Dos Equis beer needn't have hired an actor for the “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign. Jeremiah Sullivan invented the chain-mail Neptunic sharksuit, helped launch eco-tourism to remote areas of Komodo Island, Indonesia and Antarctica, works as a fashion and celebrity photographer, and holds a marine science degree. Oh yeah, and the military has contracted him 12 times to design protective textiles for countless dangerous environments — just don’t expect him to dish about it.
Has the sharksuit been a get-rich-quick idea?
Unfortunately, no. I sell only about 10 to 20 each year. There’s not much money in chain mail, but we provide them as a service to the industry.
Assuming I scrape together $4,550, can I have a Sharksuit?
Ha. No. A lot of cowboys and yahoos out there would love to use our gear in a dangerous or exploitative manner. I personally vet every request. We only sell to professionals.
Ever been scared when swimming with great whites or hammerheads?
I’ve been completely exposed on several occasions. On the first dive during a program for the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, I was testing a new full-face mask. Its air hose came out to the right, making a loop. I dropped down by myself to sit on the bottom of a Nassau dive site where dozens of big gray reef sharks circled. Suddenly, I was yanked backward as if hit by a car.
I was knocked upside down onto rocks. The face mask spun sideways; I saw only black, and I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t grab anything thanks to several layers of gloves. I could feel this tremendous pulling. After what felt like days, a hand came and removed the helmet. Turns out a shark had nosed into that air-hose loop and gotten stuck.
So what now?
I spend most of my time creating disruptive fabrics — materials that won’t rip or shred no matter what. Think: Navy SEALs in harbors with sharp objects everywhere. Pretty soon, you won’t see nylon on a wetsuit. You’ll see our materials.
You acted as the guinea pig in 1979 for your first Sharksuit. What did that teach you?
If you don’t take chances — those calculated risks — then you’re following someone else. There’s nothing innovative about fear.