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Oct 22, 2019

Research leads the way for HUUB

Dean Jackson, owner of HUUB Design, talks to Mark Hayhurst about the brand’s history and to what the future holds

Wetsuit and apparel specialist HUUB’s goal is to appeal to both beginners and top athletes in the sport of triathlon.

That’s the aim of owner Dean Jackson who set up the business back in 2011 combining research, science and reality to come up with their wetsuits. Focusing wholly on the athlete and maximising performance and comfort, their wetsuits are worn by some of the biggest names in the sport. HUUB wetsuits, clothing, accessories and goggles are worn by sporting stars such as Rio 2016 medalists Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee, Richard Varga (fastest swimmer in ITU triathlon), Olympic Silver medalist Henri Schoeman, Paratriathletes Phil Hogg, Joe Townsend and Olympic Champion Jetze Plat. As well as possibly the greatest supported female athletes in triathlon - twice World Champion Helen Jenkins MBE, Yvonne Van Vlerken, Jess Learmonth, Sophie Coldwell, Georgia Taylor Brown, and Hannah Cockroft. Also, proudly supporting Professor Greg Whyte and the young inspirational Bailey Matthews.

Dean Jackson said: “I used to work for three other wetsuit companies, bicycle brands and running brands. I am one of the few in the industry that has worked in Swim, Bike and Run. And at 41 years old I lost my job at blueseventy, which is another triathlon company, and I thought now is the time to do it on my own.”

He found a small group of investors, in Nottingham, who backed him with £25,000 in 2011 and, with professor Huub Toussaint, who he named the business after, developed a fast wetsuit at the research centre in Eindhoven.

Dean said: “I’d spent six years as marketing and head of running for ASICS in the UK and it just occurred to me that in the same way that we all don’t run the same, we all don’t swim the same way.

“I discovered that 85 per cent of triathletes were not from a swim background. I did some work with Swim Smooth, who are a group of advisors on the freestyle swim stroke in triathlon, and they categorised this main swim group as Arnies, whose legs just sink. So we created the phrase ‘leg sinkers’.

“So we thought what if you reduce the buoyancy in the chest, give the upper body more freedom, make it thinner, more flexible but really stack the thighs and hips. That way you’re going to change the profile of the drag in the water because your hips are higher and more streamlined.

“We created our top suit, the Archimedes, but I used two buoyancies. So there was the buoyancy for the 15 per cent that were excellent swimmers and there was the buoyancy for the three – five, which stands for 3mm and 5mm, which was for the leg sinkers. So I had a statement product that was ideal for all the market which no-one else was doing and, in fact, I was appealing to the bigger side of the market while the other brands weren’t.”

Two of Britain’s most famous triathletes are the Brownlee brothers, Jonathan and Alistair, and Dean was extremely pleased to get them into HUUB suits.

Dean said: “I’d worked with their manager, Richard Downey, over the years because I used to be an agent in triathlon. I’d contacted him before the 2012 Olympics but they had already been signed up. After the Olympics he phoned me and told me to get my bid in and I was successful.”

HUUB’s success derives from the research they carry out. Originally the company carried out their research in Eindhoven, using the MAD ( Measurement of Active Drag) system which was invented by professor Huub. They then collaborated to develop their own system, with the help of Innovate UK, which has 17 force plates, and is one of the most advanced piece of technical swim measurement equipment in the world. It is now housed in their research facility in Majorca.

Dean said: “I wanted to own my research. To have the endorsements of athletes was invaluable, to have that endorsement alongside science puts us head and shoulders above any other brand. No other brand has access to the testing equipment we have and also the range of athletes.

“Our most popular product at the moment is a wetsuit called the Varman – which is a cross between the names of Richard Varga, who has more first out of the water in triathlons than anybody else, and Henri Schoeman, who is also the other most prolific first out of the water person in triathlon.”

And it’s not just wetsuits that HUUB are looking to make technical improvements with. Dean added: “We produce a premium range of goggles. We have an interchangeable lens goggle – so no matter what the light you can swap the lens out. We also have a goggle that is photochromic – so depending on the light condition the lens changes. And we’re really excited because our top end goggle, which looks amazing, is going to be able to have prescription lenses and that’s going to be available in December. So you will be able to have a prescription goggle that looks cool!

“Also we are going to be launching, hopefully before Christmas, a heated pant that you put on and use before competing, which can crossover into any sport, that can provide up to a nine per cent increase in performance.

“It’s born out of working with the Huub Wattbike cycling team. We engaged with the cycling team to give us a presence in cycling but more to endorse the aerodynamics of the tri suits. That’s led us into developing a whole cycling line.”

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