As Ratty famously said in The Wind in the Willows, “There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” And, looking at the various yacht-laden marinas dotted around the more salubrious spots on almost any continent’s coastline, many of you would rightly agree.
As would I, even with my tech head firmly in place. There are so many interesting advances going on in boat design right now, from connected cabins to material innovation to hybridisation of powertrains. But there are also fantastic developments in gear aimed not only at those concerned with sailing but also those interested in messing about on, in and over the waves.
Take the simply crazy FlyNano (pictured above), for instance. This €25,000 (around £22,000) craft is some sort of astonishing hybrid between a jet-ski and seaplane, but should perhaps best be considered as something more akin to James Bond’s latest offering from Q Branch. Weighing in at just 70 kilograms, the FlyNano is a super-lightweight, all-electric 32kW personal flying machine. It can whisk a single pilot (weighing no more than 100 kilos) up into the air for 15 minutes at a time on a single charge of the battery. Thanks to its having the highest power-to-weight ratio of any all-electric ultralight around, you will hit speeds of up to 120km/h as you skim across water flying at heights anywhere between 30 metres and 150 metres. The best part? You won’t need a pilot’s licence to fly one, so you can jump straight in (just please be careful).
If the FlyNano is a little bit to daredevil for your tastes, why not try out the Fliteboard eFoil (above, and in use in main picture): an all-electric surfboard complete with hydrofoil? Not only does this board (€9,995, or around £8,800) carve though water with ease, it raises you well above the waves for a superior view, speed and control as you surf, all while remaining virtually silent thanks to that electric propulsion. The board is constructed from paulownia wood, stainless steel and aluminium, and can hit a maximum speed of 22.4mph over a range of 17.4 miles. Running time is around one hour before you will need recharge. As for controls, as you’re standing up, you set the speed using a natty Bluetooth waterproof controller. Steering the thing, however, is all down to you.
Traditional surfer types may be interested in a new board from industrial designer and master shaper Thomas Meyerhoffer (pictured below). The 2PRT Modular, solves some of the inherent problems with traditional surfing: transporting boards about and differing conditions. Meyerhoffer has come up with a modular design that means you can pack your board down to a far more manageable size. Moreover, users can pair the “nose” with various tail shapes to create on the fly the ideal surfboard for various conditions as well as the rider’s ability. The first set will go on sale for $1600 (around £1240) and will include one nose and two tails, with an optional travel bag sold separately.
If diving beneath the waves and swimming with the teeming sea life without the need for a cumbersome and heavy scuba setup, Blu3’s aptly named Nemo (price to come), available this spring, lets you frolic underwater up to three metres deep, using only a flotation tube attached to an air supply system that floats above you on the surface. How does this differ from those traditional surface-supplied air devices? Well, this one is far more portable and user-friendly. It’s about the size of a toaster, yet runs for over an hour, leaving you plenty of time to explore submerged.
Those tempted by any of the above who feel the cold should try out the latest in wetsuit tech, the Yulex range from Patagonia (£450 for a front-zip, hooded, full suit). Decidedly eco-friendly, Yulex suits are made from plant extract not neoprene. Yulex itself is an all-natural, allergy-resistant rubber made from the guayule plant that’s both Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance certified. Plus, it performs: the R4 wetsuit, for example, is suitable for the coldest of conditions between 3-9°C. Patagonia has even improved it’s Yulex suits this season so they are even stretchier, lighter and more comfortable than before, plus all external seams are triple-glued and internally taped for durability. Even the thermal lining is made using 100 per cent recycled polyester jersey.
Now you’d need only choose which salubrious coastline to head for to try these aquatic accessories out.