THE HOW AND WHY OF SHOREBUDDY’S INVENTION…
I was recently asked about the inception of ShoreBuddy™. What prompted me to come up with it and what is the story behind the project? Well here it is in a nutshell.
The year is 2002 and in preparation for a trip to Australia (loved it! – just sayin’) I was desperately trying to get as many dives in as possible. My intention was to improve my skills to get the most I could out of my dives in Cairns.
…and here we go!
The ‘beach’ at Carter Lake in Northern Colorado was a sloping, semi-dry muck left by the receding reservoir level more than it was a legitimate beach. If I closed my eyes I could still feel the tropical breeze and caribbean sand between my toes from a trip to USVI/BVI the year before. Looking down at my Teva sandals now covered in mud I frowned and grabbed the tarp our instructor had repeatedly told us to bring and began trudging my way from the car to our staging area closer to the waterline. It didn’t matter, in a few short weeks I would be on a boat off the coast of Australia I told myself.
We spread our tarps out and weighed them down against the Colorado wind using extra lead or rocks and began assembling our gear. I was excited about diving, even in the reservoir with its 6 foot visibility, mud bottom and only the occasional crawdad or trout for company. It meant experience that I was sure would help me enjoy my diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Flicking mud off the mouthpiece I testing my primary first stage – it still tasted like mud though.
Getting out of the water it took no more than a few minutes for chaos to ensue. Four divers clamboring to get out of wet gear on an 8’x8′ tarp. The brisk water hastened our de-gearing so we could dry off and warm up. There were a few close calls as one diver would pull his computer or regulator up just before another stepped on it. Thankfully we had no damaged equipment that day but the experience did plant the thought in my head that there had to be a better way.
The rest of the summer went pretty much exactly the same. The more experience I got the more organized I tried to keep my gear. When I got home I would set it all out of the patio furniture and hose off the mud that I just couldn’t seem to avoid.
Fast forward… (oh – Australia was great by the way)
On my way to Bonaire in 2005 I began brainstorming better ways to organize gear diving. In Colorado and New Mexico we don’t do much boat diving so the majority of my experience was from the shore of a lake, spring or reservoir.
I wanted something that would achieve three basic goals.
- It had to keep my equipment off the ground, out of the sand/mud. I didn’t want to risk having to call a dive because sand or mud was interfering with the proper operation on my reg.
- I wanted to keep things organized so I would be able to easily see that I had everything for the dive.
- Finally, there had to be a way to make sure that nothing got stepped on or had a tank dropped on it. Like anyone who buys their own gear I’d spent quite a bit on my SCUBA rig and wanted to take care of my investment as well as keep it all in the best working order possible.
As you might imagine I went through a number of concepts but the simple, tripod design had the advantage of being collapsable and more portable than others as well as being very sturdy.
My original prototype frame was made by hand out of PVC pipe and various bits of hardware from Home Depot. The hinges on the top that allowed the legs to collapse were ball joints with threaded ends and cost more than the rest of the frame combined but it provided me a working prototype.
Having been a naval mechanic the frame was a fun challenge but when it came to the canvas I was out of my league. I wasn’t sure what fabrics would be appropriate or how it would all go together. Nor did I have a sewing machine that was up to the task. The local company I ended up working with makes awnings for commercial buildings and I figured that would be a good place to start. As it turns out they had ‘marine cloth’ which was traditionally used to make boat covers – perfect! Marine cloth is a semi-mesh that would allow airflow for ease of drying and prevent the ShoreBuddy™ from becoming a sail in windy conditions. After measure various peices of my gear I decided on pocket sizes and other features (ballistic nylon reinforced floor etc.) and had them sew it up.
It didn’t work. The legs of the tripod didn’t stay in place and there was no where to keep anything even remotely dry. Well…back to the canvas shop…
By revision three I had a functional prototype. It did everything is was supposed to. In order to improve durability I had a frame made from Aluminum tubing which was used for the photo you see here.
ShoreBuddy™ was my first experience with the US Patent Office as a private citizen and it would prove quite challenging. My attorney and I put forward a compelling case for the unique use and features that the product had and submitted it with high hopes. For those of you not familiar with the USPTO it is something of a challenge and can take several years for a patent to be awarded.
After we finally got the patent application to an examiner they replied with some concerns about the perspective of some of the drawings. Naturally, my attorney called to get clarification so we could update the drawings and resolve any issues only to be told that the examiner was ‘also an artist’. Eventually, we did finally get the examiner to buy off on our non-artistic renderings and the patent was finally awarded in 2009.
That brings us to developing the business plan and where we are now…securing funding to bring ShoreBuddy™ to a shore near you!
The surface interval’s over … get out there and dive!
© 2013 Stephen Krausse – All rights reserved.