- July 2nd, 2009
- in Yachting
No Waves, No Paddles, No Problem: PowerSurfing and PowerKayaking at Manuel Reef and Necker Island – BVI Yacht Guide met with Colin Bramble at the BVI Watersports Centre (BVIWSC) in Manuel Reef Marina to test drive the new Surfango Powerboards—motorized kayaks and surfboards—just days before Sir Richard Branson test drove them at Necker Island.
When we arrived, Colin, along with BVIWSC students Eben Meyers and Jaye Noel, hauled first the kayak then the surfboard down to the ramp at the end of the dock. Each craft required all three to carry it to the water. After installing the fins, filling the fuel and buckling into life jackets, the young lads hopped on and took off. Alison Knights-Bramble rode us out in her new Pink Panther rib to join the guys in the bay and take some pictures. Jaye whipped around on the motorized kayak—pushing it to its top speed of 25mph—while Eben got vertical on the surfboard.
After several minutes of watching the guys cruise around, we were ready to try the new toys ourselves. I chose the power sea kayak, the Hawaii GT, and my colleague Owen Waters, a watersports aficionado, climbed aboard the PowerSurf. Unlike Owen, my watersports experiences consist of one windsurfing lesson from Jeremy at Trellis Bay and two successful deepwater starts (out of about twenty attempts) while waterskiing last summer.
Despite my inexperience, I easily moved from the rib to the seat of the kayak, plugged in the kill cord and instinctively slid my hand around the centrally located joystick controller. The designers of the joystick probably played the same arcade games I did as a kid. It was simple—a trigger button for speed on the underside of the stick controlled by my index finger, start and stop buttons managed by my thumb, and the left and right determined by the side-to-side motion of the joystick itself. I sped away from the rib and gleefully manoeuvred around the bay.
Meanwhile, Owen steered the PowerSurf with his legs and body, just as he would a normal surfboard or wakeboard. Only this board isn’t propelled by the waves or pulled by a boat; it’s powered by a four-stroke, 9.5hp, electric-start engine operated by a handle similar to that of a waterskiing towrope. We zipped around Manuel Reef a few times then headed back to the rib and let the guys ride the two machines back to the dock.
I was thrilled at having mastered a new toy in such a short period of time. I asked Owen, the pro, if he would ever consider taking the PowerSurf out in the waves or wake. “No, it’s definitely for flat water only,” he said then stopped for a second and looked up at the ceiling. “Well, maybe wake would be okay.” I could see the wheels turning. “Or just some two-foot waves.” He grinned and added, “I mean, if someone gave me one just to shred, I might take it down a mountain.” These boards could spawn the next extreme sport.
A few days later, we met with Colin, along with Gary Sommer and Frank Jablonski from Surfango, to discuss the boats and boards and their visit to Necker Island. The Surfango guys were excited that Owen and I had previewed the boards. I told Gary how easy the kayak was to drive and admitted that I felt a little guilty about it.
“Did you paddle at all?” Gary asked.
“There was a paddle?” I guess I didn’t feel that guilty…
The gentlemen seemed pleased about their visit with Sir Richard Branson the day before, and the photos show that the weather was perfect, the sea was clear and the Bransons were happy with the latest toys.
“The board we’re giving him is custom made,” Frank said, adding that it’s going to be Virgin maroon. “We left the testers over there for a week because he wanted some of his guests to try them out.”
I’m sure the guests at Necker enjoyed the Powerboards, as long as Sir Richard didn’t try to scare them with his infamous shark suit.