Long before advanced jetboards entered the market, riders have been trying to solve the "lack of waves issue" that comes with conventional surfboarding.
The stress of long distance paddling, coupled with the disappointment of finding no waves to surf led inventors to crack their heads and design new models and technologies. There had to be a different way to surf regardless of the natural and weather conditions.
A surfboard that could propels itself and surf flat waters was the answer. Take a few minutes to learn a bit more about the birth and evolution of the “motorized surfboard.”
These surfboards were not always as fast and modern as those found in 2017 and they were extremely heavy and large. Like all other inventions, the motorized surfboard has gone through many evolutionary steps before getting to where it is today.
Lets take a look at how our modern water toys have evolved through the years...
Credits: The article about the jetboard history and the video was prepared with the resources and great help of our Official and passionate Business Members Wayne and Grant Brooks from JetBoardLimited who invited our Official Contributor Mike Zed from Jetsurfingnation.com to visit their incredible museum of jetboards and shared their knowledge about the history of the boards!
The Surf Scooter
The first ever documented jet surf board turned up in the 1935.
It was known as the Surf Scooter, and was the first recognized motorized surfboard. The Surf Scooter was featured in a major Australian Newspaper in 1935. Here is an excerpt from the newspaper.
“Life Guard Speeds to Drowning Swimmer on Motorized Surfboard; SURFBOARD riders won’t have to depend on outboard motors or speed boats to pull them over the water in the future. Below is shown a motorized surfboard scooter recently invented in Australia. The small motor in the rear furnishes the power and also sets the board at the proper angle in the water. A good machine for life guards.”
As you’d expect, when you compare the Surf Scooter to what we have today, you can see that it was both uncomfortable and unworkable. Regardless of the impracticality of the Surf Scooter, we still need to pay our respect to the pioneers of the motorized surfboard.
Skimboat was next in line; it was developed by Emil Hansen from Bryn Mawr. The Skimboat was a self-propelled motorized boat, it bore a striking resemblance to an actual boat from which it derived its name—“Skimboat”
An outboard engine of 7HP powered the Skimboat, this engine was located at the front and enclosed in an aluminium hull. It was quite a heavy equipment—weighing about 120 pounds, 90 inches long and 24 inches wide.
For the sake of portability, it was divided into 3 sections, to ease transportation. It managed to achieve top speeds of 30 mph and could only be steered via a rudder and turning your body. An innovative measure was installed; a safety switch which worked in combination with the tiller ropes. A magnetic switch automatically stopped the motor as soon as the switch dropped.
The Daily Telegraph, Sydney 1935, depicts people sitting on the surfboard. It is thought that the actually intention was for the models to stand on the board, but they opted to sit instead because it was more comfortable.
Regardless of the somewhat positive reception of self-propelled surfboard, it was not welcomed at the beach. The reasons include the following:
- Its bulkiness: it was too heavy and too big, and had to be split into 3 parts.
- It size: It was too big, and could be compared to a small boat
- Using it at the beach was dangerous because it wasn’t popular among non-surfers.
13 years after an original Australian design, Hollywood inventor Joe Gilpin finally decided to invent his motorized surfboard. Although it showed a lot of potential, poor marketing and reception eventually led to its demise.
In an attempt to advertise, Joe Gilpin released a photo of himself crossing a lake on his motorized surfboard while donning a hat and a suit. This move was counterproductive, as the surfboard quickly faded to realm of “crappy inventions.”