The coolest water toys of 2014
We looked at 2014's coolest land toys earlier this month; now we leave the shore in our wake and head out to sea. The year in water toys kicked off in a big way at Boot Düsseldorf 2014 in January and it ran strong the year through. In fact, we'd say the past year saw reveals and market launches of some of the coolest water toys in recent history ... everything from transforming boats, to seven-figure personal submarines to underwater jet packs.
Quadrofoil Q2S hydrofoil
Twenty-fourteen saw plenty of innovation in the hydrofoil market, with a particular emphasis on retractable-hydrofoil vessels built for traveling both on and above the water. Most of those designs stepped well outside the realm of "water toys" into full-blown boat territory, but the Quadrofoil Q2S, which moved into the preorder stage this year, houses its hydrofoils in a compact, PWC-style two-seater. The craft soars at speeds up to 24 mph (40 km/h) while suspended a few feet above the sparkling water. Its 5.5-kW motor and 10-kWh battery pack ensure that it doesn't spew any air or noise pollution, traveling about quietly and cleanly on its way to a 54-nautical mile (100-km) range limit. Sharp, water-rippling handling is delivered by way of the dual-grip steering wheel, which has a touchscreen gauge tucked between the two handholds.
The two-seat Quadrofoil Q2S is available for preorder now at a €22,500 (US$27,500). If that sounds a bit rich, Quadrofoil also offers the €15,000 Q2A, but the lower price comes with decreased power, speed and range.
Aquila electric surfboard
Electric surfboards (and wakeboards and paddleboards) were another highly popular water toy throughout 2014, presenting us with a decision of which model to include here. In the end, it was a fairly easy choice. Not only is the Aquila line of boards the fastest, offering up to 44 mph (71 km/h) of speed, but its estimated prices are pretty affordable compared to the competition – half the price of the much slower Waterwolf MXP-3 and a fraction of the cost of the slower Radinn board. Another aspect of Aquila that we like is its proposed three-board lineup, which aims to make all types of boarders happy with the long, fast Carver, the battery-conserving Manta cruiser, and the short, lively Blade freestyle board.
When we looked at the boards in July, Aquila was in the process of analyzing the market and lining up investors with the intention of a 2015 market launch. Hopefully, it's able to do so, and hopefully it does so near its estimated €2800 (US$3,425) to €3300 ($4,050) price range.
S.C.P Marine Innovation x2 Underwater Jet Pack
Easily the most futuristic, superhuman water toy we saw all year (okay, full confession: we covered this prototype in mid December 2013), the x2 Underwater Jet Pack invites you to dive into the water and power forward with a pair of wearable thrusters. The dual thrusters mount to your arms, and the batteries are worn on a vest, turning you into a sort of subaqueous cyborg. The estimated price that was bandied about last year was £3,500 (US$5,500).
Outside of those basics, details remain a little fuzzy a year later, and it doesn't look like S.C.P. is going to meet its goal of getting to market in 2014. We remain intrigued for the future of underwater travel, but for now, you'll have to stick to underwater scooters like the Seabob or towables like the Subwing.
DeepFlight Dragon personal submarine
Like the jet pack and the flying everyday commuter car, the personal submarine seems destined to forever tease the minds of children and adults without ever becoming a product they see outside of tech publications and Neiman Marcus catalogs. The hover-capable DeepFlight Dragon is one of the latest to join the ranks of ultra-expensive submersibles, a category that includes designs like the U-Boat Worx CQ-2 and AquaVenture SeaBird. DeepFlight takes aim at making the Dragon the lightest, smallest personal submarine available, a design that will help owners quickly get the hang of driving it. The 3,968-lb (1,800 kg), two-seat submarine is capable of diving around 400 feet (120 m) down into the water with help from its electric vertical thrust system.
While the Dragon should make submarine piloting easier for owners, it won't make personal submarining any easier on their wallets. The Dragon will set them back a cool $1.5 million. DeepFlight is taking reservations now.
Schiller X1 water bike
We've seen a number of water bikes over the years, and the new Schiller X1 is the sleekest, most stylish one yet. The aqua bike includes aluminum and stainless steel construction, PVC pontoons and LED lights. Its combination of Gates Carbon belt drive, continuously-variable NuVinci 360 transmission and twin propellers gets the rider pedaling across water at speeds up to 10 mph (16 km/h). The whole package breaks down for easy travel to and from the water.
The X1 isn't in the same stratosphere as a personal submarine, but its $6,495 is fairly steep when compared to the price landlubber's typically pay for bicycles.
