A life jacket is a critical piece of equipment for water sports and recreation, and state laws require one Coast Guard approved vest for each person on a boat or other watercraft. Typically people use those standard bright orange vests, which are certified by the Coast Coast and work great, but aren’t designed with comfort or usability in mind. They are designed to do one thing – float. Along with one bulky life vest for every person aboard, boats are also filled with other types of floatation devices – rafts, pool noodles, and tubes for hanging out in the water, sport vests that offer more comfort and range of motion for wake boarding or jet skiing, and floating cushions for hard boat seats.
Justin Rietema and Doug Schultz of Fort Lauderdale, FL were tired of lugging around all that gear, which took up space that could’ve been used to bring another friend along. Those big orange vests wouldn’t typically be used at all. You’re not required by law to wear them at all times, they just need to be on the boat in case there is an emergency. Like every great entrepreneur, they found a problem and created a simple solution – The Human Bobber – one vest to rule them all. This “swiss army knife” of life vests has the flexibility to replace several (or all) of the floatation devices typically found on a boat, and it is Coast Guard approved so you can leave those bright orange life jackets at home.
Justin and Doug created their company H3O Sports in 2011 and began production on their flagship product the Human Bobber Bottoms Up, which can be worn like a standard life jacket, or be inverted and worn like a floating pair of shorts – transforming you into a virtual human bobber (which is a pretty relaxing way to hang out in the water). When in “bobber mode” you float upright about chest deep in the water, with the life vest mostly submerged. This is called a floating saddle and the Bottoms Up can float up to 300 lbs. It’s a hands-free alternative to clinging to a floppy pool noodle or trying to stay balanced on a raft. And since you have your hands free, you may as well enjoy an icy beverage, which can be floating beside you in its own Beverage Bobber.
The Human Bobber Bottoms Up vest has two zippers running in two directions, so it’s easy to switch it around and it has a comfortable fit in either orientation. The vest has deep arm holes and a segmented design that allows a full range of motion, making it a great choice for water sports. Its segmented foam panels allow air to circulate around your skin and water to wick off, while creating a form fit that is more comfortable to wear than traditional rigid vests. The soft-cell PVC foam inside the panels is flexible like a gel, so it moves with you rather than rubbing against your skin. Plus, since it an approved Type III life jacket, you know it will do the most important job if needed – save your butt from sinking to he bottom of the lake – and it can do that no matter which way you’re wearing it. They also look cool so it’s easier to get teens and kids to put them on.
H3O Sports also has 2 other multifunctional floatation devices in its line up – the Scuttlebutt and Scuttlebutt Kayak Edition. The Scuttlebutt is an all-in-one seat cushion, floating saddle, and aquatic chair. It can be worn as a pair of floating shorts like the Bottoms Up vest, but also unfolds to create a comfortable seat cushion complete with back padding that’s perfect for small recreational boats. When you’re ready to get out of the boat and relax for awhile, just throw the seat in the water and bob with your shoulders and legs above the surface, like leaning back in a floating recliner chair. Although the Scuttlebutt has the same buoyancy as the Bottoms Up, this is not a Coast Guard approved life jacket since it is not meant to be worn like a vest. But it would still save your butt from sinking in an emergency, and you’d be sitting comfortably while you wait to be rescued.
The Scuttlebutt Kayak Edition is similar to the regular Scuttlebutt but has additional rigid panel inserts that create a sturdy, taller seat back. It has brass clips that secure it to the boat, but can be easily detached if you roll over. The Kayak Edition can also be used for lounging in the water as a floating saddle or aquatic chair just like the Scuttlebutt.