DragonSkin: UC San Diego graduates fashion shoes to keep the rays at bay

Former UC San Diego roommates Boulos Haddad and Randy Lewis have combined their knowledge of engineering and business with their love of the ocean to invent a product he hopes will give ray barbs the boot .

Their product, DragonSkin, is the “first streak-resistant liner designed for this purpose,” Haddad said.

The liners are made from neoprene coated with a “proprietary puncture-resistant material,” Lewis said. The overlay provides “complementary coverage for your foot”.

Lt. Lonnie Stephens of the San Diego Fire and Rescue Department said it’s difficult to determine how many stingray injuries are treated daily at La Jolla Shores. He estimated an average of 20 to 30 on busy days, often longer with warmer water.

Haddad and Lewis met as roommates in their freshman year at UCSD in La Jolla. Haddad graduated in 2016 with degrees in physiology and neuroscience and entrepreneurship and biotechnology. Lewis graduated in 2017 with a degree in mechanical engineering.

A third former roommate is also with the company but did not wish to be identified.

Lewis, who lives in Escondido but still surfs in La Jolla, currently works in robotics and defense.

Haddad lives in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara County and works in business development. Haddad said he travels to Southern California frequently.

“We always knew we wanted to start a business together,” Haddad said. As they met and developed their friendship in San Diego, often at the beach, it was natural for their business to focus on something involving water.

Randy Lewis holds a point stingray, which the DragonSkin slippers were designed to resist.

(Courtesy of DragonSkin)

The DragonSkin design process, much like the liners themselves, was multi-layered. Lewis said his apartment looked like “a mad scientist’s lab”.

He and the others tested dozens of materials against stingray barbs on a pendulum the team created to replicate stingray stings. Although they caught stingrays to test their stings against the spoils, Lewis said it took time, leading to the invention of the pendulum.

“We measured the force that [stingrays] stick with” and used those numbers to design the pendulum, which creates the maximum force of a stingray beard, Lewis said.

“The pendulum just sits in the apartment, so we can use it as many times as we want, over and over again,” he said. “When we have something good on the pendulum, then we can go out and check it out” using real stingrays.

Lewis said team members didn’t wear the liners to test the material because “it’s hard to tell when the stingray is biting you if it doesn’t go through the liner.”

Instead, the liners were tested with a “foot analog,” a membrane-like material, he said.

Haddad said the team consulted with stingray experts to make sure “we didn’t create anything that hurts the stingrays.”

“We are fans of stingrays,” he said.

The challenge in creating the DragonSkin liners was that puncture-resistant materials often aren’t flexible or stretchy, which are necessary components for swimmers and surfers, Lewis said.

“As much as possible, we wanted it to feel like a big slipper” that can protect itself from cold water, rocky ground and other ocean elements, Haddad said. “The Stingray Resistance is one of them.”

None of the creators of DragonSkin have been stung by a stingray. “Not yet,” Lewis said.

Haddad added that no buyers have reported any stings so far. The slippers are priced from $99 to $119 across three types.

The DragonSkin team is now planning to move from making the liners by hand to working with a manufacturer. Orders are on hold while this settles.

Lewis said he hopes to expand DragonSkin’s ability to protect against all kinds of radiation, not just the Southern California ones the company has tested against.

“We just want to make a better product overall,” he said. He added that the team would also like to make gloves for fishing.

For more information, visit mydragonskin.com.

Comments are closed.