Shark-Proof Surfboards and Wetsuits Have Arrived

Here is a stat you may prefer to avoid – surfers are at the highest risk of shark attacks. Last year in Australia 63% of shark attack victims were surfers.With the Western Australian coastline facing the highest number of fatal shark attacks worldwide, eight in the past five years, new measures have been implemented to combat the rising fatalities.

One controversial solution was the 2014 WA ‘shark cull’. From the beginning of summer 2014 to April 2014, a total of 172 sharks had reportedly been captured and shot. WA surfers and scientists have joined forces to explore a more humane solution. A collaboration between the Oceans Institute at the University of Western Australia and surfer-entrepreneurs Craig Anderson and Hamish Jolly from Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (SAMS), has led to a ‘shark friendly’ answer- a shark deterring wetsuit.

They do not zap the sharks if they approach you, nor are they iron-cast. But instead the wetsuit’s design takes advantage of shark’s poor black and white eyesight.

Professor Shaun Collin and Professor Nathan Hart at the Oceans Institute at UWA have found from extensive, ongoing research that particular colours, patterns and shapes underwater are unrecognisable to sharks’ eyesight.

  Shark-Proof Surfboards and Wetsuits  

Research suggests the shark’s visual system is the most important factor in a shark attack. According to SAMS “By disrupting the sharks visual perception, an attack can either be diverted altogether, or at least delayed allowing time for evasive action.”

This disruption of shark’s visual system has been created with the innovative SAMS Warning™ pattern for surfing and the SAMS Cryptic™ pattern for diving. The SAMS patterns create a shark ‘optical illusion’ of sorts, leading the shark to believe that the wetsuit is not a form of shark prey – and therefore unappetising and potentially dangerous.

The innovative wetsuit designs have been created with the SAMS Warning™ pattern. The surfing wetsuit resembles the colouration on the species of striped pilotfish that congregate around sharks. The striped pilotfish spend their lives devouring the remains of shark’s prey and rarely are eaten by sharks. Research suggests this could be a result of their black and white banded colouration that plays on shark’s poor eyesight.

When surfing, the board also needs to be ‘ca mouflaged’. SAMS have developed board decal in the Warning™ print, which is used as a sticker for the bottom of your board, to prevent you from being chomped. The combination of the both the wetsuit and the board sticker creates a floating shark optical illusion.

With the SAMS products currently available on the international market here, there is now an ethical answer to preventing shark attacks.  
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