Patent application title: Padded surfing shirt
David Scott Carmichael (Fairfax Station, VA, US)
IPC8 Class: AA41D13012FI
Class name: Apparel guard or protector abdomen protector
Publication date: 2012-12-06
Patent application number: 20120304369
A shirt for protecting the abdominal, rib, and kidney areas of a surfer
is disclosed. The shirt is worn on the upper body of a user while
surfing, in which the lower portion is constructed from a circumferential
band of neoprene rubber extending between the waist and the chest of the
user to provide cushioning for the rib and kidney areas of the user to
help minimize pain, discomfort, and the effects of impact-related injury.
The lower neoprene portion is attached via a sewn seam located below the
chest to an upper portion, comprising the remainder of the shirt, which
is constructed from a lightweight and flexible nylon and spandex fabric.
The resulting garment gives the invention the combined qualities of
cushioning for the intended critical areas, while ensuring unrestricted
freedom of movement for the wearer.
1. A padded surfing shirt, said shirt comprising: an upper shirt portion
generally adapted to cover the upper chest area and upper back area of
the user, said upper shirt portion being formed of a flexible material
that does not restrict the mobility of the user; a neck and left and
right sleeves formed of said flexible material and attached to said upper
shirt portion; a lower shirt portion attached to said upper shirt portion
and being generally adapted to cover the front mid-section of the user,
said lower shirt portion being formed of a cushioning material that does
not restrict the mobility of the user, said cushioning material being
adapted for cushioning the front mid-section of the user from injury
while the user is lying on a surfboard, wherein said attachment of said
lower shirt portion to said upper shirt portion is positioned to
generally correspond to a point just below the chest of the user.
2. The padded surfing shirt of claim 1, wherein said upper shirt portion is made of a nylon and spandex blended fabric.
3. The padded surfing shirt of claim 1, wherein said upper shirt portion is made of a polyester and spandex blended fabric.
4. The padded surfing shirt of claim 1, wherein said lower shirt portion includes a fastening device for attaching said lower shirt portion to another article of clothing worn by the user.
5. The padded surfing shirt of claim 4, wherein said fastening device is a fabric loop made from fabric.
6. The padded surfing shirt of claim 1, wherein said lower shirt portion includes a draw string for tightening said lower shirt portion around the user.
7. The padded surfing shirt of claim 1, wherein said cushioning material is neoprene rubber.
8. The padded surfing shirt of claim 7, wherein the thickness of said neoprene rubber is selected from the range 0.5 mm to 6.0 mm.
9. The padded surfing shirt of claim 1, wherein said lower shirt portion is generally adapted to cover the lower back area of the user.
10. The padded surfing shirt of claim 9, wherein said lower shirt portion is a continuously formed piece of cushioning material.
11. The padded surfing shirt of claim 10, wherein said lower shirt portion has first and second ends generally meeting in the middle of the lower back areas of the user, said first and second ends forming a closable opening in said lower shirt portion.
12. The padded surfing shirt of claim 11, wherein a portion of said first and second ends are attached in order to close a portion of said closable opening.
13. The padded surfing shirt of claim 12, wherein said lower shirt portion includes a fastening device for closing at least a portion of said closable opening.
14. The padded surfing shirt of claim 13, wherein said lower shirt portion further includes a fastening device for closing the remaining portion of said closeable opening.
15. A padded surfing shirt, said shirt comprising: an upper shirt portion generally adapted to cover the upper chest area and upper back area of the user, said upper shirt portion being formed of a flexible material that does not restrict the mobility of the user; a neck and left and right sleeves integrally formed of said flexible material and attached to said upper shirt portion; a lower shirt portion attached to said upper shirt portion and being generally adapted to cover the front mid-section of the user, said lower shirt portion being formed of a cushioning material that does not restrict the mobility of the user, said cushioning material being adapted for cushioning the front mid-section of the user from injury while the user is lying on a surfboard, wherein said attachment of said lower shirt portion to said upper shirt portion is positioned to generally correspond to a point just below the chest of the user.
16. The padded surfing shirt of claim 15, wherein said upper shirt portion is made of a nylon and spandex blended fabric.
17. The padded surfing shirt of claim 15, wherein said upper shirt portion is made of a polyester and spandex blended fabric.
18. The padded surfing shirt of claim 15, wherein said lower shirt portion includes a fastening device for attaching said lower portion to the swimsuit drawstrings of the user.
19. The padded surfing shirt of claim 15, wherein said cushioning material is neoprene rubber.
20. The padded surfing shirt of claim 15, wherein said lower shirt portion has first and second ends generally meeting in the middle of the lower back areas of the user, said first and second ends forming a closable opening in said lower shirt portion.
