Kala Alexander gives the Patagonia vest a test on dry land.
There's no surf on the North Shore during the summer. Everybody knows that. So, figuring a few big-wave watermen would have some time to kill, Patagonia called for a meeting of the minds. They invited Mark Healey, Dave Wassel and Kala Alexander to stop by a Pipe-fronting rental house and talk about their years of nearly life-ending hold downs and how the safety of inflatable vests is helping better protect them.
The three very educated, articulate men, while prone to heavy doses of sarcasm, spoke academically about their pursuit. They spoke of pounds per square cubic inch of water versus the weight of a 200 pound man to the air pressure in four CO2 canisters. They described how to make the ripcord of an inflatable vest safer to pull when going into an oxygen deprived blackout. They asked questions about everything from how the seams are stitched to how the air bladders fill when needed. Healey was going through conversion tables in his head.
Wassel offered the example of how these inflatable vests saved him from drowning at Cortes Bank. "I went down on this 20-foot-plus monster, and I was pushed all the way down to the reef. Luckily I found myself on the only soft corral around. As I went through my first series of convulsions I could see rolling through the water was another big one that would have pushed me all the way through the coral ledge where I would have ended my career, or more likely something much worse."
"As I started my second round of lack of oxygen convulsions I pulled my vest cord and there I was on the surface," continued Wassel. "I needed that vest and it came through for me."
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