WHEN local inventor Graeme Attey bought a stand up paddle board and found its sluggishness spoiling his fun, it was bound to lead to something.
“I tend to do projects where something does not work and is driving me nuts and I have to fix it, or something that does not exist and I want,” the South Fremantle resident told the Herald.
Mulling over his experience, Mr Attey decided the first obvious move was to switch to a lightweight twin hull.
“It was a good solution, except when you stand on a twin hull it’s not that stable,” he said.
“It has a funny little oscillation lengthways, and I thought that if you used little foils on the board you’d get rid of the oscillations – and then the board became ridiculously stable, you could not fall off it.”
Still not quite content with his design he delved into the relatively new sport of foiling, which involves getting the main board off the water to reduce drag by using a type of winged keel underneath.
He co-opted a young stand up boarder and the pair tested two foils per session up the river, but found that traditional designs tended to reduce control and success relied on the expertise of the paddler.
Then Mr Attey cottoned onto the old trick of tightrope walkers, who use a long pole to spread their mass away from their feet (known as the pivot point) and give them more stability.
His resulting foil design was so unique his business Fuselage Design scored an innovation grant from the McGowan government in July last year.
“I don’t get any money at all for it,” Mr Attey says of the grant.
“The money is to be used by an independent third party for the benefit of the project, and for this project I used it to pay a patent lawyer to lodge the patents.”
Mr Attey’s now looking for a manufacturer to license his design but has struck an unusual hitch; the initial wave of enthusiasm that greets new sports had waned for stand up boarding and a number of companies left the market. Then Covid hit and sales went back through the roof.
“Now they can’t keep up with sales of the existing products, let alone investing in new ones,” Mr Attey said.
A former lecturer of industrial design at Curtin University, Mr Attey has a diverse range of inventions to his name, and was WA’s innovator of the year in 2012 for an evaporative cooling system.
A couple of years ago he also licensed a sports helmet using a hexagonal design which was proven to reduce concussion rates for footballers by half.
So far the manufacturers haven’t convinced any AFL stars to adopt the helmet, despite similar studies showing what they’re currently donning offers virtually no protection at all.
Mr Attey says it was frustrating watching media discussions about concussion, which has centred around post-concussion management, knowing he has an invention that could solve the problem.
by STEVE GRANT