How we got started
The idea for bringing wetsuits to fishermen in Baja began when our founder, Nicole Corpuz, was completing her Master's thesis in southern Baja. While working with dive fishermen of the El Manglito community who are working to restore their historic fishing grounds, Nicole noticed that the fishermen were using worn our wetsuits. Eager to get them proper gear, she came back to Ventura, California and began a used wetsuit collection project. With the support of Patagonia and FCD Surfboards, Nicole collected over thirty wetsuits in one day. The wetsuits that are no longer suitable for cold California surf are perfect for Gulf of California waters. More often than not, these wetsuits are sitting in a garage waiting for an opportunity to be donated or upcycled. Nicole soon returned to Baja and handed out the wetsuits to some very excited fishermen. Using wetsuit collection as an avenue to spread awareness about the fishermen's efforts toward a more sustainable lifestyle, she began exploring other ways in which she can support dive fishermen and women.
Wetsuit repair workshops
After achieving the goal of getting wetsuits to the dive fishermen, the question about what to do with unusable wetsuits remained. Dulce Soto, the wetsuit repair manager of Patagonia Surf, decided to use her Environmental Internship opportunity to share her skills and teach the first ever Wetsuit Repair & Upcycle Workshop. Noroeste Sustentable offered their support and space while Daniela Bareno of the El Manglito fishing community served as a community coordinator, organizing the course and recruiting attendees. In November 2016, the Wetsuit Repair & Upcycle Workshop took place with 13 members from the fishing community eager to learn a new skill.
The following summer, Hector Castro, another member of the Patagonia Surf wetsuit repair department, used his Environmental Internship to teach an advanced wetsuit repair workshop. This workshop provided enough skills to the 16 attendees to offer wetsuit repair services throughout southern Baja.
Due to the high amount of wetsuits donated to Amigos Marinos, we felt that it would also be beneficial to offer wetsuit repair workshops to the communities in which we collect wetsuits. Our first California-based wetsuit repair workshop was held in Ventura, California. Also in partnership with Patagonia, Hector Castro led this workshop while the Ventura Topa Topa Brewing Co. provided the space.
Reaching out to other dive fishing communities
A high amount of donated wetsuits means that we have enough stock to continue supporting our first dive fishermen community and to also reach out to new communities. We have begun to support dive fishermen in Puerto Chale, Baja California Sur, and fisherwomen in the Sinaloa communities of Dautillos, Altata and Las Aguamitas. In exchange for wetsuit supply, we ask the fishing community to follow through with a project that would move them toward a more sustainable manner of living. These projects may include participating in a wetsuit repair workshop, a beach or sea bottom cleaning or projects directly related to improving their method of fishing toward long term sustainability.