To understand why so many people are drawn to deadly creatures of the deep, look to the quote by the sociobiologist E.O. Wilson: “We are not afraid of predators, we’re transfixed by them … We love our monsters.”
The best example of this paradox: Even as shark attacks have spiked off the coast of the Carolinas this year, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week kicked off this weekend with the most programming hours in its history. People should be at least a little afraid of sharks, it seems, yet they can’t get enough of them.
Perhaps that explains why surfers brave shark-infested waters again and again in search of the perfect wave—and suffer some of the most gruesome shark attacks as a result. After hearing about a rash of shark attacks—five of them fatal—in Western Australia a few years ago, the kitesurfer and entrepreneur Hamish Jolly began exploring ways to protect ocean-sport enthusiasts without forcing them to get out of the water.
In a 2013 TedxPerth talk, Jolly presented the results of his research: a series of striped wetsuits that aim to confuse and deter sharks, leaving the surfer within the suit (hopefully) unharmed.
Together with the University of Western Australia neurobiologist Nathan Hart and the industrial designer Ray Smith, Jolly found that a suit with a dark panel and striped arms and legs would be best for surfers, since near the surface of the water, “being backlit and providing a silhouette is problematic,” he says. The design also makes the surfer look like a lionfish or sea eel, which sharks usually don’t eat. For SCUBA diving, Jolly’s team crafted a blue wetsuit that aims to hide the diver within the water.