21. The padded surfing shirt of claim 19, wherein a portion of said first and second ends are attached in order to close a portion of said closable opening, wherein said lower shirt portion further includes a fastening device for closing the remaining portion of said closeable opening.
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
 This application claims benefit of Provisional application No. 61/376,664 submitted 24 Aug. 2010.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention generally relates to the field of water sports and is more particularly directed to a shirt for protecting a surfer from injury and irritation to the abdominal, rib and kidney areas when paddling on a surfboard.
 As society attains a higher standard of living and technological advances allow work tasks to be completed more efficiently, people have more and more time and financial resources to engage in recreational activities. Those having access to large bodies of water increasingly enjoy outdoor aquatic activities such as boating, skiing and surfing.
 Surfing is particularly popular along ocean beaches and shores. Surfing is a water sport in which the surfer rides the front of a breaking wave. While it is possible to surf in a large river or lake, most surfing is done in the ocean where the waves are larger and more frequent. Surfing is believed to have originated in Hawaii sometime before the fifteenth century and came to the California coast during the 1920s. It became popular in the U.S. during the 60s at a time when many people were looking for an alternative form of fulfillment and image. The fulfillment and image that the sport of surfing provided in the 60s is still sought after today.
 Some surfers use no equipment and simply swim into a breaking wave and ride the wave for as long as possible. These so-called body surfers tend to be minimalist and rely primarily on their skill, experience and ability to choose the right wave as the keys to their enjoyment of the sport. As the sport of body surfing advanced, surfers began to use swim fins in order to make it easier to accelerate into a breaking wave and to hold the surf position for long periods of time. While swim fins are now accepted in the body surfing community, body surfers still remain purist at heart and reframe from using most mechanical aids.
 While the body surfing community has it followers, most surfers belong to the surfboard community. A surfboard is a long narrow buoyant board made of lightweight wood or fiberglass-covered foam. With his or her body lying prone on the surfboard, the surfer paddles out to the crest of a breaking wave using his or her arms and hands. When the wave catches the surfboard, the surfer rises to his or her feet and rides out the wave. Some surfers also ride the wave while continuing to lie on the board.
 Owing to its roots, the sport of surfing has historically projected a certain degree of romance, youthfulness, strength, oneness with nature, adventure and a free spirited attitude. Thus, a particular culture and image has developed around the surfing community which for many provides an outlet for many of life's pressures. Unfortunately, maintenance of this culture and image sometimes means that surfers do not always avail themselves of safety devices and practices that make surfing safer and less prone to injury. Use of such devices and practices is perceived by many surfers as taking away from the surfing experience.
 Surfing is inherently a dangerous sport. Aside from the potential for drowning; there are a number of other hazards confronting a surfer. These hazards include, but are not limited to, eye damage caused by an errant surfboard tip or fin, head trauma and body lacerations from a collision with the surfer's own, or another's, surfboard and objects projecting from the ocean floor. While modern technology can protect surfers from all of these hazards, or at least mitigate their potential for serious injury, surfers tend to shy away from their use because they impair the "feel" of the surfboard, detract from the surfing experience, are bulky and uncomfortable to wear or use, or simply are not consistent with the surfing culture and image of a surfer.
 The prior art is aware of devices that address the safety and convenience of a surfer, however, their adoption by the surfing community has been minimal for the reasons pointed out above. For example, U.S. Patent Publication No. 2002/0124294 discloses a hydration system for surfers and sportsmen. The system attaches to a surfer's wetsuit vest and is said to provide a source of hydration, such as water, without the surfer having to suspend his surfing activity.
 A number of devices have also been introduced to the surfing community that purport to improve the surfing experience. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,397,636 discloses a body surfing shirt which includes buoyancy pads that increase body lift and flotation for the body surfer during a wave ride. U.S. Pat. No. 5,173,068 discloses an apparatus to be worn by a body surfer for reducing hydrodynamic drag and is said to improve lateral maneuverability.
 The aforementioned '294 publication observes that surfers have to paddle with their surfboard a considerable distance to meet a breaking wave and then to return to the shore if no wave is immediately available. The paddling action required while lying prone on a surfboard when paddling out to a wave, onto a wave or returning to shore can cause rib pain, abrasion, and injury. While this problem is known to exist in the surfing community, there has been no previous attempt to solve it as is accomplished with the present invention.
 The sport of surfing requires a high degree of freedom of movement, and members of the surfing community insist that their clothing minimize adverse effects on their mobility and comfort. Moreover, the clothing has to fit within the culture and image of the surfing community. Devices intended to provide flotation and arch support are not designed with specific padding for the abdominal, ribs, and kidney areas of the surfer and are far too cumbersome to the user. Such devices are therefore not utilized by the vast majority of the surfing community.
