Jim and Shane Holliday, the father and son team behind Newcastle-based wetsuit brand Sharkskin, love a challenge.
So when surfer Haydon Burford approached them with an idea for wetsuit that offered superior resistance to shark bites, they were keen to learn more.
“It’s pretty exciting. They’ve had Great Whites bite this and it’s legit,” Shane told Westpac Wire in an interview.
Still, Shane acknowledges “Sharkstop” has been a complex product to develop.
The team had to work with normal flex neoprene - a synthetic rubber used in everyday wetsuits – with an ultra-tough, rigid neoprene, to find a combination that would provide greater protection from a shark bite, without compromising on wearability.
The material works to reduce the depth of a shark bite, thereby limiting blood loss - which is one of the most common causes of death in such attacks.
“It’s been challenging. But I’m really excited about where it’s going to take us,” Shane says.
Jim Holliday, Shane’s dad, has been involved in water sports and scuba diving for more than four decades.
He says their mainstay Sharkskin wetsuit was always popular with divers, but the product really took off when they developed it for use across a range of different sporting activities. From humble beginnings around two decades ago, their company, Aquanaut, is now a multi-million dollar operation.
The business also prides itself on handling all aspects of the manufacturing process.
“We've become very efficient as a manufacturer so we can produce goods competitively, and the other big thing for us is that we just like building stuff in Australia,” Jim says.
Aquanaut is a Westpac customer, as well as supplying wetsuits to the Westpac rescue helicopter team.