OBEX Protective Surf Hood
Keeping surfers safe
How might we protect surfers without getting in the way of the activity?
Waves of consequence
Surfing embodies the draw towards nature, escaping into a flow state that connects you to the sea. In many ways, it is the antithesis of technology. But technology could have a dramatic impact on preventing injury and death that is prevalent in the sport. Studies have shown that surfing is more popular than ever, but with this comes a notable increase in head injuries (Dean, 2018).
Concussions can increase the risk of drowning due to the person’s confused, disoriented or unconscious state (Nathanson et al., 2002). Even a few seconds of unconsciousness can be fatal if there’s nobody around to rescue you. Several of our designers are keen surfers, so this problem is close to home. We wanted to find a solution that could help reduce surfer fatality without hindering surfers doing what they love—so we created OBEX to solve that problem.
Designing a protective surf hood
OBEX is a surf hood with integrated sensors that activate an inflatable bladder (heat-sealed nylon urethane). This bladder is discreetly stored within the collar of the hood. Two canisters of CO2 inflate the bladder. These are stored in a pocket between the shoulder blades. Both canisters are also connected to a separate pull tab located in the collar for manual activation if necessary. The impact sensors that sense an incident are sandwiched between the neoprene and thermal layers using flexible circuitry. Seconds count when in difficulty at sea. Following a high impact collision, OBEX will inflate to keep the surfer safe, as well as alert fellow surfers both in the water through haptic notifications, and on land via the OBEX app.
Soft goods are hard
Many companies have struggled to design compelling smart garments. Tech companies are too naïve when it comes to garment design, and the fashion industry struggles when it comes to hardware.
The formula for wearables to succeed lies in the unification of the hard and soft goods disciplines. In response to this, we have built a specialist team of design, engineering, UX, garment, and fabric expertise supported by advanced prototyping tools and facilities.
Even in activities like surfing, where people escape to nature, embedded technology can be a life-saving companion. A central challenge of this project, and with all wearables, is how to unify hard and soft goods disciplines.
Consequently, the success of our solution lies in the integration of design, engineering, UX, garment and fabric expertise, supported by advanced prototyping tools and facilities. Close collaboration between our design, engineering and apparel experts will continue to deliver smart garments that augment people's capabilities and well-being.