April 30, 2007 Ever wondered what it feels like to power through the water like a dolphin? The SeaBob is like a cross between a jet-ski and a bodyboard -hold on tight and leap through the waves, or turn downward and head for the ocean floor with speed, grace and agility. This simple device creates a whole new category of recreational vehicle, and it looks like a blast!
Put on your goggles, hold onto the handles, tuck yourself in behind the hydrodynamic plastic body of the SeaBob, and gently thumb the accelerator sensor. The electric impeller jet motor pulls you forward gently at first, but ramp it up to full power and it belts you through the breakers at a speed of 15km/h. Hold on tight!
Take a deep breath and dip below the surface, powering downwards towads the ocean floor. Steer yourself by moving your bodyweight and using your legs like the tail of a fast fish, and experience the exhilaration of flying along the sand, dodging rocks, coral and startled fish as you go.
Let go of the handles and the SeaBob powers down and stops almost immediately so you don't have to swim far to get it back. There's really not that much more to it, it's a simple and intuitive device that lets the user experience underwater speed in a very physical and engaging way.
The SeaBob, designed in Stuttgart, Germany and available now, is powered by a patented electric motor, drawing on rechargeable Li-Ion accumulators and driving an impeller jet propulsion system. The standard model puts out 2.4 kW (3.3 HP) and the Jet and Cayago models use the larger 3.6kW (5 HP) engine, capable of 20kmh. A full charge takes 6-12 hours when plugged into a wall socket, and is good for around an hour belting around underwater. Extra battery packs are available, but they're fairly pricey, as is the rest of the range.
A nifty LCD cockpit display shows you the engine power, remaining operating time, charge state, water temperature and a depth gauge. The machine comes with a factory setting that shuts the engine off below a depth of 2.5 metres - a handy safety feature that can be adjusted by the adventurous to a maximum depth of 40 metres. Clearly if you're going to be zooming around at that sort of depth you need to think about scuba gear.
20kmh through the water is roughly 5.5 metres per second, so if you can hold your breath for one minute underwater, at top speed on the , you'll pop up for a breath around 330 metres down the beach. Do take care you don't pop up in the path of a jet-ski, because you won't be coming off the winner in that little contest.
Check out the demo video, if you can put up with the awful corporate techno of the SeaBob song in the background...
Apart from the recreational market (and we can see this being a real hit on hire at leisure resorts all around the world) the device clearly has James Bond written all over it too - will we see blue ocean-camoflage SeaBobs in use by Navy Seals and special ops agents in the near future?
The standard SeaBob RaveJet retails at EUR 7,675.50, with the higher-powered SeaBob Jet 5.12 going for EUR 9,371.25 and the deluxe Cayago VX2 (with extra accumulator box) for EUR 11,281.20. Not cheap, but an absolutely unique experience and a heck of a lot of fun!