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But isn't sitting down totally lame?

September 07, 2004|Susan Carpenter

It's so addictive that people quit their jobs for it. Get divorced because of it. So says Mike Murphy, co-inventor of the hydrofoil water ski -- a floating, flippable slalom ski that hovers above, not on, the water, thanks to a long metal fin.

The trick is getting people to try it -- to get over the minimum $1,400 price tag and, even more important, to get over the perceived lameness of a board sport that asks riders to sit instead of stand.

"For some reason, people think sitting's just for old people," says Murphy, 56. "Think of the guy driving the drag boat at 200 mph or all those guys at the X Games doing huge flips on their bikes. All those guys are sitting. Sitting is cool."

Hydrofoil technology has been around for about 100 years, used for the most part on commuter ferries, but the first marriage of ski, binding and hydrofoil happened in the '70s. A couple of companies -- AirChair in Lake Havasu, Ariz., and Murphy's firm, Sky Ski in Lake Elsinore -- began manufacturing them in the '90s. Together they have sold perhaps 20,000 skis worldwide, from Qatar and Egypt to Michigan and California.

Here in SoCal, they are popular on some waters (Canyon Lake) and almost nonexistent on others (Pyramid Lake). According to Murphy, they tend to take off in places where packs of highflying hydrofoilers strut their stuff at the same time -- jumping wakes, catching major air and showing the masses what they're missing.

In five years, when the hydrofoil patent expires and new manufacturers enter the market, you can bet your neoprene booties they'll make waves.

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-- Susan Carpenter

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