Behind the Scenes at XCEL Dive Wetsuits
We got to interview Robert Hyland, the National Sales Manager for XCEL Dive wetsuits in this latest Brand Manager series. XCEL is primarily a consumer dive brand, but the suits are so good that even our US Special Forces (or, also known as SPEC OPS) ask for it. Which is pretty cool. Read on to find out what he has to say about the brand and why these diving wetsuits are a big deal.
What is your role with XCEL Dive Wetsuits?
I currently oversee the sales relationship with XCEL dive accounts for most of the U.S. as well as maintain the relationships with all of our marine safety and municipal accounts. In addition to my sales relationship, I have served as a consultant with the XCEL R&D team to help design suits like our two-piece free dive suit and the 9/7/6mm Polar Thermo Flex.
Tell us a little about your background and how that helps with your current role in the Dive business.
I was first certified as Open Water NAUI Diver in 1975 and became a NAUI SCUBA instructor in 1988. Over the course of my employment as a professional lifeguard, I was assigned as the primary dive coordinator for the City of Huntington Beach Marine Safety from 1980 to 2010 when I retired. My primary function was body or evidence recovery along with search and rescue as required. In addition to my lifeguard responsibilities, I was employed as a commercial oilfield diver from 1985 to 1997 for the Shell Oil company and others performing safety inspections on almost anything submerged.
Wow, that was quite a workload during that time. Did you develop any kind of specialty?
I did. My specialty was multiple point moorings working around and below 900’ oil tanker ships. I averaged about 40 dives per year with the oil companies. All told I was diving well over 150 times a year either professionally or recreational.
So did you transition into sales and design after you retired?
Actually I started consulting with Victory wetsuits on their dive suits and accessories back in 1986. Together with Victory, I was able to help develop a variety of suits that best fit the needs of the many marine safety and maintenance teams in the area. I joined the XCEL team in 1999 when the current president of XCEL, Greg Wade, moved over from Victory and together as we did before, we expanded the XCEL Dive line to include a number of the suits, boots, gloves, and accessories that comprise the line currently.
In your own words, how does Thermo Dry Celliant affect your dive experience?
Warmth and endurance. TDC is an active vasodilator which means while wearing the suit, my body is more efficiently circulating oxygen rich blood to all of my extremities at a clinically higher rate than simple compression. I stay warmer longer, and experience much less fatigue on longer dives and also while surfing in my TDC surf wetsuits. TDC has even been approved as a “medical device and general wellness product.” What is TDC? Thermo Dry Celliant is a material made with Smart Fiber Technology (mineral-enhanced smart fibers) that recycles and turns your body heat into a renewable source of warmth that increases and improves circulation for better endurance and a faster recovery.
Where do you do most of your diving?
I’ve got a few secret spots locally in So Cal whenever I need sea scallops or for spiny lobster season, but my annual trip to Tavarua, Fiji with my wife Linda is probably what I look forward to the most.
Do special force divers ask for XCEL by name? If so, why is that? Why do they trust the XCEL name?
They do ask for us. I think the attention to detail, and quality fit is how we stand out. Our design team in Haleiwa, HI has so much experience building the perfect fit, they know that when they get their new suit, it’s going to perform when it matters most.
What’s in the pipeline for XCEL Wetsuits in the Dive world?
We are continually working to improve upon our innovative product mix which makes XCEL unique. We are currently testing a new material called “Radiant Rebound” for recreational and military purposes. This is looking promising to add to our line up. It consists of an aluminum plating underneath the textile that is laminated to the neoprene. This innovation won’t allow the bodies heat to escape, and refracts it back into the body naturally. Early Flir imagery is promising, so stay tuned.
What makes XCEL Wetsuits stand out in the dive world?
XCEL is a wetsuit company. While we do produce a wide range of product, our primary function is designing the best, most high performance wetsuits available. We have a sizable presence in the surf wetsuit market and I think the flexibility and performance required to be relevant in that sport has a profound impact on our designs for dive.