Scroll through your social media feed and you’re bound to see it: an envy-inducing photo of a friend soaking up the sun on a giant swan-shaped pool lilo, cocktail in hand. Or a heart-pounding video of a daredevil with feet strapped to a hover board, performing tricks over the water. From extravagant to the futuristic, water toys are not what they used to be, with innovations ranging from motorcycles that morph into jet skis to electric wakeboards that don’t even require a boat for you to catch air.
John Courtney of FunAir, which has inflatable slides, floating islands with climbing walls and James Bond-worthy jet-packs among its offerings, says the water-toy industry is a fast-expanding one. “People are always looking for a new experience,” he says, “whether it’s at a resort, yacht or their home.”
One of the first serious jetsetter toys was the JetLev personal flying machine: a contraption that straps on your back, siphoning a jet ski’s power through a hose to send you 50ft into the air at 47mph. Another was Zapata’s Racing’s Flyboard, which uses similar technology, but with a board strapped to your feet, allowing you to soar 40ft into the air and do flips.
Today, almost as cool are electric-powered surfboards and wakeboards, which negate the need for a boat, or even waves: the Onean electric surfboard, for instance, which cuts through the water using jet-propulsion at speeds of up to 32mph, and the Radinn Wakejet Cruise, which gives boarders the freedom more commonly found in surfing – except controlled by a wireless remote.
According to Jessica Engelmann of Northrop & Johnson charter broker, having an ample toy chest is the key to a successful boating holiday. “A good toy chest has at least two waverunners, a tender, towable rafts, paddleboards and wakeboards,” she says, “and a really great toy chest might have something like a drone, and a waterslide and flyboard.” The company’s 39m Revelry, for instance, comes with an inflatable blob launcher, a hoverboard and a waterslide.
A key trend, says Sam Powell, director of Superyacht Toy Shop, is toys that are easy to transport and easy to use, like the latest Live Paddle Board, which is hard to fall off, and the new Hobie Mirage Eclipse Stand Up Pedalboard, which combines a paddleboard and bicycle.
Dual-purpose tenders have also become popular in recent years. Although they’re not a new concept (in 1961 the first German-built Amphicar made a splash at the New York Auto Show, and one even crossed the English Channel in 1968), today’s land-to-water vehicles are substantially faster. Today’s Gibbs Biski motorcycle can travel at a speedy 80mph on the highway and continue into the water at a respectable 37mph.
The shape of boats has also transformed substantially. The futuristic-looking Kormaran, for instance, can morph from a monohull tender to a catamaran or a trimaran, and by unleashing hydrofoils can fly more than 3ft above the sea. The 13m Wider 42 can be transformed from a high-performance, narrow carbon hull to a vessel 18ft wider in anchorage, at the flick of a button, “so you can not just get there before your friends,” says Jeremy Roche of Wider Yachts, “but be relaxing on a spacious deck, with your champagne open, as they arrive.”
And while it’s pleasurable to have a yacht, it’s not essential in order to enjoy water toys. There are plenty to have fun on for landlubbers, says Engelmann, ranging from “fun floats in your pool, like the swan lilos and Seabobs that are easily transported, to GoPros and drones, which keep getting more sophisticated.”
Not all the drones she recommends are airborne. The Orak Hydrofoil Drone from by Parrot, for instance, works much like a vamped-up boat, controlled by your smartphone, which can do stunts and take photos as it glides at 6mph: all ideal fuel for Instagram. And once people have seen something on social media, Courtney adds, and imagined themselves taking part, “it’s a small step to wanting a water toy themselves.”
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