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No Zippers, but it worked!
No zippers, but it worked!

 That's a weird vest...

The JL Turtleshell.  Hard back, soft belly.  One of my favorite creations, this one sprung from my background in cycling.  And I do mean background.  Years ago, when we wore wool shorts and flappy jackets on road bikes (even before mountain bikes were invented!), I used to stuff newspaper in the front of my tee shirts to keep the wind from cutting right through me.  Then I graduated to a piece of a chamois (again, history--the actual leather ones) safety-pinned to my front--OK, geeky, but it worked.
Now back to the boat.  Rowers go backwards in the cold.  I hated feeling completely warmed up in my full jacket, then being sweaty and chilled when I pulled it off to carry on my workout.  Some sort of vest offered the perfect solution--protection for the back while letting heat escape would allow me to leave the garment on! Testing and refitting took over a year, with world-class athletes and local training partners providing input.  Ollld logo
Husband Ken as always, was there to tone down the geek factor.  I fought tooth and nail for the tight fit and the high front, for of course, when I sit in the boat I don't need my  clothing to bunch high at my waist and get in the way.  This is a sticking point--to this day I still have to tell people to sit on the ground when trying on the Turtle, at "full compression" to feel how perfect it will be in the boat.  What we now call the "Purist" is not made for wearing when walking around. 

For a year I went without zippers for two reasons: firstly to keep the price down and, secondly I hate any rasping of a zipper under my chin as my  head moves forward and back (on a perfect plane of course) during the stroke.  As a result, the first version had a deep v-neck, and the current Purist uses a low "sculler's neck".  Finally, as a concession to squirming in and out of the snug Turtle, we added the "easy access" side zipper. 
When we added zippers I put out the word for a free retrofit, offering to put them in the neck and along the side.  Most people took us up on the deal, though they were loath to give them up for even the short time it took to make the change.  These original turtles were sold in the mid-nineties.  I saw one recently on a master rower in Philadelphia--he was still doing it sans zipper, wiggle style!

Joline, the prez

Retro advertising

Ad as it appeared in the USRowing News, mid 90s

Super Warm Turtle
Recipe for a Super Warm Turtle!

Back: Hytrel
Lining: Polarfleece