Catch the New Wave of Water Toys

Filed in On The Lake, Recreation by on February 3, 2015

0215LAHM_WT-Mainby Dave Pederson


Every year there is a new wave of “water toys” flooding the market, especially in Minnesota where water runs wild.


Boats of all kinds, along with personal water craft, canoes, kayaks, sailboats and pedal boats have been entertaining vacationers for generations.


The other category of water toys is called inflatables. Some are meant to be pulled behind a boat and known as towables, while others are perfect for just floating and relaxing, are referred to as loungers.


There are many types of water play toys like inflatable floating party barges, multi-functional towables, waterslides, trampolines, wakeboards, water skis, paddle/pedal boats and a new craze called inflatable stand up paddle boards or SUP’s. New on the market last year was a diving board that attaches to your pontoon.


You could spend hours at your computer searching the web for all the water toy products on the market, both old and new. Tell me about it. So, instead of listing all the stuff you might find in that search, we’ve selected a few widely-available products from leading manufacturers.


Big Mable is one of several new towables designed by Sportsstuff.

Big Mable is one of several new towables designed by Sportsstuff.

Inflation rising


Mike Pleiss, the marketing manager for Kwik Tek in Denver, Colorado, makers of Airhead and Sportsstuff water sports products, has frequently vacationed on Turtle Lake near Battle Lake over the years. The company offers 98 different inflatable towables to the market along with 32 types of wakeboards. Their floating loungers come in many styles, shapes and sizes.


“People always like to see new products and we did introduce about seven new towables for 2015,” says Pleiss. “For example, Live Wire 3 has two tow points and can be pulled in different directions. It can be pulled in one direction while riding in a cockpit while feeling secure and safe. For the teenagers and adults who are more adventurous, you can turn the tube around and ride it like a chariot. It is a little bit more on the edge and provides more of an extreme ride.”


The High Rollers 3 and 4 tubes have a large ball for each rider which essentially is the only thing touching the water. It makes the tube hydroplane from side to side across the wake. The new Airhead Transformer 4 is four tubes in one, providing fun up to six riders at once. It is a four-rider round sit in towable, a two-rider deck style towable, a three-rider deck style towable and an over the transom lounge.


Kwik Tek offers many other products such as a bouncer, inflatable beer pong table, spillway pontoon boat water slide, inflatable gang plank that holds up to six people and Na Pali inflatable stand up paddle board.


“The inflatable SUP is a huge craze right now,” says Pleiss. “The Na Pali is the best all around board if you are a beginner or if you want to take it a little more seriously. It performs like a molded board, but you can fold it up and put it in a back pack. It is tough to learn how to balance, so we developed stabilizers like training wheels. Folks use it for yoga, fishing and taking longer trips.”


Products come with many accessories. One by Kwik Tek is the 4K Booster Ball inflatable tow rope buoy. It is a 60-foot long tow rope with a ball in the middle. It keeps the rope about a foot off the water while reducing drag and stress on the tube cover.


The new LilliPad Diving Board is designed for pontoon boats.

The new LilliPad Diving Board is designed for pontoon boats.

Where to shop


Places like Frontier Marine and Powersports in Fergus Falls sell boats and some towables. One relatively new boat product sold at Frontier is the Go-Float electric boats that are also manufactured in Fergus Falls.


The boats offer easy operation, transport and storage and have a wide range of appeal from kids to grandparents. There are no emissions, fuel costs, engine maintenance or winterization. There are four Go-Float models designed to accommodate one to three riders.


Standard Docks and Lifts in Battle Lake does not sell boats, but does sell many brands of water toys including Airhead, Sportsstuff, RAVE, WOW, Shoreline and Full Throttle.


Sheldon Hein, owner of Advanced Docks and Lifts, says that standup paddle boards are real popular. They may be a little more pricy than the towables, but they do more for you. They can hone your balancing skills and tone your muscles as you hold yourself up and balance while you are paddling.


Hein carries two products with the same name but are different in many ways, including being spelled differently. The Lillypad is a flat mat on the water and the LilliPad is the new springboard for the pontoons.


“There are so many different shapes and forms now,” said Hein about water toys. He has been in the business for 25 years. “Price can range from $100 to $800 depending on what you want.”


Hein said the big floating rafts are popular, especially for floating down the river with a lot of people. Rafts can include a pop up table and tip up seats, plus a built-in cooler, making it flexible for use by young and old.


The new aluminum pedal boats made by Kennedy sit up higher and are easier to steer, notes Hein. They could be more accurately called “pedal pontoons” because of their stable and roomy deck and upholstered seating. Some have enough room for sun tanning, diving or fishing.


Hein points to the catamaran style inflatable water ski/wakeboard trainer that allows new skiers to learn to deep water start without getting in the water. Let the boat pull the skier while they sit on the Aqua Buddy to get used to the feeling of being pulled.


Taking a dive


The LilliPad Diving Board’s design transfers the energy created from jumping on the platform to a shock built into its frame. The boat is not damaged by people jumping off the backs of seats or handrails. The board can be mounted on most pontoons at the side door.


“Sales have been great for the level of exposure that we have had with this first year product and company,” said LilliPad President Ann Schaub. “We started the summer of 2014 with just six dealers and now have a growing dealership network of nearly 40 dealers across the country and into Canada. The feedback from current clients has been phenomenal.”


Schaub says the unique design is easy to install, allowing users to put it up and take it down on a daily basis. LilliPad boards are designed for use by children and adults up to a maximum weight of 250 pounds.


Products Overflowing


WOW (World of Watersports) was founded in 2010 by Leroy Peterson, the founder of Sportsstuff. He has been in the towable industry since 1980 when only one towable existed on the market. It was a one person PVC tube with no cover.


WOW has a huge inventory of towable water tubes coming in an array of creative shapes and different sizes. The Big Boy, Giant Bubba and Yankee Limo are just a few of the huge towables for boats.


Hoping to host a party in the middle of your pool or lake? Try the floating lounges like the River Rover, Tube-A-Rama floating islands designed for six or 10 people or the 12-person Stadium Islander.


WOW uses a sprocket system on its Aqua Treadmill. The sprockets turn this capsule into a human powered vehicle that enables you to move across the water at speeds up to 10 mph. Once you get tired of moving around you can use the Aqua Treadmill as a floating island with shade.


RAVE SPORTS based in St. Paul is the originator of the inflatable water trampoline. The Aqua Jump Eclipse is the only water trampoline on the market that does not require a heavy steel bar frame around the perimeter of the tube while maintaining both performance and quality.


“Our products let you bounce, spin, slide, soar or just meander across the water,” notes Laura Jendersee, marketing communications manager at RAVE SPORTS. “They let kids be kids. Better yet, they let adults be kids.” There is certainly no shortage of options in this continually growing market. Check out some of these options for yourself or see what else is “current” in water toys, if you get the “drift.”



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