 Many surfers wear a shirt made of spandex and nylon or polyester. These shirts are called rash guards and are worn to prevent chafing of the skin caused by the surfer sliding around on the surfboard while mounting and dismounting the board and when paddling. Chafing can result from skin and sand particles adhering to the board wax and rubbing against the torso. Rash guards also help to protect the surfer from jelly fish stings and some provide protection from ultraviolet radiation.
 The primary requirement of a rash guard is that it be stylish and that its use be as transparent and unobtrusive as possible in order to not diminish the surfing experience or the image of a surfer. To achieve this end, the shirt must be comfortable and light weight so that it can be worn for long periods of time; durable but flexible so that it can withstand the intense range of movement of a surfer; quick drying when the surfer is on the beach; have good water wicking ability for body heat retention; and be naturally anti-bacterial to retard the buildup of harmful bacteria. While effective for preventing chafing, rash guards provide no cushioning for the abdominal, rib and kidney areas, and are not designed for that purpose.
 While various protective pads are known in other fields of sport, such as football and hockey, none can be readily adopted for use by surfers in a manner that would be acceptable to the surfing community. Prior art protective pads are too bulky, are not effective, inhibit the enjoyment of surfing, or simply are unappealing to surfers.
 Other shirts designed to provide protection to the lower mid-section of the body utilize small, targeted pads for their intended purpose rather than a single, all-encompassing layer of padding. The act of lying prone on a surfboard while paddling with the arms and hands causes these types of small pads to shift and become misaligned with their intended targets, reducing, if not eliminating, their intended protection. In addition, lying on these other types of pads creates a "high-spot" that is uncomfortable and potentially painful for the user.
 The reason why rash guards are widely accepted is because the limited purpose they serve can be achieved with little interference to the surfing experience or to the image of a surfer. However, rash guards are designed to prevent chafing and offer no other trauma-induced protection.
 Thus, there remains a need in the art for a device or article of clothing that provides cushioning and support for the user's rib and kidney areas without interfering with the surfing experience or the image of a surfer. The present invention meets this need.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention solves the above noted problems with respect to the need for cushioning in the areas of a surfer's ribs and kidney by a novel shirt that in one embodiment uses a circumferential band of neoprene rubber extending between the waist and chest of the surfer to provide the intended cushioning. The shirt uses a lightweight and flexible nylon and spandex or polyester and spandex fabric in the manufacture of the upper portion of the garment to ensure maximum mobility. Thus, the surfing shirt of the present invention combines cushioning and freedom of movement all in one garment while preserving the style and surfer image that most surfers find important.
 The novel features of the present invention are set out with particularity in the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment. However, the invention will be understood more fully and clearly from the detailed description of the invention as set forth in the accompanying drawings in which:
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of one embodiment of a surfing shirt in accordance with the present invention wherein the lower neoprene rubber cushioning portion is shown connected to the upper nylon/spandex portion via a seam just below the chest.
 FIG. 2 is a rear perspective view of the embodiment of a surfing shirt shown in FIG. 1 wherein the lower portion is formed of a continuous piece of material.
 FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 3-3 of FIG. 1.
 FIG. 4 is a rear perspective view of the embodiment of a surfing shirt shown in FIG. 1 wherein the lower portion terminates in a closeable opening.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
 A preferred embodiment of a surfing shirt in accordance with the present invention will now be described with reference to the figures. FIG. 1 is a front view of the surfing shirt and includes an upper body portion 1 which extends around the front and back of the upper portion of the wearer's body as further shown in the rear view depicted in FIG. 2.
 Upper portion 1 includes an integrally formed neck 13 and sleeves 2 and 3. While shown as short sleeves to cover a portion of the wearer's arms, sleeves 2 and 3 may be formed as long sleeves to cover the entire length of the arms as is generally known in the art with respect to shirts. Rather than being integrally formed with upper portion 1, neck 13 and sleeves 2 and 3 may also be formed as separate pieces and sewn or otherwise affixed to upper portion 1 as one of ordinary skill in the art would know how to accomplish.
 Also included on neck 13 and sleeves 2 and 3 are decorative hems 20, 4 and 5, respectively. While optional, these hems provide a straight edge line for neck 13 and sleeves 2 and 3 as also known in the art with respect to necks and shirt sleeves.
 Upper portion 1, neck 13, and sleeves 2 and 3 can be made of a number of materials but in keeping with what is already acceptable to the surfing community, upper portion 1, neck 13 and sleeves 2 and 3 are made from lightweight nylon, polyester, spandex, lycra, or cotton fabric or any blend thereof which produces the qualities described, and is cut in either a form-fitting or loose-fit manner. Other fabrics that have similar characteristics may be used as well.
 As further shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the shirt of the present invention also includes a lower portion 6 made of a flexible neoprene rubber. Lower portion 6 extends around the front and back of the wearer's mid-section and is sewn or otherwise affixed to upper portion 1 at seam line 7. Neoprene rubber was selected for lower portion 6 because of it particular properties.
