The Wing Man – Inflatable Life Preserver

the wing manPat Hughes invented the Wing Man life-preserver after a tragic drowning occured in his very first triathlon. He realized the need for a light-weight life-preserver that didn't inhibit movement while participating in water sports. He, along with Hyde Sportswear partner Mike Fox designed a low-bulk, sleek, inflatable life vest that anyone could wear comfortably.

Traditional life preservers are bulky, foam things that are uncomfortable. While a Wing Man life-preserver is US Coast Guard approved, it shouldn't be used in high impact water sports where you can get knocked out. The reason is, the Wing Man is user activated. There's a rip-cord, like on a parachute, that activates the CO2 cartridge that inflated the vest. If you're unconscious, you could drown.

That said, the Wing Man is great for fishing, kayaking (not white water), SUP, swimming and other more leisurely water activities. Instead of a bulky vest, it's sleek and form-fitting, until you pull that cord. When you do, the vest inflates and you're buoyant and safe. It sells for about $250 – less than many high-end life vests. The guys probably want a Shark's help getting the product some exposure. It make be a good life vest, but will it prevent a Shark attack?

My Take on The Wing Man

I go out on my buddy's boat fishing all the time. We don't wear life vests, but they're out. I always wear on when I'm kayaking because if you go over and get knocked in the head, you can drown. I like the sleek design of the Wing Man and I'd probably use a life vest more often if I had one because it looks so comfortable.

The only thing that gives me pause is the vest won't work unless activated. If you were rendered unconscious, it won't help. I've been boating all my life and never “needed” a life-preserver to save me, so I guess I'm lucky. For most activities, this vest is totally appropriate. It kind of reminds me of the airplane life preservers, except it blows itself up. I already have a life vest for my kayak, so I'm not in the market, but if I ever get another boat, I'd give these a serious look.

Do Sharks Wing a Deal?

The product is cool and the fact they validated the need/desire for it with a successful  Kickstarter campaign can't hurt. These guys have a real business and did a lot of work patenting and getting Coast Guard approval for their product.  If you couple those things with strong sales and a reasonable valuation, there could be interest.

Water sports products haven't done well in the Tank lately. Last week, Zup Wakeboards left without a deal because they couldn't clearly articulate the value of their product. Design and innovation are one thing, explaining why it's important is another.

I can't see any one Shark, except maybe Robert, getting excited about the merits of the product alone. to get a deal, they need to value both the business and the need for the product in a clear fashion. I think they'll do a good job, but I'm leaning toward saying this life-preserver won't protect 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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