Fresh off their announcement of the world's first plant based renewable wetsuit, Patagonia shared details of their new inflatable wetsuit at the Big Wave Risk Assessment Summit last week. Following in Billabong's footsteps, the Patagonia inflatable wetsuit could be a lifesaver for surfers who find themselves pinned under multiples waves after a wipeout.
Advancing the sport of big wave surfing can bring with it disastrous consequences. To enable athletes to push themselves further into the un-ridden, surf companies are innovating ways to help mitigate risks, with inflatable wetsuits offering a credible solution.
Life jackets are too cumbersome for surfers who paddle out to the big waves on their own without jet ski support. These 50-60 foot waves barrel toward shore with tremendous force, leaving up to five feet of foam when they crash, making it incredibly difficult for wiped-out surfers to get to the surface using their own power before another wave crashes on top of them.
Patagonia's R&D lab, better known as The Forge, worked with Patagonia ambassador and big-wave surfer Kohl Christensen to create a product featuring three critical attributes: multiple pulls, dump valve, and a versatile low profile. After countless prototypes, the team settled on a vest design that can support four inflations, be worn under a variety of wetsuits (short johns, springs suits, and full suits), features an air release valve, achieves face-up orientation in flat water testing, and allows the surfer to paddle and swim when fully inflated.
Patagonia is working with top big wave surfers to test the vest this winter. The inflatable wetsuit is still a prototype and not available to consumers just yet.