Writer, Surfer

The Inertia

Isn’t it ironic that the further we evolve away from breathing, bleeding mammals, the more we realize that some of the answers we’re looking for are hiding in plain sight in the natural world? So it goes with the humble wetsuit, apparently.

Researchers at MIT are developing bioinspired materials that they believe could be a game-changer in wetsuit design. Taking their lead from semi-aquatic mammals such as beavers and otters, the engineers at MIT have manufactured “fur-like, rubbery pelts” in order to discover how these animals stay warm whilst moving in and out of water.

Apparently the scientists were inspired by a visit to surfing’s favorite Taiwanese wetsuit sweat shop Sheico Group, who churn out neoprene on behalf of several major surf brands including Billabong, Quiksilver, O’Neill, Xcel and naughty, naughty Rip Curl, those slave-drivers!

The results of the research, detailing how some mammals stay warm in cold water without a thick layer of blubber to insulate them, have been published in what sounds like the world’s dullest journal, Physical Review Fluids. One doesn’t hold much hope for a journal which can’t come up with a grammatically correct title.

It’s all very science-y so I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say that in the future hairy wetsuits might keep us all warmer, and whether you’re the sort of chap who is fond of a furry rug; or prefers his playing field shorn, I’m sure this is good news.

Anette Hosoi, an engineering professor at MIT and one of the leading researchers on the project says: “Surfers, who go in and out of the water, want to be nimble and shed water as quickly as possible when out of the water, but retain the thermal management properties to stay warm when they are submerged.” And isn’t she just spot on, in a very precise, technical sort of way. We do like to be warm, and don’t we just lust after nimble!

Perhaps you admire animals and perhaps you do not. Maybe you spit in the face of PETA as if she were a filthy Czech supermodel; or maybe you love her and hug her and think David Rastovich is a hairy cetacean hero. Perhaps you think that sheep are wooly fuckwits; or perhaps you gaze at them with green envy when your stupid synthetic Gore-Tex is leaking again.

Whatever your flavor, I’m sure you are a fan of warmth and nimbleness. Even if you do prefer your beaver tail suit made from actual beaver, still with chunks of hair and blood and arse meat attached, I think you will agree that it’s not practical. Thankfully science has the solution. Because science is great, and science knows that surfing is also great.


Only the best. We promise.


Join our community of contributors.