Earlier this week Billabong unveiled an innovative survival wetsuit. Complete with a self-inflating bladder, it's a pretty bold new step forward in surfwear. The idea is the brainchild of Shane Dorian -- one of the best big wave surfer in the world -- who almost drowned under a turbulent swell at the Maverick's, a notorious cold-water break near San Francisco. Billabong's new wetsuit works in a similar fashion to the airbags used backcountry skiing avalanche survival backpacks; a surfer in troubled waters pulls a ripcord, causing a flotation bladder in the suit to immediately inflate. The suit then acts as a life vest and quickly pulls the surfer to safety at the surface of the water. So... How did this fancy new device work for Dorian?
via a Billabong press release:
The most public demonstration of the Billabong V1 suit occurred on March 15 of this year when Dorian and a small group of top big wave surfers paddled into record-breaking waves at Jaws on the island of Maui in Hawaii. Formerly considered a spot so difficult to ride that a jet ski tow-in assist was necessary, Dorian caught an amazing 57-foot wave on that day, winning both the Monster Paddle and Monster Tube categories of the 2011 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards. When Dorian pulled into the biggest tube of all time and failed to come out, he was pounded by the wave and driven deep underwater, where he deployed the Billabong V1 inflation mechanism. He rocketed to the surface and climbed back onto his surfboard, paddling off to the channel with a conspicuous hump on his back, clearly visible to the numerous photographers on hand.
Here's a nifty demo video of the survival wetsuit.