Someone who invented a product that lets you sleep on water is also good at designing products that let you paddle on it.
Such is the case with inflatable paddlecraft company Advanced Elements, whose co-owner, Charlie Hall; after all, is the inventor of the waterbed.
Advanced Elements was founded in San Francisco in 2001 by Hall and partner Clay Haller, after the duo came up with the idea for new “hybrid inflatable kayak.” Hall, fresh off his run with the waterbed and such other inventions as the Sun Shower, was instrumental in the product’s development, says Haller, adding its first inflatable kayak “performed more like a hard-shell kayak than anything ever seen before.”
“Charlie’s experience certainly guided the development and established a solid foundation to build upon,” says Haller, whose partner Hall has been on the cover of the Seattle Times, as well as on the Morning Show with Jane Pauley.
Advanced Elements has since grown into one of the world’s leaders in inflatable paddlecraft, offering a complete line of inflatable kayaks, SUPs and paddlesports accessories that excel in performance and portability. Its 27 inflatable kayaks, from the 4-lb PackLite to the AirFusion Evo kayak and Attack Whitewater kayak, include models for recreational use, touring, expeditions to round out its product line.
Throughout it all, the company keeps its focus on product development and customer service, while evolving the concept of inflatable kayaks and SUPs.
“We’ve always felt that it is more important to listen than it is to talk, and that’s what we do,” says Haller. “We listen to our customers and encourage and appreciate their feedback every day.”
Instead of competing solely on price, Advanced Elements holds quality and performance equally important. “If a product doesn’t offer those, it will discourage new users from entering the sport,” says Haller. “Good quality and performance will enhance the user’s experience and grow the paddlesports category as a whole.”
To that end, Advanced Elements gives every one of its kayaks a 48-hour pressure test, along with multiple inspection points throughout the production process.
The company also prides itself on its products’ portability. “You can store an inflatable kayak, or even two, in the trunk of a Mini Cooper or Smart Car, but you don’t see many 15-foot sea kayaks on the roofs of these cars,” Haller says. “You also don’t need a roof rack, so barriers to entry are less.”
He also touts their benefit for air travel, which is projected to double in the next 15 years and already amounts to nine million people daily. “If you’re going to vacation in South America or fly to Thailand, why not take your kayak or SUP with you?” he says.
At the heart of the company, however, is a focus on bringing new designs to market that take the concept of IKs and SUPs to another level. The company is deep-rooted in product development with patented technology and constantly strives to be the leader in the industry.
“We hope to continue to bring new and exciting products to market for years to come,” Haller says.
“When we started Advanced Elements we had some simple goals centered around just a few kayaking products. Today we offer over a hundred products worldwide, with many progressions to get where we are today. Selecting our top concepts and then developing them is our key.”
As for Hall’s waterbed beginnings — which he first invented for a college assignment in the late 1960s to design something to “improve human comfort” (after his first invention, a 300-lb., Jello-filled chair, fell flat) —it’s all water under the bed, or bridge. He once described his marquee invention to Popular Mechanicsas, “It’s sensuous. It’s like taking your bed to bed with you.” (Watch a video clip from the Great Big Story here https://youtu.be/uo4fv8-MOKg).
And now, with Haller, he’s continuing to apply that same feeling to boats.
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