I have no idea how many surfers get swallowed up by big waves and drown, but apparently it’s becoming a growing problem. Such a big problem that Patagonia has dropped what is presumably some serious coin on developing the PSI, the Portable Self-Inflation Vest.
As you probably know, any serious surfer doesn’t wear a life vest. They’re uncomfortable, cumbersome, and most off all inhibiting, especially when you’re trying to pull some serious air or surf the pipe. The PSI is designed to fit under a wet suit, and at the pull of a rip cord inflate, floating its wearer to the surface. A small C02 tank, or something analogous to it, plugs into the vest and provides the necessary air to inflate the vest on demand. In the event that the surfer needs to sink to get beneath a wave, as they generally do, there is a quick release valve to deflate the vest. It would also seem that there are a four different levels of inflation as well.
Patagonia has teamed up with big-wave surfer Kohl Christenson to test the vest. It’s not yet available for general consumer purchase, but you can expect to arrive sometime next year.