In a workshop in Asheville, Adam Masters has developed a new way of traveling on water. His design is a new take on the kayak.
"It's a high-performance kayak that you lay on top of, so it's like swimming with a kayak underneath you," Masters, the founder of Bellyak, said.
The company takes its name from the craft, also named the bellyak. In all the centuries that man has been taking to the water in boats, rafts and ships, there's never been anything like it.
"Nobody has ever come up with something that's propelled with your hands, full-length, indented for the body kayak that you ride on your stomach,” Masters said. “A lot of people who get on it say, 'why hasn't someone thought of this before' and I still ask myself, 'why hasn't someone come up with this before?"
The bellyak looks unique on a workbench and different in the water. The notion came to Masters one day while he was playing around on a regular kayak.
"I just laid on top of my kayak one day and the sensation of being that close to the water and laying on top of the kayak was such a great sensation,” he said.
That was eight years ago. After that, he went through about 20 different designs until he was satisfied.
Masters began selling the bellyak a couple of years ago. That process was not completely foreign to him as his father, Bill, founded the more traditional Perception Kayaks in the 1970s.
"When I started building prototypes, I realized, 'hey, this is in my blood,'" he said.
There’s no paddle with a bellyak; it’s propelled by hand.
"You wear a pair of webbed gloves, which is just basically giving yourself frogman hands,” Masters said.
A bellyak can be used on flat water but it’s better suited for water that is on the move. There are two models, each designed for a specific environment.
"One's shorter. more high-performance designed for surf and surfing. One is more for down river, casual play going down the river," said Masters.
As he’s taken the bellyak to shows and demonstrated the ride, Masters has received some interest from people who already kayak but it seems to appeal even more to those who aren’t yet on the water.
"We really feel like we can extend the industry, not just go after existing kayakers, but really go after anybody who's into water sports,” he said.