Interview with Kurosaka and Eric of AXXE Wetsuits. The best custom built wetsuits we have come across!
AXXE is a small cottage business singularly focused on making handcrafted custom fitted wetsuits in Japan from the highest quality neoprenes and lining materials (many of which are their own materials). No, they do not make backpacks, surfboard slings, sunglasses, or watches. They are a company whose success is founded solely from their passion and skill at building surfers quality suits that fit their unique bodies, that reign supreme in the requirements of comfort, lightness and warmth. From Axxe’s website, "We are manufacturers of handcrafted, custom-fitted wetsuits straight from Japan. Axxe Wetsuits are made from innovative and proprietary materials, balancing the unparalleled suppleness of the rubber and linings with high performance and functionality. This means more warmth and less paddle restriction. Thirty-five years of handcrafted mastery and rigorous testing have led to these optimum performance suits. Our goal is to ensure the ultimate wetsuit experience. Wetsuits are our life. We hope that you appreciate our independent business model. We are a small, artisanal team, offering customer service and satisfaction impossible to achieve in the impersonal world of corporate wetsuit production. Our wetsuits are hand built by craftsmen constructing each individual wetsuit with passion and soul.”
We are very happy and proud to now be a dealer for AXXE wetsuits, made in Japan. Here's a little something I learned about AXXE’s history and product from the owner himself Kurosaka (second generation) and Eric who runs AXXE international.
Photo of Kurosaka courtesy of Max Houtzager / Terasu
Aleks: Hi Eric and Kurosaka! I started wearing an AXXE wetsuit this year, we worked with Eric from the USA office on how to properly take the measurements needed to fit our customers. Eric can you please explain how the fitting process works and the steps that happen once an order is placed from Aqua?
Eric: Stoked to get you suited up Aleks! So this is how it all works.
One of our trained representatives in Aqua will take detailed measurements of 26 points on the body. Then guide a client through all of the options. Once a suit has been decided on, that representative will email the order to the AXXE US office. After all of the order confirmations are in place the order is submitted to Japan. Once the suit is completed the suit will ship direct from the Japanese factory to either the shop or to the customer's chosen address in about three - five weeks prompt (depending on season). Tracking numbers are provided once the suit has shipped.
Aleks testing out his custom made AXXE suit at the beach. Picture by Darren Akana.
Aleks: I went through this process- and no big surprise (but it was, kind of) my suit fit exceptionally! I am the unique size TG (Troll Gnome), I am 5.7, 180 pounds, have large shoulders and wide upper arms, a barrel chest, and big butt. Oliver from the shop, laughed when I removed my suit from the box, and cited as I held it up, “Yep, I can already tell that is made for your body!”
The suit fits me so well and is amazingly comfortable to wear, kind of pajama style comfortable! As I sit waiting for a wave, I redundantly marvel how comfortable I feel! The articulated fit and premium materials keep me soooo warm and happy. One problem I experience due to an injured shoulder combined with the constant paddling we are required to do at Ocean Beach, is on my current Axxe suit the double neck closure system feels like too much material and resistance on my sore shoulder, especially when I am caught inside and paddling for 40 minutes, the suit is so warm I actually overheat. For my next suit I will go a little thinner in materials used, and will use my current suit for exceptionally frigid days. I used the suit up in Oregon recently and it was amazing!
Eric: We have all different types of materials that folks can mix and match. We try to accommodate each persons individual needs and preferences. The best suit for surfing OB San Francisco would depend entirely on the individual and what type of surfer they are. Are they the more active paddler type? Or are they the less active type that enjoys cruising on the board. This kind of information helps narrow down what type of materials I suggest. For me personally, because I am in the active paddler category, I wouldn't want to go with anything too warm as I could easily get too hot. I'd probably go with a 3/2mm Bohemian with either HNL16 or Silky inner lining since our suits run quite a bit warmer than generic suits.
Eric and his sleepy daughter hanging out. Such a classic shot.