 Neoprene rubber is a synthetic rubber which can be made to be soft, flexible, and waterproof. It also provides good insulation for the sport of surfing by virtue of small bubbles of Nitrogen gas embedded in the material. Since water conducts heat away from the body approximately 25 times more efficiently than air, an unprotected surfer or other water sports enthusiast can suffer hypothermia even in warm water on a warm day. The Nitrogen gas within the neoprene rubber has a very low thermal conductivity with respect to the surrounding water and therefore minimizes heat transfer from the body of the wearer to the water, keeping the user of the present invention warmer and more comfortable than they would otherwise be with other materials.
 In addition to stitches, adhesives, staples, and other forms of attachment may be used to attach lower portion 6 to upper portion 1 at seam line 7 as one of ordinary skill in the art would know how to accomplish. The vertical placement of seam line 7 will vary depending on the size of the shirt as indicated by arrows 8 and 9 as shown in FIG. 1. Seam line 7 should be placed so that it lies just below the chest of the wearer in order to minimize the possibility of lying directly on the seam line.
 Placement of seam line 7 just below the chest of the wearer eliminates any "high-spot" which is a major concern with prior art approaches as discussed above. This placement of the seam line insures that the wearer of the present invention will not lie directly on the seam, and therefore maximizes their comfort, while not taking away from the enjoyment of the sport, and simultaneously providing cushioned protection for all intended areas of the user.
 Lower portion 6 may be formed of a continuous piece of material that surrounds the mid-section of the wearer as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 and terminates at its bottom in a decorative waist hem 10. As pointed out above with respect to hems 20, 4, and 5, optional waist hem 10 provides a straight edge line for lower portion 6. Waist hem 10 may also includes an elastic draw cord 11 and stop 12 as shown in FIG. 2 for the purpose of adjusting the tightness of the shirt around the wearer's waist.
 The thickness of lower portion 6 can be selected from a number of thicknesses, but it has been found that a thickness between 0.5 mm and 6.0 mm provides the best level of cushioning and retention of body heat without diminishing the comfort level of the user or detracting from the surfing experience. It is understood, however, that different thicknesses may be used without departing from the purpose and spirit of the present invention. Thus, other thicknesses may be chosen in order to provide various amounts of cushioning and warmth.
 As further shown in FIG. 1, a fabric loop 14 is centered and sewn into the lower front inside of lower portion 6 for securing the shirt to the front lacing or drawstrings of a swimsuit. Doing so helps to hold lower portion 6 in place and prevents it from riding up the body when the surfer is surfing or on a surfboard. Fabric loop 14 may be formed from a number of fabrics know in the prior art.
 FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view taken along lines 3-3 in FIG. 1 showing the relative thickness of the material used to form upper portion 1 and the material used to formed lower portion 6.
 FIG. 4 is a further rear view illustrating a further embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment, lower portion 6 is not a continuous piece of material but rather has ends 15 and 16 with meet at a point 17 to create closable opening. The closable opening can run the entire height of lower portion 6, or as shown in FIG. 4, run only a portion of the height of lower portion 6. The closable opening allows for easier donning and removal of the shirt.
 In the embodiment shown in FIG. 4, ends 15 and 16 terminate in a sewn vertical seam 18 for a portion of the height of lower portion 6. As described above with respect to the attachment of lower portion 6 to upper portion 1, ends 15 and 16 may also uses adhesives, staples and other forms of attachment at vertical seam 18 as one or ordinary skill in the art would know how to accomplish.
 A zipper 19 is used to attach ends 15 and 16 for the duration of the height of lower portion 6. Zipper 19 should be made of plastic or other non-corroding material as is known in the prior art.
 Vertical seam 18 and zipper 19 may alternatively be placed at other convenient locations. In addition, a plurality of vertical seams 18 and zippers 19 may be used with intervening pieces of portions 6 there between.
 In a further embodiment of the present invention, lower portion 6 shown in FIG. 1 can be formed to cover only the lower front mid-section of the user. In this embodiment, portion 6 forms a lower font panel of protection which terminates at the sides of the user. Thus, upper portion 1 continues downward along the sides and lower back of the user in this embodiment.
 The surfing shirt of the present invention can be worn while surfing to provide cushioning for the surfer's rib and kidney areas without reducing the wearer's mobility, or may be worn underneath a wetsuit when surfing in cold water to increase padding of the rib and torso area and provide additional core warmth for the surfer.
 While the foregoing specification teaches the principles of the present invention, with examples provided for the purpose of illustration, it will be appreciated by one skilled in the art from reading this disclosure that various changes in form and detail can be made without departing from the true scope of the invention.
Patent applications in class Abdomen protector
Patent applications in all subclasses Abdomen protector