Shane Dorian’s inflatable wetsuit idea could be a major game changer in the world of big-wave surfing safety. Finally, the sport has an answer to disastrous surf wipeouts.
When a big-wave surfer has the misfortune of having thousands of pounds of water break over their head, the misfortune might have only just begun. That’s because the wave after the surf wipeout can push them deep below the water’s surface, sometimes so far that eardrums can be injured by the sudden increase in pressure. The roiling waters can hold down surfers for 2 minutes or longer. During that time, the powerful currents can disorient them. At this point, merely swimming to the surface is not the only difficulty – finding it is another.
Besides monstrous lungs, surfers will soon have one extra tool to help during otherwise fatal surfing wipeouts: the Billabong’s V1 inflatable wetsuit, designed by Shane Dorian. When the ripcord is pulled, the vest inflates and sends the surfer back up to the surface amidst the crashing waves. This kind of surf-survival gear is still rare, but as more and more surfers venture into big-wave breaks, like Jaws and Mavericks, and occasionally face surf wipeouts that batter them deep down below the surface, inflatable vests may take a more prominent role in helping them find the surface. Billabong is still developing the wetsuit, but you may be able to hit the waves wearing one of these in the near-future.