Companies have promoted some pretty outrageous boating sports over the years. I have to admit that I am a sucker for cool/new/interesting activities and I will try just about anything given the opportunity. Whether I would introduce them to my campers, though, is another story. I was inspired to write this entry after seeing the below promotional video online. The product was so preposterous that I decided to dig into my memory banks for a few others from over the years.
I'll get to the subwing in a couple of paragraphs.
First on my list of disastrous boating activities would have to be the flying tube from around 2006. On paper it looked awesome; who doesn't like getting launched into the air while tubing? Achieving sustained flight behind the boat seemed like a no-brainer and countless families, organizations, and boating enthusiasts cleared store shelves of the new item. About a month into that boating season it was clear that the flying tubes were actually unstable death traps. The tubes would take flight, as advertised, but once airborne could not be controlled and unpredictably plummeted, inverted, and crashed at high speeds into the water. After two reported deaths, broken bones, collapsed lungs, and countless face and body lacerations, the manufacturer issued a voluntary recall of the fledgling product. Various new models have been released since then with added safety features but the stigma has remained and the flying tube has not been able to gain widespread popularity.
The next boat sport that came to mind was one from the early 90's called disk boarding. I honestly cannot find a picture or any evidence that it ever existed on the web but I distinctly remember it from my early days of learning how to waterski at camp. It was just a slightly concave disk like you would use to go sledding but it had a plastic hitch to lock the rope handle into for when you were sick of holding on. Basically all you could do when moving was spin in circles and attempt to go to the left or right over the wake which was made difficult to nearly impossible due to the lack of fins. Disc boarding was not dangerous but just a massive dud of a sport. I'm sure someone else has heard of this, anyone?
Not all dumb watersports ideas need be motor-boat reliant to make this list. I am including the floating iceberg climbing tower/slide because like the flying tube it just was not properly thought out by its designers. I was at a camp fair in 2009 when I saw a picture of one at another camp's booth. The director told me that he loved the iceberg at his camp - he chose to purchase a 25 foot high variant - save two major issues. The first was that he needed about fifty of his staff members to carry it out of storage each season because of its cumbersome size and weight. The second, more important, issue was that the number of broken arms and ankles at his camp skyrocketed in the first summer that he had the floating iceberg. Apparently the climbing rungs were designed in such a way that if a climber lost his/her grip and fell it was easy to get caught on the way down and break whatever appendage got hung up. The manufacturer has since corrected this design flaw and under careful supervision the floating iceberg is a great toy for camp groups.
OK, on to the subwing. Honestly my first reaction was "that thing looks awesome, I can't wait to try it, where can I buy it?" Then I thought a bit more. Here are my three big concerns:
- At any kind of speed, even under 10 mph behind the boat, you would need some impeccably clear water in order to see approaching obstacles. I foresee large numbers of tangled lines, smashed faces, and, probably, some drowning/crash related fatalities.
- Up in New Hampshire our lakes make it up to about 80 degrees by the middle of the summer - on the surface. Anyone who has dived down five or ten feet knows that the temperature plummets quickly. Once you are in water that is steadily in the low 60's or 50's you lose body heat at a rapid pace. I do not see subwing participants spending an extended amount of time at great depths before there are chattering teeth and blue lips.
- The subwing effectively makes the boat spotter irrelevant. Spotters make sure that skiers or wakeboarders have not fallen or let go or gotten hurt. With the subwing the spotter may not see a rider let go (or smash into an underwater rock) and by the time he/she is noticed the boat may be quite a distance away.
Almost certain death is enough reason to lead me not to offer the subwing to my campers but if I can get my hands on one this summer I will certainly give it a go (and get some video). The subwing could be the future of boating fun; I guess if no one ever tossed their surf board behind a boat and rode the wake two feet from the prop we would never have had wake surfing, right?