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Quiksilver's CO2-Powered Inflation Vest for Big-Wave Surfing: the Highline Airlift

Developed in collaboration with Peter Mel, Jamie Mitchell and dive company Aqua Lung

by David Graver
on 10 October 2017

A safety vest unlike any other, Quiksilver's Highline Airlift vest—developed in collaboration with Aqua Lung and big-wave surfers Peter Mel and Jamie Mitchell—represents years' worth of research and development. Very much resembling a wetsuit top or rash guard, the FN’lite neoprene (Quiksilver's proprietary material) vest carries slender carbon dioxide cartridges that, when inflated, pull the wearer back to the surface. It's dynamic enough to fit over a wetsuit, or can act as a stand-alone piece. Quiksilver wants to make clear, however: this is a safety tool for experienced, adult surfers and cannot replace skill, experience or preparation for big waves. That said, it certainly might lend a hand in saving the lives of tenured big-wave surfers hit with something unexpected.

The Highlight Airlift has been designed for quick response time and multiple options. In essence, it's a personal floatation device that acts similarly to an avalanche airbag. There are four inflation tabs across the chest, in places considered accessible under various conditions of duress. There's also a tool for oral inflation, just in case something doesn't deploy or if one needs to conserve the CO2. A deflation tab is situated well away from the inflation tabs, in an effort to prevent accidents or confusion. Torso straps lock everything into place.

Quiksilver's development team on the protoytpe, spearheaded by head of R&D Peyo Lizarazu, represented some of industry's best—and as surfers were present for extensive testing out in the field, there's more than credibility, there's reliability. Big-wave surfers Peter Mel and Jamie Mitchell as well as Mel Puu, a Hawaiian lifeguard and surf rescue legend, were present through research and developing. Rounding out the team was Aqua Lung’s head of R&D Eric Thorstenson. Between Aqua Lung's scuba expertise and credibility, Quiksilver's understanding of materials and the way the body moves and insight from people in the water, a next generation tool was born. Big-wave surfers can be confident with an added layer of protection—one that underwent years of testing.

The Quiksilver Highline Airlift vest will go on sale for $990 at select stores on 14 October, in the US (including Hawaii), Europe, and Australia.

Images courtesy of Quiksilver

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