Yoav Rosen: There is an undeniable capability that Israelis seem to have to dream and to create something out of nothing. (Photo: Dan McDonald)Don’t stand up in the boat! Anyone who has ever been in a canoe or small boat will remember this cardinal rule. As with many rules, there’s a good reason behind it. You could easily capsize the boat, fall in the water, or both. Small boats are inherently unstable, or so we are taught.
But for U.S. consumers who currently purchase approximately 340,000 new kayaks and 100,000 new canoes each year, an Israeli-inspired invention called The W boat is out to change all that they know about small recreational boats.
Introduced in April of this year, the W, named for the shape of the wake it produces, isn’t likely to be mistaken for any other craft on the water. Yet, there are familiar hints in the design. The narrow, twin hulls belie a lineage to the Catamaran. It is molded in bright yellow or dark green colored Polyethylene. It can carry two adults and their gear.
The boat’s biggest surprises, however, are revealed only after the W boat is launched. The W is deceptively fast and can be comfortably paddled in a variety of positions: Riding, with knees bent, sitting with legs relaxed as you would in a canoe or extended as in a kayak, kneeling or simply standing – a position termed “paddleskiing.”
“Can anybody imagine the Olympics with athletes competing only in the sitting position?” asks the W boat’s Israeli inventor, Yoav Rosen, who manufactures the W boat through his Massachusetts-based company, Wavewalk, Inc.
The W boat’s versatility extends to its potential uses. From ponds and lakes, to calm and whitewater rivers, to surfing; if it can be done with a paddle, the W can do it, Rosen says. The stability has proven to be a boon for fishermen, who can now cast their lines while standing without worrying about upsetting their boat. Approximately one quarter of the 21 dealers that Rosen has signed on to carry the W boat deal specialize in gear for fisherman.
The goal of the W, Rosen says, is to improve people’s experience on water and expand their possibilities to have fun. This is why he designed the W to handle the harshest test of stability for any vessel: The sea. At sea, the waves, wind and currents churn the water, creating a real technical challenge – or exhilarating excitement – for a paddler.
“The sea is the most fun environment,” Rosen says, “The fact that the W is highly seaworthy should surprise only those who forget that the Polynesians roamed the Pacific in small Catamarans and the Chango Native Americans from today’s Chile had small twin-hull boats on which they spent days at a time – at sea.”
Rosen spent most of the 1990s working in management positions with Israeli high-tech startups, most recently with BMC Software. It may be surprising then, that Rosen took the low-tech route in creating the W, opting mostly for trial-and-error field testing over Computer Aided Design (CAD).
“You can develop a new model of kayak or canoe by using CAD and a well established hydrodynamic and ergonomic science in this field,” Rosen explains, “[however,] you cannot develop a new type of boat with those tools because you’re exploring the unknown, and in some cases the unconceivable.”
Rosen’s active work as an inventor dates back only three and a half years to when his family relocated from Israel to Massachusetts to allow his wife to pursue her work as a post-doctorate research fellow at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
His first invention involved a device for walking on water. This ‘holy grail’ of inventors has inspired designs, at least since Leonardo da Vinci’s day, but none of them have worked effectively, according to Rosen. In contrast, Rosen says his model has been tested over long distances and at a pace that approaches that of walking on land. His patent was featured in a recent New York Times column.
The W boat evolved out of the water walking concept, initially as a modular design that would enable both water walking and boating using the same vessel. Later, as the W boat’s development progressed, the water walking feature was removed from the design entirely as unnecessary.
Bringing his design to market was an important goal, he says, but adds the real success for him will be when his patent-pending technology is licensed by other manufacturers and represents a substantial portion of the market previously held exclusively by canoes and kayaks.
Rosen has successfully tested a longer, faster and even more stable version of the W boat, that will be released as soon as financing is available. Until now, Rosen’s inventions have been self-financed, as investment capital for products of this type is notoriously scarce, Rosen says.
“Out of 5,000 venture capital firms in the United States, only five have ever invested in consumer products, never mind sporting goods,” Rosen says, a statistic which demonstrates how difficult it is to build a business of this type, and a very different situation than in the high-tech world he left behind.
Rosen attributes his entrepreneurial talents to that high-tech experience. As for his drive to invent, Rosen says it’s practically innate in Israeli society.
“There is an undeniable capability that Israelis seem to have to dream and to create something out of nothing,” Rosen muses.
It may seem ironic that a native of land-locked Jerusalem would emerge as an inventor and innovator in boating, a field in which he had no prior education. However, it may well be that Rosen?s lack of experience allowed him to set loftier objectives than he might have otherwise.
“I set goals that were irresponsibly ambitious,” Rosen says whimsically, adding that he still gets a thrill each time the W design proves capable of transforming the theoretical into real-world results.