The Origin of a Species
If Darwin is to be believed it took millennia for creatures to complete the transference from sea to land and, in truth, the evolution in variety of modes of transport for the movement of guests between yacht and terra firma has moved at a similarly glacial pace. That is, until the coming of Gibbs Sports Amphibians. Delivering a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘island hopping’, INVICTUS investigates a genre of amphibious superyacht toys we’ll be naturally selecting in the future…
In 2004 an Aquamotor car by Gibbs crossed the English Channel in an hour, smashing the previous record for an amphibious vehicle by four hours. Sir Richard Branson was at the wheel…
“The vision is to define a different mode of transportation, one with no barriers,” said Tom Berchulk, VP of Marketing for Gibbs Sports Amphibians—and that is exactly what the new vehicles from Gibbs Technologies bring to boating. Previously the transference of a land vehicle from a ship to shore required either the use of a landing craft, or the yacht being berthed alongside. Now however there are no barriers to traveling from your yacht to land; you can explore remote islands, ride from your yacht to a mountaintop restaurant, collect a guest, pick up provisions and bring your High Speed Amphibian (HAS) directly back onto your yacht.
Readers may recall Gibbs Technologies from the 2004 Aquamotorcar that broke the speed record for travel across the English Channel with Sir Richard Branson at the wheel. He made the trip in one hour, surpassing the former five-hour mark. Lotus provided assistance to Gibbs to build the vehicle, but it was heavy and led the engineers back to the drawing board. That venture let to the Quadski—a cross between a personal watercraft and an ATV—that made its debut in 2013 and developed into the XL model in 2015 when Gibbs added additional model options and room for a passenger.
The Quadski XL is a larger, wider and more stable model, that accommodates two people who can travel at 45mph on land or water. Transitions from wheels to water take place at the push of a button, with the wheels lifting and the jet continues to drive the amphibian. The proprietary Gibbs propulsion system, together with a BMW K1300, water-cooled, 4-stroke in-line engine–and a set of heavy-duty 12” wheels–takes hills, sand and waves in stride. The retractable, lightweight aluminum-alloy suspension transitions in less than five seconds, so zipping off a launch ramp or dock and into the water is as easy as the return to land.
Convenience is the key for this toy, tender or utility vehicle as it can be stored in a garage, with wheels up or down, or kept on lift with the addition of a U-bolt inserted into the frame. A rack can be installed on the back to carry dive equipment, fishing gear or provisions, as the Quadski XL is stable and durable for a variety of tasks—or just for fun. The Quadski, has a composite hull with a solid planing surface. The “monocoque” skin construction adds structural strength without extra weight and the low center of gravity adds to the stability and maneuverability. Want to add even more adventure possibilities? Then add a roll bar and try the Terraquad, adding a bit more speed at 50mph on land—still 40mph on water. This amphibian adds a storage platform behind the driver and passenger seat. Golf, hunting or fishing anyone? Or how about picking up provisions from a shopping trip?
If you prefer to travel solo, try the original Quadski, or the all new Biski or Triski; the latter are personal watercraft that transform into road legal amphibian motorcycles or trikes, but any of the Gibbs models can be registered with a municipality to become “street legal,” just like a golf cart. Items like after-market turn signals and brake lights can be added, while the Biski, Triski and Terraquad have headlights for night visibility.
“Gibbs has been a unique venture for us. Once a potential customer gets to actually ride them, they immediately see how great they are…”
Alan Gibbs is a creative engineer and entrepreneur and came up with the idea for a sports amphibian when in 1994, he bought a 1,000-acre farm in his New Zealand homeland. Located on expansive, yet shallow Kaipara Harbour, the largest in the southern hemisphere, Gibbs had to trailer a boat a long distance for water access. His enterprising mind went to work and he built a 30’ boat with wheels, proving only “partially satisfactory” as weight and speed were critical.
He worked with two different engineering firms in Detroit in 1997, prepared rudimentary mockups and brought the plans back to the UK to build. Then Neil Jenkins, another entrepreneurial engineer with extensive automotive background, merged his company, specializing in lightweight vehicle technology, with Gibbs in 1999. Jenkins assembled an engineering team that melded car and boat design and the Aquamotorcar literally got things roaring and rolling. Jenkins’ designs won several prestigious awards including the Churchill Medal in 2004 and the Sir Henry Royce Medal in 2005.
Less than 10-years later the Quadski was in production in Auburn Hills, Michigan; Gibbs’ newest introductions, including first-responder and rescue versions, began storming the market in 2015 when introduced at the AIM Expo, a motorcycle industry show in Orlando, Florida; the show then moved to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show where National Marine, dealer to the yacht industry, featured the high speed amphibian. Manufacturing licensees are being sought while the website’s dealer network page indicates locations around the world.
Quick to recognize the host of benefits Gibb’s products offers yacht owners, the world’s largest yacht logistic company–National Marine Supplies–were amongst the first to sign on as a representative. Anthony Nickel, National Marine’s Director of Toys and Custom Tenders, explained why the partnership is proving so fruitful for their clients: “Gibbs has been a unique venture for us. Once a potential customer gets to actually ride them, they immediately see how great they are. At first glance there is a bit of hesitancy, however once the products are ridden they sell themselves. The sheer size of the unit allows for two people to comfortably enjoy the unique attributes of the amphibious technology. Climbing out of the water on to a new piece of land, one that may not have ever been explored, is pretty Columbus-esque and is something not many have an opportunity to do.”
The Gibbs Technologies’ inventions have been 100% self-funded to approximately “several hundred million” Gibbs estimates. “The parts we use are expensive,” he explains, “It has been satisfying—we have invested creative time, a lot of effort, pain and money, but I believe people around the world enjoy it!”