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LEDs light the way for big-wave night surfer

Surfer Mark Visser didn't just lean on any old lights to illuminate the way for his history-making ride in the dark. LED company Solus used NASA submarine lighting.

Mark Visser
Catch a night wave and you're sitting on top of the world. Erik Aeder

Professional big-wave surfer Mark Visser might possess superhuman athletic skills, but surprisingly, he does not have night vision. Therefore, when he made history riding 30- to 40-foot waves in the middle of the night last month, he got some help from techies--presumably by telling them, "Oh, don't worry about me, I'll just surf those monster waves alone in the dark."

For his 2 a.m. ride in darkness at Jaws off the shores of Maui, Visser rode a surfboard tricked out with LED lights created specially for the project by LED company Solus using NASA submarine lighting. The lights were positioned to illuminate the waves and board in all the right places without hindering Visser's vision, or that of the jet ski drivers or helicopter pilots who accompanied him as he undertook his feat, dubbed "The Night Rider."

Red linear LED strips on the underside of the board were powered by a resin-sealed 12-volt DC battery power supply on the top of the board, providing light at 120 degrees. Visser's vest also got the LED treatment. It was decked out with high-power white LEDs and special secondary optics fitted for optimum light distribution (which hopefully included spotlighting great white sharks and oncoming tsunamis).

"The Night Rider" is set to be just the first in a series of extreme adventures for the 28-year-old surfer. His extreme exploits are scheduled to be part of a documentary called "9 Lives" that's slated for international distribution late this year or early next.

Mark Visser Rides JAWS at Night! from Fortrus Sports on Vimeo.