Floating wetsuit helps Hawaii reef volunteers restore damaged coral

Updated: Aug. 8, 2019 at 5:10 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new type of wetsuit makes treading water easy.

Mark Okrusko is a surfer and inventor and the creator of the Airtime Watertime Floater. The wetsuit floats.

“The flotation is just enough to keep the person’s shoulders and head just above the water. You could literally ... sleep in this suit if you laid on your back,” he said.

A flotation panel is sewn into the front of the suit.

Okrusko’s Airtime Watertime, Inc. makes and markets the wetsuits out of California, and they’re catching on with people who aren’t confident swimmers or snorkelers.

On the Big Island, though, they’re being used for environmental work by a non-profit in Kona. Legacy Reef Foundation focuses on restoring coral reefs.

“One of the most important parts of that coral restoration is lowering the stressors that we as humans put on the coral,” said Susanne Otero, the foundation’s co-founder.

With the suit on, volunteers now easily float above the reefs they’re studying or working on so they don’t step on and damage the coral.

And because the suit covers most of a swimmer’s body, there’s another benefit.

"It's a new tool in terms of keeping the sunscreen out of the water and keeping people floating above the reefs," Okrusko said.

Some lifeguards on the mainland west coast now also use the floater suits.

And people who are wheelchair bound wear them for water exercise. Okrusko’s friend is a paraplegic.

"We put a suit on him and he swims out 200, 300 yards," he said.

Prices of the wetsuits vary. Children’s sizes cost about $90. Women’s suits are $150, while men’s range from $170 to $185.

To learn more about the Airtime Watertime Floater, click here.

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