Excerpts from James Sullivan's story in USA Today follow.
"This spring Hawaiian big-wave surfer Shane Dorian set a world record by paddling into a 57-foot wave off Maui. For the record, he wore a new inflatable wetsuit built by Billabong.
Surfers are calling the suit's development a game-changer because it provides an element of safety. Though Billabong has no immediate plans to offer the patent-pending technology to the broader market, the suit will be available to some big-wave surfers.
Dubbed the Billabong V1 — referencing its ability to bring a surfer vertically 1 foot above the surface — the suit has a back-mounted air bladder and a carbon-dioxide cartridge that inflates with a ripcord.
The suit's inspiration came to Dorian after a scary incident last year. "I took off on the wrong wave and had a horrible wipeout," he said. "I almost drowned."
After the close call, Dorian outlined his idea to sponsor Billabong, which set out to construct a prototype.
After successful calm-water tests, Dorian brought the suit to the Cortés Bank — an open-ocean surf break 100 miles off the coast of Southern California.
"I paddled into a really big wave and had a bad wipeout, got pushed under, and I thought, 'This is the perfect time to test this thing,'" Dorian said. "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."
By Ben on Thu Jun 9 2011
By Ben on Thu Jun 9 2011
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