We’re in the midst of “winter” here on the Gulf Coast. Nip-tastic temperatures are alive and poking.  The average spring/summer bikinis simply don’t bear enough skin-coverage to stay in the water for very long before hair-raising shivers of the extremities beckon you to scamper out and dry off on the warm, dry sand. But winter waterplay can be easily remedied with an extra layer to trap and insulate the wearer’s body heat with thermal protection. Enter a special kind of suit not worn in boardrooms, but, instead, on boards. We’re talking wetsuits. Zoom the satellite in locally, and you’ll find Vital Wetsuits. Founded locally by gulf coast gurfer (girl surfer), Keera Belviy left her long-time, relentless career as a hairstylist in 2019 to create Vital. “I wanted to break free to serve a greater purpose/mission that better aligned with my personal aspirations,” Belviy shares. 

Ethical fashion, flattering silhouettes and sport functionality are key components in the Signature Recycled Bikini Top Terrazzo Sun and Signature Eco Wetsuit Leggings


Always struggling to find proper fitting surf attire, and not keen on having to buy mens’ wetsuits that did not account for curves and lack of broad shoulders, her 6-ft stature was determined to be that change for the surf industry. “Being a tall, full-figured woman myself, I was inspired to design wetsuits and swimwear that complemented my frame,” says Belviy. “I knew I couldn’t be the only one that had an issue finding proper fitting water apparel. I find it truly essential in this day in age that there be a surf brand showcasing all waterwomen in their truest form.” Launched this past June, Vital’s collection caters to women of all shapes, sizes and body types, and is specifically designed—while keeping the planet in mind—for the temperatures of the Gulf. 

Photo courtesy of @VitalWetsuits, vitalwetsuits.com


On top of being a body positive brand, Vital Wetsuits remains mindful of its environmental impact and carbon footprint—shipping all over North America without plastic packaging. “Starting local, we did a basic Google search of  ‘surf manufacturers’, which led us to a rashguard manufacturer here in Florida,” she says. “We politely asked them a few questions and they got us in touch with a proprietary wetsuit patternmaker out in California. We hired them to make a pattern of our now Signature Wetsuit Legging I could only have dreamed of, and they kindly got us in touch with their overseas manufacturer. They were no doubt our impetus to success with overseas manufacturing.” Vital locked in a manufacturer that agreed to use Belviy’s preferred and eco-friendly textile she had in mind: Yulex, a  FSC-certified renewable material made from rubber trees, and a stretchy alternative to the widely-used Neoprene (traditional limestone Neoprene uses 23 times more kilowatts to manufacture). “Unbeknownst to us, they already have a partnership with Yulex, and therefore, we did not have to ‘supply’ this sustainable material for them,” she says. However, due to recent supply and demand chain delays overseas, Belviy has since had to find another, more readily-available material that is as sustainable and durable as Yulex, which has become “unsecurable” at this time. With winter fast approaching, Belviy and her team quickly discovered another amazing neoprene alternative made from seashells. The mermaid-bearing textile is called Bioprene. “We know the fishing industry creates a ton of shell by-product waste that can be recycled into greater things,” she says, “so we are having black wetsuit tops made from this new material, and should have new swimwear merchandise as well for the summer months ahead!”

Beyond the 2mm-thick material that ultimately keeps the bumps at bay, Vital’s environmental stewardship can be seen in the inner lining, which is made entirely from recycled polyester and laminated with solvent free, water-based glue. Belviy and her team even influenced her overseas manufacturers and suppliers to use as little plastic as possible. “Fortunately, we were able to reduce a ton of plastic waste by requesting our merchandise be grouped together in larger amounts, instead of individually wrapped,” she explains. “Even when we ship our merchandise out to our customers we use no plastic packaging, just paper. And the tape we use is cellulose-based and biodegradable.” As eco-minded as Vital’s collection is from start-to-finish, it doesn’t hurt that it’s just as functional and fashionable, too. The simple yet stylish black designs—equipped with handy key pockets and that barrier of blubber-like thermal protection—Vital proves its vitality for winter wardrobe essentials and womanly water adventures. Whether paddleboarding, wakeboarding, diving or surfing, when that next cold snap of the season hits and water temps dip below 70°F, you won’t ever have to complain again that your ankles are too cold to hang in for another hour of submerged sporting.