Straight from the coconut wireless…
According to an article on Transworld Surf Magazine’s website titled The Wetsuit That Will Forever Change Big Wave Surfing, big wave surfer Shane Dorian partnered with Billabong Wetsuits and the Mustang Survival Corporation to create the Billabong V1 wetsuit—the first surfing wetsuit to feature a built-in “instantly inflatable air bladder.”
Shane Dorian using his Billabong V1 inflatable wetsuit.
Shane Dorian stated in the article that it was after his horrid wipeout at Mavericks in February 2010 that he first thought of the idea of creating a wetsuit with a built-in flotation device. “I took off on the wrong wave and had a horrible wipeout,” recalled Dorian. “The wipeout was terrible, I got held under for two waves, I almost drowned. After that I had an idea to incorporate an air bladder, something like the airplane vests where you pull the tab and it inflates immediately with a CO2 cartridge.”
Dorian then e-mailed Hub Hubbard–the wetsuit product manager at Billabong USA–concerning his idea and they quickly began working on a prototype.
During the initial research phase, Hubbard reached out to the Mustang Survival Corporation, a well-known manufacturer of dry-suits and other flotation devices, to create a specialized type of polyurethane bladder for new Billabong suit (the company had created similar bladders for the US Military).
Once they had a working prototype, Dorian immediately began to field-test it in the surf.
“The first time I used it was at Cortes Bank this winter, 100 miles off the Southern California coast,” recalled Dorian. “The waves were super big and I paddled into a really big wave and had a bad wipeout, got pushed under super far and I thought ‘this is the perfect time to test this thing.’ I pulled my cord and I went from nearly panicking to being totally relaxed. I didn’t swim, I just let the thing bring me up.”
So, what does this mean for the big-wave community? Some see it as a wonderful boon; a flotation device like the V1 could honestly save the lives of many big wave surfers. However, others feel that Billabong might try and market the wetsuit to normal surfers, potentially causing kooks of all ages to feel mistakenly invincible in all too crowded line-ups around the world.
What do I think of it? Well, to be honest, I’m not quite sure. A V1 probably wont be cheap, so your average kook wont be buying one anytime soon, and the suit could really save lives. But who knows what the future has in store for the surfing community? Surfing has become more and more safety oriented over the years, and many old school surfers are concerned that the average surfer is losing his “edge” for commingling with danger (i.e. drowning, being eaten alive, or being decapitated by a runaway SUP). Lifejackets for big wave surfers are one thing, but if this product becomes available for everyone, it might not be for the best.