I live in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where life on the water is better-suited for walleye fishing than surfing. Yet places like Minnesota could provide the ideal bodies of water for a new kind of surfing with technology that puts motors and batteries into surfboards.
Several companies are making waves on still waters with their products. Onean will begin shipping preordered electric boards later this year, while another company, JetSurf, is growing a fan base with fast-moving boards powered by a combustion engine. A third company, Lampuga, offers an inflatable board with an electric motor controlled by a hand throttle attached to a steering rope.
Purists are likely to howl. True surfing is wave-powered, they say, and anything with a motor on it is a water scooter. However, an industry is emerging around motorized boards, and the surfing community seems to be coming around to the idea, especially when pro legends like Laird Hamilton are test-riding these new boards at public events.
Plus, as one writer for Grind TV put it, a motor in the board might be welcome because no surfer likes the paddle out.
Onean offers two kinds of boards: One is for paddle boarders, with a top speed of 10 mph, while the other, the Carver, cuts through water at higher speeds (a top speed is not listed on its website) and appears to provide the kind of surfing experience, sans waves of course, seen only on the coasts.
Power is controlled with a remote control and your feet are secured by straps, like on a snowboard.
Both the Carver and the slower board, called Manta, have a battery-powered brushless motor that resides beneath the feet. The Manta will let you poke along a lake for about two hours on a charge. The Carver at full throttle provides about 20 minutes of high-speed juice.
Batteries take just two hours to charge and extra power packs are available for around $1,500. The boards themselves cost around $4,000.
While the price may seem steep, Onean has managed to make its product much more affordable than the luxury price tags on its competitors’ wares.
The gas-powered JetSurf starts at $15,000. The money buys you more time on the board, about four hours before its battery poops out, plus growing credibility in the surfing community.
The JetSurf scoots quickly around a lake at speeds that top just over 33 mph, but also seems to perform well on the big waves. If you look at its website, JetSurf proudly features videos of professionals like Hamilton and Corey Lopez riding big waves on JetSurf boards.
JetSurf riders position their feet through a pair of straps and power the board with a handheld throttle that is tethered in front. The board weighs about 30 pounds.
The German-based company has two boards, one of which is inflatable and, thus, easier to transport.
Like Onean’s boards, it has an electric engine. Good for the environment, but be close to shore around the 20-minute mark.
With speeds that reach just over 30 mph, the rider controls the thrust with the handle of a steering belt attached to the bow.
The Lampuga website shows a variety of ways in which to ride the board and is much more portable than a jet ski. But at prices that start at $15,500, a jet ski might have less impact on your budget.