Marine animals are hydrodynamic, so they can move through the water with the least amount of resistance. Sharks have a torpedo shaped body which enables them to swim efficiently with minimal drag but in general they are built for speed. They have had over 400 million years to perfect their swimming performance which assists both their hunting and fleeing techniques.
A shark has a distinct side to side motion as it swims. Pectoral fins (at their sides) help them to manoeuvre while their tail (the caudal fin) is crucial in propulsion. It is their skin however which fascinates scientists the most as it is more like teeth than scales. Shark skin has a sandpaper texture because of curved dermal denticles, making the skin very tough like armour. Scientists at Harvard University have studied that the composition of shark skin could one day help improve the performance of planes, wind turbines and cars. It is the skin of a shark that has also inspired engineers to design wetsuits for athletes to move faster and be more aerodynamic through water.
Here at Mikes we stock a number of items and brands that have taken the streamlining evolution of the shark to the heart of their product, thereby producing more efficient diving, freediving and swimming equipment.
Sharkskin Thermal Protection
The Sharkskin apparel range is designed and manufactured by a passionate and dedicated team in Newcastle, Australia. For divers their Chillproof and Performance Chillproof ranges work as an alternative to either a 3mm wetsuit or as a layer to wear under a thicker wetsuit in colder water. They have created a revolutionary high tech tri-laminate that is neutrally buoyant. The outer layer is a 4 way stretch material with a durable water repellent (DWR); the second layer is a 10,000 plus technical membrane that stops wind chill and "breathes" to prevents overheating; the layer next to your skin is a hollow fibre fleece designed to absorb and hold water and prevent water flushing through the suit. Your body heats the water which provides a barrier against the cold water outside the suit. Just like a shark it is energy efficient and repels water! We stock Sharkskin hoods, full length bodysuits, shorts, vests, socks and both long and short sleeve tops.
Open water swimming has become popular in recent months because pools and inland lakes/quarries were closed during lockdown. Zone3 makes open water swimming and triathlon equipment. Their Agile Wetsuit has a 100% Speedflo and Smoothskin coating on the 2,3 and 4mm panels which is designed for waterproofing and causing minimal drag. The Agile has an ergonomic design for speed just like our pelagic friends! Available for men and women.
Freediving fins are longer and more flexible than snorkelling or scuba diving fins. Their design is for maximum efficiency and thrust with as little effort as possible. For breath hold sports energy-conservation is essential. Although they were designed for freediving and spearfishing, there are divers who also favour these fins. They are popular with underwater videographers and some marine biologists to keep up with the action!
Freediving blades are made out of polymer plastic, fibreglass or carbon fibre and have different hardness depending on the environment or application. The tails of some sharks are asymmetrical, meaning the top part of the tail tends to be the longer part. This is where the all-important vertebral muscles attach themselves and like freediving fins, it is used for both propulsion and thrust.
Backplates and wings are popular with technical divers who focus on minimal equipment configurations for both streamlining and trim. When carrying additional gas you want to expend as little effort as possible. A shark’s liver is the predator’s largest organ and composes almost a third of its body weight. They, too, prefer to use as little energy as possible having to carry this around!
The backplate and wing equipment set-up is now also becoming popular with recreational divers as training agencies like RAID have begun to blur the tec-rec boundaries. Keeping an uncluttered trim (particularly at the front of the body where traditional wrap around BCDs tend to dominate) reduces drag in the water and can conserve air. Unlike a technical diver however, a shark is unable to swim backwards!