Feel like a Frog

For $42,000, you can feel like a frog. All you have to do is own a Quadski.

Half ATV (all-terrain vehicle), half PWC (personal watercraft; think Jet Ski), the four-wheel, motorcycle-like amphibian, built by Gibbs Sports Amphibians Inc., goes up to 45 miles an hour on land and in the water.

A fun toy, it was meant to be enjoyable and easy to use, said Graham Jenkins, Gibbs Sports’ head of public relations and marketing and son of one of the founders. “And we were not trying to build the fastest thing, because the Quadski is the fastest thing. We are pretty happy about that.”

There are other amphibians, he said. But they are speedy either on land or in the water, not both, which makes Quadski an amphibian of a different color, so to speak.

“It handles very smoothly,” Jenkins said. “It’s got a good center of gravity and wider wheelbase, so it’s smoother than an ATV, and it can handle off-road conditions — hills, gravel, dirt, etc. — without trouble.”

He can attest to that because he’s ridden it over the 5-mile track at the company’s test site in Stuart. (Gibbs Sports is headquartered in Michigan.)

Easy to handle

“I am not a light guy, and going around corners on an ATV, it was incredibly easy to tip over. When I got on the Quadski, I did not have a problem. Each time I went around the track, I got going faster and faster. It’s a very forgiving machine, with a good suspension; I didn’t feel like I was being kicked by a mule.”

Some particulars: the 1,300-pound, 10.5-foot-long Quadski draws power from a BMW K 1300 Motorrad motorcycle engine capable of producing 175 horsepower. The engine is mated to a five-speed transmission with an automatic clutch. The craft can carry up to 260 pounds.

Jenkins enjoyed the water experience, too. “I am not an outdoor kind of guy. But I spent a lot of time on the Quadski in the water and had a lot of fun, stopping only because the sun went down. Then, when I was finally finished, I was able to drive the Quadski back onto land and into the trailer. Done. Finished. No dragging out of the water. It was so easy.”

The Quadski came after another invention, the boat/car Aquada. That, too, was conceived by New Zealander and entrepreneur Alan Gibbs. Why did he invent such a vehicle?

Explained Jenkins: “Because in the 1990s, he lived in a tidal area and got fed up while waiting for the tide to come in to launch his boat.”

Then Gibbs met engineer/entrepreneur Neil Jenkins (who came from Nuneaton, England, and now lives in Orchard Lake, Mich.). The two started working on the amphibian car.

Regulatory issues

They built 30 Aquadas. But they put the project on the back burner because the process to satisfy all three regulatory agencies (Environmental Protection Agency, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Coast Guard) to make the craft road-legal has been a long process.

However, the company was able to meet EPA, Consumer Product Safety Commission and Coast Guard criteria, as well as California Air Resources Bureau standards, for the Quadski.Gibbs and Jenkins had started developing it in 2007, announced it in 2012, and began selling the craft in 2013.

The two have also noted an interest in other amphibian vehicles — part of their larger Amphitrucks line — which they plan to develop as emergency vehicles for first responders.

The Quadski has been popular, Jenkins said. Gibbs Sports has sold about 1,000 of them and plans on producing 3,000 to 4,000 this year. Yacht owners particularly enjoy them and often have them custom-painted to match their boats.

Saving the best for last (and guessing what it might feel like to kiss a frog), here’s an explanation of Quadski’s land/water transitional phase.

“If you are on land and you start to drive the Quadski into water, it feels incredibly strange. You are floating. Then you press a button, the wheels fold up, disengage from the engine, and off you go,” Jenkins said.

“The other way around, just make sure you are floating before you put the wheels down,” he said. “There’s nothing else quite like the feeling. It’s a very strange thing that takes the mind a little while to get used to.”

Quadskis are carried by Riva Motorsports in Pompano Beach and Cycle Springs Powersports in Clearwater.

Christine Davis has learned that she’s a boating enthusiast, much to her surprise. If you manufacture or want to purchase a really cool craft, email her at cdavis9797@comcast.net. She’d love to know about it, write about it and come along on a test drive.

Written for palm beach daily news

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