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The next monster wave is never far away

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 15 June, 2004  (Company News)
Even the most experienced surfer feels his heartbeat climb up a notch when he spies a mega-wave coming along. The wave catches up with him, towers high above him and threatens to crash down on top of him with immense force.
Now, if not before, it's time to consider abandoning ship. Bye-bye surfboard, you might think. But if you take a closer look at the athletes in the surfing paradises around the world, you will notice a 'lifeline' connecting the surfboard to one of the wave-rider's legs. In surfing jargon, this 'umbilical cord' is called the leg rope. It stops the surfer losing his board and having to constantly swim to the water's edge to retrieve it and then paddle all the way back to where the giant waves are breaking. It also eliminates the risk of riderless surfboards injuring swimmers or other surfers.

The rope has to be tough, and Desmopan® 385 from Bayer MaterialScience AG is increasingly becoming the material of choice. 'We prefer this thermoplastic polyurethane chiefly because of its high elasticity and abrasion resistance. It also gives the rope a high-gloss finish – and we have no restriction on color either,' says Matthew Evans, General Manager of Mojak Plastics. The Australian leg rope manufacturer has been working with this Bayer MaterialScience polyurethane for many years.

The high elasticity of the thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) ensures that when the rope suddenly becomes taut, the jerk on the surfer's leg is not so brutal that it causes injury or bruising. This is, for example, one of the advantages that a TPU leg rope has over one made of natural fibers or polyamide (PA). TPU ropes are also extremely weather-resistant and barely age at all in salt water – unlike their PA counterparts, which tend to become brittle over the course of time.

'Another big advantage of TPU is its high tear strength and tear propagation resistance, which means firstly that the rope lasts a long time and secondly that you always have a safe link between the surfer and the board,' says Justin Gleeson, a manager at Bayer New Zealand Ltd. and himself a keen surfer on the New Zealand and Australian coasts. He has often enough seen completely exhausted surfers who, with the aid of the leg rope, were able to get back on their boards and regain their strength prior to catching another wave. He has even come across non-swimmers who practice this extreme sport and rely completely on their TPU leg ropes.
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