, and greater market shares. When you consider the ability of a dry suit to dramatically extend operational times in the professional sector, or to enhance water-based recreational activities, it is not difficult to understand why more and more people are refusing to accept sub-standard products.

As expected of one of the world’s leading producers of dry suits, Ursuk is continuing to drive innovative new developments within the market – as demonstrated by the company’s latest offering. “Following extensive testing we are now launching the breathable diving suit, which is gaining a lot of interest in the market. Because of the breathable nature of the material this is a comfortable diving suit to wear, even in warmer climates. Traditionally, the difference in air and water temperatures in these regions means that the properties of the dry suit make it uncomfortably hot to wear. With the introduction of this new breathable product we have solved this issue, and as a result I believe that this will be a great success in the market,” concludes Mika. Leading dry suit manufacturer Supplies both professional and recreational markets Newly launched breathable diving suit