The Human Bobber – Multi-Use Life Jacket

the human BobberJustin Rietema and Doug Schultz, creators of the Human Bobber, are two buddies from the Fort Lauderdale area who enjoy boating, water sports, hanging out, and generally enjoying life. As Floridians, their life revolves around the water – the ocean is the state's greatest resource. Boating is a big part of their lives.

If you own a boat, you need life jackets and the Human Bobber is just that, plus a lot more. They call their product a “personal flotation device.” Sure, it's a life jacket, but it also converts into a chair-like water float and, when worn around the waist, it lets you literally float like a human bobber.

The product fits like a standard life vest, but with a few quick changes, you can wear it like a diaper and you stay upright in a seated position in the water. This is great for lounging around or working on your boat. With a couple other quick changes, it converts into a water chaise lounge, allowing you to float in a comfy position, keeping cool while soaking up the summer sun.

There are two models in the Human Bobber line. The Scuttlebutt acts as a floating chair and the aforementioned bobber-like “diaper.” It also converts to a kayak seat. The Bottoms Up model is a Coast Guard approved life jacket and “floating saddle” (or diaper). The benefits for boaters are there's less space needed to store noodles or other float toys because the life jacket is the float toy. At 90 bucks, they're on the high-end in price for life jackets, but the multifunctionality neutralizes the extra expense. They guys hope the Sharks see the utility of their inventions when they float their business proposition in Shark Tank episode 825.

My Take on the Human Bobber

I live in Florida and I am proud to say I have access to my favorite kind of boat: someone else's! As a life-long boater and former boat owner, I ditched the hole in the water surrounded by fiberglass about a dozen years ago. I still go out fishing on my buddy's boat a couple of times a month and that's enough for me. Boats, besides being expensive, are a lot of work and I am more than happy to enjoy them as a guest.

My friend and I fish the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay regularly. There's one spot in the bay with a nice sand bar that boaters frequent. They'll anchor and just hang out in the shallow water on the sand bar. I've seen people with these Human Bobbers. In fact, the first time we saw someone wearing one, my friend said, “that life-preserver looks like a diaper.”

The people were floating, heads up on the sand bar, enjoying a beverage and generally having a good time. It looked like fun. I have a kayak (which I don't consider a “boat”), so the Scuttlebutt could be something I'd be interested in. If I still had a boat, the Bottoms Up product would be a strong consideration for my life-preserver stock. I am IN.

Will the Sharks Float a Deal?

Life jackets are required on all boats. In Florida, if you don't have enough life jackets on your boat for the number of people present, you can get a ticket. That said, wear rates are low. Less than 30% of boaters wear life jackets and most boating fatalities are at least partially attributed to people not wearing their life jacket. Boating is a HUGE industry and life jacket sales run in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Other recreational floatation devices have big sales as well.

Grabbing a slice of that pie is what The Human Bobber aims to do. The Sharks will need to see that the company is doing it now and is poised for growth. Niche products are typically a tough sell in the Tank; Justin and Doug hope their product can keep them floating long enough before the Sharks start biting. Robert and Daymond are the most outdoorsy Sharks, so they might get it more than the others.

I can see Mark going out on the “it's a product, not a business” objection, but his affiliation with Tower Paddle Boards may have synergy. Tower wants to be a “beach lifestyle brand” and the Human Bobber could fit into their model. Whether Mark wants that partnership or not, it's a good fit. As for Robert and Daymond, a life jacket is something that fits into their lifestyle, but it might not be a business fit. Lori and Kevin likely pass, unless the company has big profits.

If the Human Bobber wants a deal, they need good sales, or else nothing they wear can save them from the Sharks.

About Rob Merlino

Entrepreneur, auteur, raconteur. Rob Merlino is a blogger and writer who enjoys the Shark Tank TV show and Hot Dogs. A father of five who freelances in a variety of publications, Rob has a stable of websites including Shark Tank Blog, Hot Dog Stories, Rob Merlino.com and more.

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