This ski and surf combo could save your life

Editor’s Note: Blueprint is a new series exploring the intersection between high-concept design and practical technology.

Story highlights

ASAP is a solar-powered watercraft which combines skis, surfboard and catamaran

It is fully sustainable and free to run and costs about one-third the price of a traditional water skier

British designer Ross Kemp developed ASAP to assist lifeguards on rescue missions

CNN  — 

Those souped-up water ski machines are ideal vacation-time fun but they’ve never been cheap.

Thanks to British designer Ross Kemp, the world has been graced with a solar-powered watercraft that costs just a third of the price of your average powered water craft.

Called ASAP, Kemp’s creation is part ski, part surfboard and part catamaran. Powered by the sun, it’s both free to run and fully sustainable.

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ASAP stands for “As Soon As Possible,” reflecting the vessel’s intended function as a rescue craft. Kemp dreamed up the idea while on a lifeguard training course, where he spotted a gap in the market for a more effective and more affordable water rescue vehicle.

“While doing my training, I found it incredibly hard to tow a body in the water and started looking at rescue equipment. I saw an opportunity to design something from scratch,” says Kemp.

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“A lot of rescue aids are simply re-purposed leisure equipment, for example a paddle board is just a surf board, and a Jet Ski is just adapted for rescue purposes, so rescuers adapt the way they rescue people to the equipment rather than the equipment for them.”

ASAP, however, has been designed with rescue missions in mind. Kemp spent months studying on-duty lifeguards to get an idea of how his concept could better assist the process.

In his final year as a design student at Loughborough University he developed the first ASAP prototype in a tent in his back garden.

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So what makes it any good?

Whereas traditional skiers can be cumbersome to get going, ASAP is lightweight and can be jumped on and launched immediately by one person. It has a sloping center platform to slide the injured onto quickly, getting them buoyant as soon as possible and its V-shaped catamaran hull means it cuts through waves to avoid slapping, making it much safer for towing a casualty.

Kemp’s creation is timely. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death around the world, yet with rising fuel prices petrol skiers are becoming an increasingly unfeasible option for local and charity run rescue stations.

At the moment ASAP can travel up to 15mph, but it’s still under development: “It’s not going to have the super power of a Jet Ski but it will certainly take the lifeguard to the casualty much quicker than swimming. We’re working on making the propulsion much stronger,” says Kemp.

CNN Blueprint set Kemp up with industrial design kingpin and mentor Ross Lovegrove, who loved the product but suggested he insert solar-powered lights so that ASAP glows as it goes.

Although only at its second prototype, ASAP has already won an award for Best Startup Business in the UK Lloyds TSB Enterprise Awards and Kemp is thinking about how to expand: “I’d love to be able to offer solar charging stations to local councils so they can charge their watercrafts whenever they need to.”

And the good news is that soon he hopes to introduce his solar-powered watercraft to the leisure market, which means we won’t need to undergo any grueling training or save any lives to give it a whirl.