Stab Magazine | Scholars At MIT Are Developing Beaver Hair Wetsuits

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.”

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.


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

What Will Airs Look Like In 10 Years?

The final installment of our editorial exploration into the nuances of airborne surfing.

Dec 1, 2022


Can A South African Cavern Queen With No Pipeline Experience Do Well At The Vans Pipe Masters?

Sophie Bell will have a steep learning curve in Hawaii.

Nov 30, 2022

After Years Of Tragic Shark Attacks, Surf Competition Returns To Reunion Island — And A CT Event Could Follow

"We compete at J-Bay and Margarets where there's the same problem." -Johanne Defay

Nov 30, 2022


Sharing Tubes And Hummus In The Middle East’s Surfing Jewel: Israel

No Contest does Tel Aviv!

Nov 29, 2022


Joao Chianca Wants A Pipeline Rematch With JJF

And ain't afraid to ride more foam to do it in the Vans Pipe Masters.

Nov 29, 2022

An Unorthodox Marriage Of Science And Surf

Cliff Kapono and The Mega Lab are changing stereotypes on all fronts.

Nov 28, 2022


Harry Bryant Dumps Crutches, Visualizes Pipeline Pits After Snapping Leg

“For once in my life, I’m taking something a bit more serious."

Nov 27, 2022

What If You Bought This Sumatran Surf Camp For $690k?

Making a blue print out of surfing's most recurring day dream.

Nov 27, 2022

Sierra Kerr On Greasing Full Rotes, Making Dad Cry & Her Concussion @ VSHPBME 

'I haven’t got my license yet, but I'm thinking of buying a little truck.'

Nov 27, 2022


“There Definitely Needs To Be More Girls That Try Airs”

Caity Simmers' thoughts on her Vans Pipe Masters debut.

Nov 26, 2022

Preview: Who’s John John Florence Flushing Down The Haleiwa Toilet Bowl?

The final event of the CS schedule is almost upon us. Let's dissect.

Nov 25, 2022


Dane Reynolds Said These Clips Weren’t Good Enough

Could'a fooled us.

Nov 25, 2022

Watch Now: Kael Walsh, Rolo Montes, And Al Cleland Jr In ‘Saturn’

Quik’s new 20-minute surf film is so good you’ll want to burn a DVD of…

Nov 24, 2022


How A Magic Island Birthed One Of The Most Radical Surf And Skate Scenes In The World

Mateus Herdy, Pedro Barros and friends in Red Bull x Stab's No Contest, Brazil.

Nov 23, 2022

The Uber Driver Turned Crypto Millionaire Who Denounced His US Citizenship And Whips Into XXL Nazare

"I do what I want, I don't have a boss." -Toby Trouble

Nov 23, 2022


‘I Thought He Was Gonna Grab A Machete… Then He Picked Up A Rock’

2x SSOTY Jai Glindeman’s drama (& left-tube) filled Sumbawa trip.

Nov 23, 2022


“The Inside Of Pipeline Sounds Like The Center Of The Universe”

Tosh Tudor seeks solitude at the Vans Pipe Masters.

Nov 22, 2022

Is Rasta Rob Really Going To Ride His Beloved Stock Dims Rad Ripper At The Vans Pipe Masters?

An interview with the most rapidly ascended surfer in recent memory.

Nov 22, 2022