It's not often that the worlds of technology and surfing collide, but when they do, the results can be pretty epic.
On a recent trip to Nazare, Portugal, big-wave surfer Garrett McNamara was able to paddle into a 45-foot wave--a feat that would be difficult to achieve on arm power alone--thanks to the help of jet-propelled surfboard.
The high-tech surfboard is the creation of a San Diego-based company called WaveJet. WaveJet is actually a pod that can be attached to any surfboard, kayak, or other personal watercraft and features battery-powered twin jet drives that produces 20 pounds of thrusts and can propel the board up to 12 miles per hour. A wristband worn by the surfer allows him or her to control the twin jets wirelessly and also provides information about battery life, which stands at around 40 minutes if used continuously.
The Personal Water Propulsion system was born out of WaveJet founder and CEO Mike Railey's desire to surf big waves without the need to rent or buy a jet ski. Surfers often use jet skis to tow each other into waves that are too big to paddle into, but not everyone has access to one. Plus, there are a number of big-wave spots that ban the use of jet skis and other personal watercraft to protect marine life.
Though the company has been around since January 2011, McNamara's 45-foot wave is the largest wave caught using the WaveJet system, for now at least. (McNamara also towed into a record-setting 90-foot wave on the same trip.)
"The ride on this huge wave justified everything that WaveJet has sought to achieve with its awesome technology," McNamara said. "The ability to track down and get into that wave with the WaveJet propulsion pod locked into my board, and utilize the power as I rode through the wave, was incredible. It was so amazing to kick out and not have to paddle to get out of harm's way and get right back to the peak to catch another wave."
WaveJet plans to launch the product in spring 2012, but it looks like I'll be scratching for waves the old-fashioned way as pricing is expected to be between $4,000 and $4,500.