The AquaSkipper is a human powered hydrofoil that gets its thrust from jumping up and down. If you stop jumping you will sink and find yourself swimming back to the dock. Probably the best way to get a feel for how it works is to watch the movie. We made this video on the first outing and it shows early failures as well as later more successful attempts.
On following days the skill level and distances have increased and if I launch from a low dock I can return without getting wet. It's an energetic activity and my top distance so far is about a quarter of a mile. These photos are from the third weekend.
I first became aware of the the idea of "hopping hydrofoils" almost 20 years ago. My uncle, James Grogono, wrote a book called "Icarus: The boat that flies". The book was primarily about Icarus, which was the family's successful speed sailing hydrofoil catamaran. Since James had also successfully managed to add hydrofoils to a sculling boat, his book had a chapter on human powered boats. This chapter showed a theoretical design by a Danish man, Leif Wagner Smitt, where the thrust was achieved by vertical motion of the foils. The idea has appealed to me ever since.
About a decade ago, two people actually succeeded in building devices powered like this - I'm not sure who was first. The Trampofoil was designed by Alexander Sahlin who is now heading a Swedish speed sailing effort. The Pogofoil was developed by Parker MacCready and his version can start from rest although this adds windage and weight.
The Trampofoil was for manufactured for sale but not for long. Very recently the Aquaskipper (and another similar device called the Pumpabike) have come to the market and I decided I should get one and give it a try.
Updated: Aug. 2007