Living on the far north coast we are inundated with news concerning marine life including the issues of sharks and shark nets and shark bite.
Solving one of those problems is veteran surfer Haydon Burford who has developed a wetsuit fabric that prevents the razor-sharp teeth of sharks from puncturing human flesh.
The fabric has been validated by a scientific research report released today by Flinders University, South Australia. Burford, based at Lennox Head, has shared waves with some of the most famous names in ocean sports. He came up with the idea amid concerns about the increase in shark attacks in the region, and around the world, over the past two decades.
Surprising no one’s come up with a shark-proof wetsuit
‘Sitting around the kitchen table one night discussing the third death in a year from shark attacks in the Byron Bay area, my partner Liz said, it’s surprising no one’s come up with a shark-proof wetsuit.’
That set Mr Burford off on his own quest for a suitable material, long considered the holy grail of the sports diving and surfing industries.
He now holds a provisional patent for ‘SharkStop’, which combines materials used in military armour and additional features that will be very annoying for sharks.
He spent countless hours researching and testing with support from Andrew Fox, director of the world-renowned Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions.
This led to a research project funded by the NSW Government and carried out at South Australia’s Flinders University by Associate Professor Charlie Huveneers.
The fabric has been put through rigorous tests with great whites in their natural habitat near the seal colonies of the Neptune Islands off Port Lincoln, SA.
Research on bone-crushing grips
For those who say no amount of fabric can withstand the jaws of a great white, the research has found that the creatures are often dissuaded from a bone crushing grip if they cannot draw blood on their first approach.
‘Most shark deaths come from bleeding out, whereas bones can heal,’ said Mr Burford. ‘The research has been peer reviewed before today’s release and found that the fabric can withstand the brutal force of a shark bite while sustaining only minimal pinprick damage.’
The next crucial step is to fund the completion of a commercial product.
‘We believe the initial market would be the 70 million divers around world and we’re in discussions with a wide range of manufacturers,’ he said.
‘Rather than a suit made entirely from SharkStop, we envision it would be adapted into existing fabrics to protect crucial attack points. Apart from its strength, the fabric has other qualities which also help to discourage sharks.
‘We’d be happy to hear from anyone interested in being first to market with a true shark-proof wetsuit.’