Unaffiliated with Speedo
Ironman Swim Skin improves female competitors time in the 2.4 mile swim through an increase in buoyancy.
This 14 week project was to design a product for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. The triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run.
Men have a clear advantage in the Ironman, but are beaten out by women in the initial swim section. Though only a 14.4-minute difference, this is the biggest gap in the entire competition, and women are drastically ahead. This is primarily due to biological differences in these sexes including body fat deposits. Fat weighs less than muscle and women are biologically predisposed to having more body fat than men.
Natural Body Fat Deposits
Best Placing for Additional Buoyancy
During product testing, I understood that it's better to augment the women's natural buoyancy rather than offset it. I found that the female body tips unnaturally when buoyancy is offset. Rather than reshape the body, I decided to augment it.
Biomimicry: The Salvinia Molesta Floating Plant
This unique plant retains pockets of air when it is fully submerged. This provides the plant with buoyancy and is due to the structure of its leaf.
The tiny hairs on the leaf surface are hydrophobic hairs, with a hydrophilic tip. This attracts water to the surface and traps air between the tip and the surface of the plant.
Permeable Hydrophilic Coating
Trapped Air Bubbles
Hydrophobic Coating on Heat Set Lycra
The material development provides additional buoyancy to the female body. By using biomimicry, we are able to provide a low-tech solution for this increase, creating a risk aversion from the potential of being banned by the Ironman Committee.