South Australian inventor and veteran surfer Haydon Burford 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. The full report is available at: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0224432
Mr Burford, now based at Lennox Head on the NSW North Coast, 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.
“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 community.
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 said.
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.
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,” Mr Burford said.
“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 for Mr Burford 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," Mr Burford 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.”
For more information, video from the tests with sharks, images and interviews, please contact:
Haydon Burford – [email protected]
Photograph: Inventor Haydon Burford with partner Liz Strang at Sun Dive in Byron Bay, NSW.