The Surf Shark helps humans swim like a fish
October 27, 2005 NEW IMAGES UPLOADED The Surf Shark and the Electric Dolphin are electric aquatic vehicles with a difference – instead of holding onto them as with all other diving and swimming aids, the Shark and Dolphin attached to your feet and propel you from behind, just like a fish and nearly as fast. The Surf Shark is the pick of the pair for speed, having two motors, each delivering 82 pounds of thrust and capable of pushing a swimmer through the water at more than 5 knots (10km/h) – that’s roughly twice the speed of Grant Hackett at World Record 1500 metre pace. The Dolphin has just one motor but makes up for its lesser speed with twice the life, being capable of delivering about half that speed for over an hour before needing a battery swap.
The original concept for the Surf Shark and the Electric Dolphin came when custom fibreglass company owner Patrick Tippman and his family were holidaying in the lakes of the Black Hills one summer and the air mattresses and flippers had worn out their appeal. Needing to return to work during the week, Patrick promised he would return the following weekend with something to liven up proceedings and after giving it some thought on the drive back to home, Patrick decided that if he could put a motor on Casey’s feet he would enable his son to swim like a fish.
Patrick's company, Glassworks Fibreglass, had fabricated many creations, including two life-sized Mammoths (massive pre-historic elephant-like creatures) , gun turret reproductions for the Air Force Museum and dragons for a Las Vegas casino, and specialises in prototyping, so the first Dolphin came together within a week . Pretty soon, two things happened – the first was that the Dolphin was continually running out of charge because it was in perpetual usage, and secondly, boys being boys, more power was desired. The obvious happened, two motors were fitted, and the Surf Shark was born.
Seeing the amount of interest generated by the Electric Dolphin and Surf Shark, the Glassworks team created Tippman Aquatics and began putting together the capability of mass production, and the company is just bringing its first production models to arket.
Steering is done with one’s arms, which are also free for filming or bodyboarding, and the power is applied with a foot pedal not dissimilar to an accelerator in a car, though it functions more like an on-off switch.
“No-one ever wants to go slower on the Shark or the Dolphin, so we’ve not worried about variable power,” said Kathy Tippman. “If you want to manoeuvre, it’s a case of letting off the button and feathering the accelerator and it’s quite controllable.” Both units are identical except for the number of motors, using two12 volt sealed rechargeable batteries that can be swapped out inside a few minutes. The body is constructed with a solid floatation foam core and a fibreglass shell. Being filled with floatation foam, the unit will never fill with water and sink. The double-engined Shark sells for US$3300 and the single-engined Dolphin for US$2200.
In terms of usage, the Surf Shark was specifically designed to be used in heavy surf and has the power to catch any wave and drive off it. In terms of diving, the units are not recommended for deep water dives. Tippmann Aquatics, recommends a maxium depth of 25-30 feet although reports having exceeded 50 feet without problems. The Surf Shark weighs 52 pounds without batteries and the two 20 pound batteries bring the total weight to 92 pounds, though the in-water feel of the Shark is neutral and fits between the ankles with padding all around. The Dolphin weighs 33 pounds without batteries. Under your right foot on the platform they have a pedal switch. Push it down and the thrust starts and when you let up on the pedal or step off, it comes to a quick stop.
When you step off the machine, it will stop running and floats to the surface. The rider can tell when the batteries are low because the thrust starts to weaken, giving between five and ten minutes to return to shore.