Stab Magazine | Scholars At MIT Are Developing Beaver Hair Wetsuits
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Scholars At MIT Are Developing Beaver Hair Wetsuits

Yep, the same folks that invented the internet. 

news // Oct 11, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Churchill swim fins, the Greenough flex fin, surfers have been ripping off the the animal kingdom for decades. In technical parlance, it’s known as “biomimicry.” Whatever you call it, today, things are getting weird.

Topping the list is the beaver-inspired wetsuit. Engineers at MIT—the same group that invented fax machines and a little old thing called the World Wide Web—are developing what they call “fur-like rubbery pelts.”

“The research was initially motivated by a visit to a company that manufactures wetsuits. The company was interested in developing materials that would keep surfers warm and nimble while they moved in and out of the water,” explains a statement from MIT.

“Our first thought was to take inspiration from biological systems, and we started by looking at animals that are small and agile but have to survive in arctic environments and spend part of their time in the water and part of their time on land,” says Anette Hosoi, a professor of mechanical engineering and associate head of the department at MIT.

So they took note of fury aquatic mammals such as beavers, sea otters and Martin Potter—critters that are relatively small in size, don’t carry large amounts of blubber or body fat, are constantly in and out of the water, and covered in hair.

“Wetsuits are now made of thick neoprene rubber, but what if we used a lot more lightweight material, something with a hairier texture?” ponders MIT graduate student Alice Nasto.

She had us at hairer texture. The goal is to eventually make a lighter, more dynamic wetsuit out of some sci-fi, 21st Century materials and relegate stretch rubber to the annals of history, but we may have to wait a little longer before we see Alana Blanchard go searching in her own signature, beaver-inspired suit.

alana blanchard ripcurl bombshell wetsuit for surfing e1414106739144

Something that’s already hitting the water is Randy Richenberg’s “biofins.” Based in Florida, Richenberg’s concept is a surfboard fin that replicates the movements found in open-ocean fish like large tuna. They bend and flex in, out and through turns, in theory providing more response and drive. They’re also supposedly 30 percent lighter. The designs have captured the imagination of a certain 11-time world champ. Kelly was using the fins on the Gold Coast earlier this year and even chucked a set in that all-black Webber he rode in the comp at Snapper. Over the summer, Kelly, the consummate fin geek, was hanging in the Sunshine State and spent some time on the beach talking evolution with Richenberg.

“Recently I was fortunate to have a conversation with Kelly Slater that covered a broad range of subjects related to surfboard design, biomimicry, fin design, composites, channels, George Greenough, etc,” said Richenberg. “It was very interesting discussing his interest in such a broad range of topics. A very unique and knowledgeable individual confirming my belief that if you have an open mind volumes of knowledge will pour in. Thanks for the inspiring conversation and surfing my biofin-design fins.”

https://www.youtube.com/embed/UXSZjnfJRZA

And of course we’d be remise is we didn’t mention San Clemente shaper Cole Simler, purveyor of the “bat tail.” A sexy little tail job that kind of looks like the Batman logo, only Neptune knows what it does—but it’s fun, and that’s what all of this is about anyway.

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