In 1938 Emil Hansen from Pennsylvania developed a self propelled surfboard called the Skimboat. It got this name because it was obviously considered to be like a small boat. Considering this motorised surfboard was built in 1938 I would say the size was not so bad in comparison to some of the motorised surfboards that are coming out these days. The Skimboat was advertised as a self propelled surfboard that was patented in 1936 by Emil Hansen in Media, Pennsylvania. The Skimboat self propelled surfboard looked like loads of fun and it could be ridden laying down, sitting or even standing for the brave and adventurous riders.
This self propelled surfboard was powered by a seven and a half horsepower Martin outboard engine which was strangely enough housed in a watertight aluminium housing. The hull of the Skimboat was also made of lightweight aluminium and was about 90 inches long and 24 inches wide. The Skimboat weighed about 120 pounds but Emil has designed it in such a way that it came apart and could be moved and transported in three separate sections. This is another great feature that you think modern bay jetboard builders could have learnt from. I can’t tell you how many times Ive been carrying one of these new motorised surfboards along the beach with a friend and seriously considered just leaving it there because it was so heavy.
The Skimboat boasted a top speed of about 30 mph and it could be steered with a rudder and by shifting your body. I think standing up on this self propelled surfboard and flying along the water at 30mph must have been quite a rush. Even in these early days the Skimboat had a magnetic, safety cut off switch and as soon as you dropped the steering rope, a magnetic switch automatically stoped the motor. It just goes to show that a lot of the techniques, designs and features that are used in modern day motorised surfboards were put into practise by the surfing pioneers many years ago. In a way one wants to say that its unacceptable to be selling boards with problems in this day and age when they were able to get it right so many years ago.
The solution to making the big propellor safe was to put it in the front of the board so ideally the big spinning propellor will always be ahead of you and not chasing behind you. I have to say Ive ridden a few old classic boards in my time and its hard to be brave when you know you are riding a board with a big, sharp and powerful propellor exposed. Something about this flesh eating propellor spinning at high speeds just makes you be a little more cautious than normal. Apparently other beach goers and bathers were not huge fans of the Skimboat either and these self propelled surfboards were not a welcome site. I can imagine the riders were super excited to be riding these great inventions and the rest of the population just hated them. I can also relate to this feeling. Its a bit like riding a two stroke jetboard amongst a bunch of surfers and bathers on a beautiful, quite peaceful beach. The only people who are really loving it are the riders to be fair and maybe the odd fascinated viewer.
The first recorded article on the Skimboat was featuring this invention in the Daily Telegraph, Sydney in 1938. The photos show people sitting even though the intention was to stand up and ride but even in these days models were used and unfortunately models are hired for looks and not skill. In all fairness this self propelled surfboard would also have required some practice. What a thrill it must have been to ride and it must have been quite a site flying across the water at 30mph.