Tag Archives: Surfing

SAMS’ new anti-shark wetsuits are good for surfers, bad for Jaws

SAMS'  award winning black banded wetsuit design
SAMS’ award winning black banded wetsuit design

Perth in Western Australia has enough sharks to give most surfers pause. In the past three years alone, the area’s coastline saw six human deaths from shark attacks — the highest incidence in the world. So a local company thought it would do something about it. Their solution? A new breed of anti-shark wetsuits that keep big jaws from chomping.

Based in Perth, Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (or SAMS for short) was founded when Hamish Jolly and Craig Anderson approached some of the experts at the University of Western Australia’s (UWA) Oceans Institute with an idea they’d been mulling over for wetsuits that would act either as camouflage or as a warning when sharks approached.

The first of these two revolutionary suits is a black and white striped style designed for surfers and intended to give sharks a warning that says “I’m not food, so stay away.” Dubbed the “Diverter,” it’s made for murkier water and takes its design cues from animal biology. As Hamish and Jolly noted, pilot fish, which spend much of their lives around sharks (usually without getting eaten) have obvious black and white stripes.

Pilot fish's black and white bands tells sharks "don't eat me!"
Pilot fish’s black and white bands tells sharks “don’t eat me!”

Meanwhile, humans have long been using the pilot fish’s technique, with some Pacific Island tribes traditionally painting themselves with black and white bands to ward off sharks. More recently, marine biologist Dr Walter Starck and environmentalist Dr Harry Butler have been advocating black banding on wetsuits as a shark deterrent.

The second of the SAMS suits, a blue style designed for divers called the “Eluder,” works as a “cryptic” wetsuit to hide the wearer rather than make them look threatening.

The idea itself is so nifty that SAMS wetsuits, while still not on the market, have already won the prestigious 2014 ISPO award for best new sportswear product. Oh, and did we mention the wetsuit patterns themselves were created by famous surf designer Ray Smith?

SAMS' "Diverter" wetsuit (left) and "Eluder" wetsuit (right)
SAMS’ “Diverter” wetsuit (left) and “Eluder” wetsuit (right)

That all sounds real nice, you may be thinking, but how do the SAMS suits stand up against sharks in real life? So far so good, actually. In tests where a container of shark bait was covered with the same material used in either wetsuit, sharks spotted but kept away from bait covered in the banded “Diverter” pattern, and could smell but not find the container covered in the blue “Eluder” motif. On top of the experiment results, the concept for either pattern is also backed up by tons of research conducted at UWA, which included using complex computer modelling to figure out exactly how shark eyes see.

The SAMS suits aren’t available quite yet, though the company has just signed its first licensing agreement with a manufacturer, so you should be able to get your hands on your own anti-shark wetsuit soon. Jaws won’t be happy about that, but surfers and divers will.

Kama the surfing pig: he’s so hot right now

Move over Kardashians, the world has a new celebrity whose name starts with a K, and he’s way more athletic, loveable, and (let’s face it) useful than any of you will ever be. So it’s not really all that important that he’s not actually human.

Kama the surfing pig with a nose full of sand
Kama the surfing pig with a nose full of sand

Meet Kama, the surfing pig. Or maybe you already have, since he’s already a huge star. Born in Bellows Beach, Hawaii, Kama started surfing when he was just a piglet. But he’s come a long way since then, getting the attention of local and national media, along with his own Instagram account. He’s even scored sponsorship deals that have netted him free surfboards, clothes, and a GoPro, while, this year, his likeness made it onto the 2014 Honolulu Film Festival poster.

As with the best origin stories, Kama’s is a zero to hero tale. Kama first met his guardian, Kai Holt, when he wandered onto Holt’s campsite in late 2013. Holt soon figured out that the piglet was an orphan and decided to keep him, naming him Kamapua’a (Kama for short) after the hog-man fertility god of Hawaiian mythology.

Kama on the poster for the 2014 Honolulu Surf Film Festival
Kama on the poster for the 2014 Honolulu Surf Film Festival

Not long after, back at home, Kama fell into Holt’s swimming pool. Though Holt was surprised that pigs could even swim, it turned out that Kama took to the water like a fish. And, when Holt headed down to the beach with Kama and a stand up paddle board, Kama tackled the waves like a pro.

These days, Kama’s managing bigger waves than any other pig has done; a Hawaii News Now story cites a surfing pig in new Zealand, but says he’s only riding ankle slappers. Kama, on the other hand, is no stranger to bigger surf and the wipeouts that come with it, which he just shrugs off like any old pro.

Kama surfing on an SUP with guardian Kai Holt
Kama surfing on an SUP with guardian Kai Holt
Kama on a chopper looking like a rock star
Kama on a chopper looking like a rock star

Even with all the recent attention, though, Kama’s managed to stay humble. He still leads a quiet life with the other animals on Holt’s farm, and keeps his bonds of friendship with Holt strong, following him everywhere. Kama also keeps his diet clean and vegetarian, so he won’t get too heavy for a board. And aside from surfing, he doesn’t put on any human airs.

Kama living the good surf life
Kama living the good surf life

In the end, Kama’s just a simple pig who likes to surf, and that’s what people love about him. “You know surfing is Hawaii’s gift to the world. It’s like true happiness,” Holt says. “That’s what this guy does. Everywhere he goes he just makes people smile and laugh. He just brings joy to the world.

Check out Kama the surfing pig on Instagram here, or on Facebook here.

Surf Texas: waiting for waves in the Lone Star State

Not everything’s bigger in Texas. When it comes to the Lone Star State’s surf scene, Texans just have to make do with something a little more modest than what you’d find in surf meccas like Hawaii or California. Even the waves themselves are on the small side most of the time. But as Surf Texas, a new photography book from Kenny Braun shows us, size isn’t everything.

Book cover for Kenny Braun's Surf Texas
Book cover for Kenny Braun’s Surf Texas

Published this year with a foreword by Texas-based writer Stephen Harrigan, Surf Texas is a cool and stark new photo essay that looks at what it’s like to be a surfer in Texas. Spoilers: it’s not super easy.

Sure, the state lays claim to a pretty sizeable stretch of the Gulf Coast, with its coastline spanning from Galveston to South Padre. And, yeah, its shores do sometimes serve up some beautiful surf, but that’s by no means a given. Finding a good wave is a slow, unsure business, and as a result, Texas’ surfers have to be patient, devoted, and a little used to disappointment.

Photo from Kenny braun's Surf Texas
Photo from Kenny braun’s Surf Texas
Photo From Kenny Braun's Surf Texas
Photo From Kenny Braun’s Surf Texas

That quiet, downbeat, vibe is all over Braun’s Surf Texas, with what Harrigan describes in the foreword as “something altogether different, a somewhat journalistic black and white chronicle that presents surfing not as high adventure but as dogged pursuit.”

Here, you get lonely landscapes and shots of hauntingly calm, glassy water that’s dark as ink at night. That’s not to say that Braun’s photos can’t also be beautiful, or that they don’t capture the bursts of energy that must come with catching the kind of great surf that’s more elusive in Texas.

Photo from Kenny Braun's Surf Texas
Photo from Kenny Braun’s Surf Texas

But, with Surf Texas, you do get the feeling of something harder, slower, and sometimes even a little sad — a totally different side to the pursuit of surfing, but one that’s definitely worth checking out.

To check out Kenny Braun, visit his website here, and for a copy of Surf Texas, get it online via the University of Texas Press here.