|Billabong Inflatable Wetsuit|
Generally wetsuits do provide some additional flotation but they are far far away from being considered a flotation device. If you are using a wetsuit and going in the water you better know how to swim - don't rely on your wetsuit. That was until Shane Dorian and Billabong came up with an inflatable wetsuit. Of course this wetsuit is not intended for people that can not swim - it is a last resort rescue for big wave surfers.
Big wave surfers surf waves higher than houses. Much higher. 40, 50, 60ft and more. Recently a world record for the biggest wave ever ridden was set in Nazare, Portugal and the wave was estimated to be 90ft high! When you get caught by a wave like that you get pushed really hard and really deep underwater. It isn't unusual to be held down by two consecutive waves meaning that you can not reach the surface after the first one when the second one gets a hold of you. These hold downs can be long and measured in minutes! Surfers prepare for this by training hard and controlling their heartbeat, meditating, keeping calm and preserving oxygen. Still - it is a dangerous sport. This is especially true for paddle in surfing. Surfers that are towed into waves by jetskis wear life jackets. But these are to clumsy to be able to paddle in them so paddle in surfers don't use them. They are actually in more danger surfing a little smaller waves that tow in surfers are surfing bigger ones.
Shane Dorian experienced the worst wipeout of his life at Maverick. The wave engulfed him, pinned him under, and held him there. Still underwater, the next wave rolled over him and slammed him some more. He nearly drowned. But after that wipeout he got an idea that could make big wave surfing safer - an inflatable wetsuit that would have an inflatable bladder atached to the back that could be inflated in the case of emergency. Similar to the life jacket on the airplane. Shane Dorian contacted Billabong and they started to develop the idea. Here is what he had to say about this:
How does Billabong inflatable wetsuit work?
The wetsuit has a pouch on the back that closes with a zipper. Inside this pouch there is an inflatable bladder that is connected to a carbon-dioxide cartridge. You activate the CO2 by pulling on a cord that hangs over surfers shoulder. Bladder immediately fills up and helps the surfer reach surface. Deflated, the bladder looks like a small lump on the back of the wetsuit. Blown up, it's about the size of a surfer's head. Cartridges can be used once but can be easily replaced.
At this time the Billabong inflatable wetsuit is in testing phase and a few of the big waves surfers have it. It is not sure if and when it will become generally available.