Kormaran shape-shifting boat
At 23 feet (7 m) long, the Kormaran is well larger than what we'd usually think of as a "water toy". However, its multifunctional, shape-shifting design makes it as fun as any other piece of water gear we've seen all year. Thanks to two hydraulic outrigger hulls and a set of retractable hydrofoils, the boat is a catamaran, trimaran, monohull and hydrofoil, all in one package. It can transform right on the water, even while it's moving, letting boaters react to changing conditions and moods. Its 493-hp triple jet drive powers speeds up to 44 mph (70 km/h). For those that want a slower, quieter day on the water, it also anchors and transforms into a swimming platform.
Kormaran showed a prototype earlier this year but did not share pricing information.
Hoverboard by ZR
Water jet packs like the Jetlev-Flyer and Flyboard were already some of the most awesome water toys that money could by. Then, the creator of the latter added a whole new dimension to give them even more potential. Inspired by the timelessly famous hoverboard piloted by Marty McFly in Back to the Future II, Franky Zapata designed the water jet-propelled Hoverboard. The board sends its rider surfing through the air at speeds up to 15.5 mph (25 km/h) and heights up to 16.5 ft (5 m). The Hoverboard is powered by a separate PWC, and the PWC driver controls the throttle. With the addition of the optional handheld throttle kit, the Hoverboarder controls his own propulsion.
The pricing information we received when we spoke to Zapata earlier in the year put the base price of the board around $6,000, PWC sold separately. Those that prefer biking over boarding might look into a Jetovator instead.
The title of "world's most powerful personal watercraft (PWC)" has a nice ring to it, but pricing in the range of a family sedan and thirsty, ultra-high powered engines are not on everyone's menu. Sea-Doo has taken an entirely different direction with the 2014 Spark. The US$5,000 PWC was designed to bring new faces into the sport with a combination of affordable price point, fuel-efficient engine and lightweight, easy-to-handle design.
The Spark obviously isn't the fastest or most high-tech watercraft on the market, but the first-timer shooting and leaping across the water at 40 mph (64 km/h) on the ultralight, 60-hp aqua pony couldn't care less ... especially after buying the Spark at a price he'd have expected to pay for a thoroughly used PWC. Gizmag's Loz Blain and Noel McKeegan sure didn't seem to be missing the extra horses when they tested the Spark out last month (though the Sea-Doos they were riding did have upgraded engines).
The attractive, brightly colored two-person Spark gets the most out of its small, efficient engine because its composite construction keeps weight to 405 lb (184 kg). Available options include a 50-mph (80 km/h) engine upgrade and an Intelligent Brake and Reverse feature for pinpoint control. The 2015 model starts at the same low $4,999 price as the original 2014 version.
Corran Hydra three-piece paddleboard
Watersport industry veteran and former pro kayaker Corran Addison wanted to stand out in the stand-up paddleboard market, feeling that hundreds of companies were basically just putting out the same exact product with different labels. He created an alternative to the flooded market of massive, heavy solid boards and squishy, unstable inflatables. Addison's Hydra board breaks down into three pieces, making for easy transport and storage. It assembles in about a minute and is designed to offer a stable, solid feel on the water, with the help of the structural inserts and ratchet buckles. You can also adjust the number of segments (extras sold separately) to create larger and smaller boards.
This spot on the list could have gone to the Point 65 Rum Runner, another modular three-piece paddleboard we covered this year, but we give the nod to the Hydra and its $699 price, which includes the paddle. The Rum Runner is well more expensive at $1,000+ (no paddle).
BomBoard modular jet ski
Sea-Doo deserves a lot of credit for turning back time on PWC prices with the Spark, but if the BomBoard ever fights its way to market, it'll drop the bar even lower. Its Wisconsin-based parent company of the same name wants to get the light, lithe vessel into eager hands for just under $3,500 a pop. The key to keeping prices low will be the BomBoard's small, ultralight build. At 150 lb (68 kg), it's less than half the weight of the Spark. That means less material, a smaller engine and a lower price. It also means that BomBoard can ship directly to the consumer via a Web-based store instead of being distributed through dealers. The PWC's four-piece modular design also saves the owner money on the trailer – the vessel can disassemble and ride in the back of a compact car. At the beach, it snaps together in about a minute.
All that great stuff depends on BomBoard actually getting its design to market. As of now, its website still indicates that it's looking for investors to take the design from prototype to production, estimating availability in Northern Hemisphere Fall 2015. If it does make it, expect the affordable PWC to deliver quick acceleration and sharp, nimble handling up to a top speed of 40 mph (64 km/h).