The Fast And The Amphibious
By Ronda Alvey
Story: Melissa Gulden photos: James Mazzotta
INNESPACE TAKES SPEED TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL
Imagine a Personal Watercraft that can roll 360 degrees, plunge underwater and then leap clear of the surface. The idea behind the Innespace Seabreacher is to not only swim with the dolphins, but mimic their every move, as well.
Like a strange union between a dolphin and an F-16 fighter jet, the Seabreacher is the fastest submersible watercraft out there. And thanks to co-founders Rob Innes and Dan Piazza of Innespace Marine in Redding, this “boyish” hobby has now grown into a global sensation. “It’s the newest extreme sport,” says Innes. “It’s like monster trucks in the water.”
The Innespace Dolphin has appeared on the Travel Channel’s Extreme Playtime, The Today Show, Monster Garage and Ripley’s Believe it or Not, to name just a few. It even made an appearance as Dr. Evil’s Bionic Dolphin in "Austin Powers in Goldmember."
So what is this hybrid, amphibious watercraft? The Innespace submersible watercraft is a recreational vessel allowing you to cruise across the top of the water like a personal watercraft, reach 12 feet in the air and then dive up to three feet underwater like a submarine. The 16-foot watercraft weighs 1,250 pounds and can reach speeds of up to 50 mph above the surface and about 20 mph when submerged, more than five times faster than a regular recreational submersible.
“Look at the abilities of a real dolphin; they can do flips and jumps and twists. They’re incredible,” says Innes. “Who wouldn’t want to copy that?”
With Innes on the design end and Piazza as the machinist, the watercraft has become more than just a toy. “It’s great that we can continue to improve on the design and develop them more,” says Innes.
This dynamic duo met about 13 years ago. “Dan was a trained machinist and so I hit him up to start tinkering with parts,” says Innes, originally from New Zealand. “We started building our prototype from personal watercraft.”
Piazzi, who began this endeavor because his daughter loves dolphins and always wanted to swim with them, said the personal watercraft idea wasn’t their best. Hundreds of prototypes later, they realized if they added a propeller and some horsepower, they’d have a fully submersible dolphin-boat.
The first model took about two years to develop, and then in 2003, they created the Innespace Dolphin, a single-seat recreational vehicle. In 2007, they upped the ante and came out with the Seabreacher, a more powerful two-seater. Today there is the Seabreacher X model which, with its 250-horsepower engine, can now even beat the dolphins at their own game.
The pilot steers the craft with his feet, and uses the joystick-type control to do barrel rolls. It has three axes which control it, much like an airplane: Pitch, Roll and Yaw. Yaw is turning left and right, Roll is rolling the craft from side to side and Pitch is pointing the nose down and up. Basically, it has the maneuver of a submarine, the agility of a speedboat and is the only watercraft that can actually leap above the waterline. Pretty cool, right?
Well, MTV thought so, too. In February, a crew from MTV took to the shores of Whiskeytown Lake and the cockpit of the Seabreacher to film a show on extreme vehicles. Tentatively called Megadrive, the show will air in 12-week segments, with Innespace featured in the last segment, slated to air in April. Also in February, another production company came to Redding to film a pilot for a show on G4 called Superhero Me, in which the host, David Price, travels the world in search of real technologies that enhance human abilities. Director David Starkey and his crew came all the way from Northern Ireland and are part of the same production company that brought us Future Weapons on the Discovery Channel.
Production companies aren’t the only ones interested in Innespace. Private buyers come from all over the world to take a look at this amazing watercraft. Innes says most of the inquiries come from the Middle East and Asia. The day of the G4 shoot, two men from the Turks and Caicos Islands were in town and came along to see what their money would buy. They were certainly impressed. “It makes the water more alive when you’re underneath it,” says Innes. “It’s pure enjoyment; it’s fun to create something so awesome.”
For Innes and Piazza, what began as a passion project has turned into a full-blown business with big plans for the future. “We’re building these things for the recreational market,” says Innes. “But what we want to see eventually is the whole sport grow from this, where people get their own sponsors and compete—like Motocross.” They envision races in which air mixes with water and drivers jump over obstacles and dive beneath objects in a three-dimensional environment. “We see it as having huge sporting appeal,” says Innes. “It’ll get as extreme as the people are willing to take it.”