Aleks: Kurosaka I read that your father was once a partner in Victory/Breaker out wetsuits, please tell us about how you and your family got into surfing and making wetsuits. How did your father transition out of Victory Wetsuits, found C World company and transition to AXXE wetsuits?
Kurosaka: My father was originally a scuba diver. He always enjoyed making things from when he was very young and started to hold interest in making his own wetsuits after he saw pioneer surfers shaping their own surf boards (late 1960’s - early 1970’s). During this time, there was a huge surf culture trend coming from Hawaii, Australia, and California. At that time, there were very few wetsuit brands but among them was “Victory Wetsuits,” which was the pioneer of surf wetsuits for Japan. As he built his career at Victory Wetsuits, he was always curious as to how he can apply this water proof technology to a wetsuit for surfing which requires a lot of movement. In addition to learning how to make wetsuits, he also gained experience in sales (Mid 1970’s - late 1970’s). Inspired by the sports bike race leather suits, he established a new wetsuit brand called Breaker Out using these patterns in hopes of sharing this wonderful technology with the rest of the surfing community around the world (1982). In no time, they became the nation’s number one selling brand and started to expand worldwide by opening a factory in Huntington Beach, CA and Brazil in addition to establishing multiple distribution channels (late 1980’s - early 1990’s). In 1989 the brand AXXE was established in order to target core surfers. As our brand AXXE matured, we also noticed a growth of mature surfers as well a trend in “natural / life style surfers” who like to stay away from loud and colorful suits/logos, hence created our “mature” line AXXE CLASSIC in 2005.
Photo of AXXE factory courtesy of Max Houtzager / Terasu
Aleks: Please tell us a little about Hiratsuka Japan, what the surf and surf community is like there?
Kurosaka: Hiratsuka is in the Shonan area, which is known for their very long and deep surf culture / history. It is the beach area located in the middle of Sagami bay. There are many surfboard and wetsuits manufacturers in this area. Since the factories are about 10 minutes away from the beach, it is a great place to be able to test new wetsuits.
Aleks: Kurosaka please explain your big picture goals with AXXE wetsuits, how do you build them to balance performance, weight, warmth and durability, and what makes that build unique from other manufactures of wetsuits?
Kuroasaka: We have always catered to a wide variety of users due to our four seasons. From north to south, the temperature ranges from below 0 degree ice waters to summer temperatures that exceed 30 degrees celcius. In order to meet our customers needs/requests, we have had to research and create wetsuits that would be most functional in various seasons and temperatures. The key point is this. As we were researching and developing wetsuits for various customer needs, we ended up creating a wetsuit that would be functional for all types of season, weather, and temperature. This may be an original type of R&D but having four seasons has helped create this wetsuit. We continue to strive to make wetsuits that put the least stress on surfers while they surf. As mentioned before, stress / discomfort of wearing a wetsuit can be felt differently by each individual. Stress/discomfort caused by a wetsuit can be different from cold water surfers to warm water surfers, body structure and body size could also be a cause. There are a large number of people who feel stress/discomfort from paddling. So, long story short, our goal and passion is to reduce as much stress/discomfort by wearing AXXE.
Another view of the AXXE facility. Photo courtesy of Max Houtzager / Terasu
Aleks: Kurosaka how do you utilize input from your team in developing and evolving AXXE wetsuits?
Kurosaka: Mainly, we list up the basic R&D issues amongst ourselves, then we make sure to improve the errors made from the past year. It seems like a very basic and minimal thing to do but the secret to creating a wetsuit that you can feel safe wearing is only created with small consistent improvements. Since we do not mass produce, our strength is that we are able to address every mistake / error or an unsatisfied customer's request. We are dedicated to and never forget to listen to our customers feedback for future improvements.
Aleks: Thank you so much Kurosaka and Eric for your time and superior product!
Eric/ Kurosaka: Aleks, thank you for taking the time to interview us. It is a great honor!
Aleks: The honor is all mine, I am so stoked on my suit!
Constructing some of the sweetest wetsuits ever made at AXXE- take our word for it! Photo by Max Houtzager/Terasu