TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City native Dick Swan invented an inflatable boat that doubles as a paddle board, and the creation is starting to make some waves in the boating industry.
Swan, 70, demonstrated the Airborn boat Monday at Hannah Park in Traverse City. It took Swan and friend Brad Jones about five minutes to unpack the boat from the trunk of Swan’s car and inflate it.
A few minutes later, the pair floated away down the Boardman River.
“I started a year ago with this project from scratch,” said Swan, who graduated from Traverse City High School and who now lives in Reno, but each year vacations at his family farm in Leelanau County.
Swan said he and his wife scratched out the idea of the inflatable boat on the floor of their home using butcher paper. A prototype boat was complete by November 2012 and he tested it in the Bahamas for three months. He said the boat can be checked in as a piece of luggage, allowing boating enthusiasts to take their boat anywhere in the world.
Swan said what also makes the boat unique is a hard, yet inflatable boat base that can be stood upon for paddling or fishing. The boat can be rowed or can handle a small motor on the back. The boat has a life expectancy of about 14 years if well-cared for.
The latest version of the boat is designed for paddle boarding and fishing and costs about $2,850. Swan said he’s been meeting with retailers of major sports products and they’ve expressed interest. The Airborn boat was named by Boating Magazine as one of 14 must-see products at the Miami boating show, which is the nation’s largest boat show.
“We’ve been getting a tremendous reaction,” he said. “There’s so many people into stand-up paddle boarding and this allows them to have both products — a boat and a stand-up paddle board.”