On the water with Kymera's jet-powered body board

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The sleek profile of the first "near production" Kymera body board(Credit: Oliver Starr/Gizmag)

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Gizmag first met garage inventor Jason Woods back in 2011. Since then the Kymera jet-powered body board has been evolving into what is now a nearly production-ready machine complete with official specifications and pricing. We recently had some fun on the water putting the board through its paces.

Out of the car and into the water

Although it's been quite some time in coming, the painful birth has produced a nice looking baby. At 46 lb (21 kg), it's light enough to easily carry from the parking lot to the shoreline, although with a separate trip to grab the 24-lb (11-kg) battery. Even with that second trip, unless you've got to stop to put on a wet suit, you can still be out of the car and into the water in less than two minutes if you snagged a good parking spot.

Powering up and launching is almost as simple as hitting the lake with an inner tube, but considerably more fun. The battery compartment flips open and rails guide the battery into place with a satisfying thunk. Then simply flip the switch to power the unit up, close the hatch, and ease on the throttle. And then punch it (at least that's what we did).

The ride (while it lasted)

Riding the 81 x 32 x 12-in (205 x 81 x 30-cm) Kymera came naturally enough and should be familiar territory for anyone who has body-boarded or paddled before. Pulling the hand trigger located on the right handgrip results in gradual acceleration – unless you peg it, in which case you'll take off while raising a rooster tail. Releasing the trigger brings your momentum down almost immediately thanks to the buoyancy of the craft. Steering is accomplishing by rolling the hips in the direction you want to go, while your feet can supply additional directional control allowing you to make fairly sharp turns, even at full speed.

The Kymera is full-range fun, meaning it's simple and controllable enough that even the most tentative rider will find the craft approachable. The deck has strategically-placed neoprene padding to provide grip and a bit of relief from the otherwise hard surface and it's also ergonomically shaped, making for a ride that's comfortable while providing good control and the ability to see what lies ahead.

At slow cruising speed the Kymera makes for a fun alternative to kayaks or canoes. Quiet, effortless, with quite a long range when moving at sight-seeing speeds – it's rated at over 6 mi (10 km) per two-hour charge. And your face is close to the water, giving you a new perspective as well as keeping you a lot cooler than if you were fully exposed to the sun.

Kymera glides in just inches of water and, with a tough hull, if you do bang into the occasional submerged obstacle, or even drag it across the rocks on a portage, it's unlikely you'll blemish, let alone pierce the craft.

The ability to quietly navigate very shallow bodies of water expands the usage possibilities of the Kymera from pure recreation to investigation. We couldn't help but think of aquatic scientists that would enjoy new levels of access gliding along at water level. Not to mention fishermen, who will doubtless find it an interesting option for prospecting hard to reach places.

The need for speed

So what about when you mash the throttle all the way to the grip? That's when things get interesting. While the claimed top speed is only 20 mph (32 km/h) this feels quite fast when your face is only about 24 inches (61 cm) from the water.

At this speed you can catch air off breakers or surf the wake of your fellow riders. We're itching to take the Kymera to the beach to play around in the waves. In fact, Jason tells us that on a recent trip to Hawaii he had some professional body boarders test his new toy, giving it high marks while pushing the boundaries of what's possible with the new machine.

Rules and regulations

Ah those. If there's one challenge with the Kymera it's that Jason and company have developed a completely new kind of watercraft that doesn't fit conveniently into the existing regulations.

Case in point – about 20 minutes into our test ride we noticed the ominous sight of a boat with blue flashing lights headed our way. A water patrol from the Nevada Sheriff was on our tail. When we pulled alongside a discussion ensued about what we were riding.

In short, while the device is currently classed as a "scuba assistive device" (at least according to Kymera), the Sheriff maintained that because it had a motor it was a full-fledged watercraft and had to be licensed as such and equipped similarly (including carrying or wearing life vests). Since a couple of US$400 citations were more than we were willing to part with for more time on the water our test, while it was super fun while it lasted, was officially over.

Hopefully this confusion will be more fully resolved before Kymera ships. It really does put a damper on things when you get pulled over by the law when you're already on your belly.

Kymera Board specs:

  • Top Speed: 20 mph (32 km/h) – depending on rider weight and conditions
  • Power Output: approximately 5,000 W
  • Range: 5~6 miles (8 - 9.6 km/h) average per pack – plus 1 mile (1.6 km) or more reserve at around 3.5 mph (5.6 km/h)
  • Run time: averages 45 min ~ 1 hour per pack (depending on speed)
  • Battery swap: 15~20 seconds (no tools required)
  • Battery Recharge: Two hours
  • Colors: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Pink, White

The Kymera is currently up for pre-order and will set you back $3,750 for a "Ramp-up System" that includes the board, a battery, charger, board travel bag and battery transport case. For people that want extended time on the water, the batteries can be removed so it might be worth having an extra on tap.

The company will ship direct to US buyers, typically using standard freight home delivery, and currently has international distributors in 35 countries (all expected to have boards in stock by September).

Video of the Tahoe test run can be viewed below.

Source: Kymera

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