When Collingwood local Chris Vermeulen started his Kickstarter campaign he worried it wouldn’t work. But there was no need for concern; he raised the funds in three days. And money continues to pour in nearly seven months after the campaign’s end. With 100 backers he is now up to nearly three times the original target.
Words and photo: Colin Field
Take one look at his project and it’s easy to see why he’s succeeding.
“What I want to do is create a propulsion system, that more or less will attach to the bottom of any SUP, any surfboard, and it’ll have a bracket system so you can bolt it onto any hydrofoil,” says Vermeulen. “All it is, is a remote control jet drive.”
The current prototype features a 12-horsepower motor powered by lithium polymer batteries (that he hopes to get away from in favour of lithium ion batteries). There have been numerous hurdles along the way, one of the many being the controller: no one was manufacturing a decent waterproof remote control that could throttle up or down the engine speed. But with his growing team of tinkerers (now including Ian Brown, Simon Fischer, Pedro Monsalve and Miles Hammond) they have since solved that problem, designing the first commercial, floating, waterproof trigger-style remote. It’s something that has everyone in the “e-surf” world very excited (this may in fact turn out to be the most successful part of the venture).
“Our system has a unique design that allows you to catch a wave, and let off the throttle and surf the wave without propeller resistance slowing you down.”
The entire kit, depending on what it is mounted to, will travel at speeds of up to 48 kilometres per hour; different boards will have different top-speeds as the rate of drag for each vessel is vastly different. Vermeulen and his team have also developed different props for different applications. The final battery will last from 30-60 minutes depending on what kind of board it’s on.
Not satisfied to simply have a surfboard with a motor on it, Vermeulen has also created a power source that can shut down.
“When you catch a wave with an electric board unless you throttle the board perfectly, you’re either falling back off the wave from the propeller resistance, or you’re shooting in front of the wave,” he says. “Our system has a unique design that allows you to catch a wave, and let off the throttle and surf the wave without propeller resistance slowing you down.”
With final testing starting in early April, the goal is to have the entire kit available to the public sometime in late spring/early summer.
“The whole plan is to try to build it with stock parts. So we’ll order bulk motors, bulk computer systems, we’ll get everything pre-programmed with all our settings, we’ll put on special plugs so it’s plug and play. It’ll be a DIY kit. I won’t really be assembling them, but I’ll put the kits together and say, ‘Here they all are, here’s the instructions, here’s the video clip. Bolt it together, plug in the battery and you can transform any of your rides.’”
So how much is it?
“We’re hoping it’ll be about $1250 US,” says Vermeulen. “That’s the goal but, we won’t know until we’re totally done.”
Keep up to date with this project at vefoil.com.
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