Title:
Multi-use flotation device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A multi-use flotation device (e.g., 100) includes two end sections (e.g., 101, 103) integrally connected to a central section (e.g., 102). The central section is configured and arranged to accommodate a torso of the user without significantly impeding a full range of movement of the appendages of the user when the user lays on at least the central section. The end sections are characterized by respective geometric shapes that are generally wider than the central section. One of the end sections accommodates at least a head of the user when the user lays on at least the central section. The other end section accommodates at least a derriere of the user when the user lays on at least the central section. The two end sections and the central section together form a concave, unitary device.



Inventors:
Hennings III, Ivar (Fort Myers, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/529138
Publication Date:
03/29/2007
Filing Date:
09/28/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63C9/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
OLSON, LARS A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GrayRobinson, P. A. (FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A multi-use flotation device for use by a user in a body of water, the multi-use flotation device comprising: a central section configured and arranged to accommodate a torso of the user without significantly impeding a full range of movement of appendages of the user when the user lays on at least the central section; a first end section integrally connected to a first end of the central section, the first end section characterized by a first predetermined geometric shape that is generally wider than the central section, the first end section accommodating at least a head of the user when the user lays on at least the central section; and a second end section integrally connected to a second end of the central section, the second end section characterized by a second predetermined geometric shape that is generally wider than the central section, the second end section accommodating at least a derriere of the user when the user lays on at least the central section, wherein the first end section, the central section, and the second end section together form a concave, unitary device.

2. The flotation device of claim 1, wherein the first predetermined geometric shape and the second predetermined geometric shape are substantially identical.

3. The flotation device of claim 1, wherein the first end section, the central section, and the second end section form a generally hour-glass shape.

4. The flotation device of claim 1, wherein the first end section, the central section, and the second end section are constructed from a closed cell foam material.

5. The flotation device of claim 1, wherein at least one of the first end section and the second end section defines an aperture that accommodates at least part of a hand of the user and facilitates at least carrying of the unitary device by the user.

6. The flotation device of claim 1, wherein the unitary device is further configured and arranged to have an overall length that permits a full range of motion of legs of the user.

7. The flotation device of claim 1, wherein the central section is further configured and arranged to facilitate a full range of motion of the appendages of the user when the user lays on at least the central section.

8. The flotation device of claim 1, wherein the first end section and the second end section each taper toward the central section.

9. The flotation device of claim 8, wherein the first end section and the second end section each taper toward the central section in a non-linear manner.

10. The flotation device of claim 1, wherein at least the first end section and the central section are further configured and arranged to mitigate contact between the central section and the torso of the user when the user lays on at least the central section.

11. A multi-use, non-inflatable flotation device for use by a user in a body of water, the multi-use flotation device comprising: a central section configured and arranged to accommodate a torso of the user without significantly impeding movement of appendages of the user in the water when the user lays on at least the central section; a generally circular first end section integrally connected to a first end of the central section, the first end section having a radius in the range of approximately five inches to approximately six inches and tapering toward the central section, the first end section accommodating at least a head of the user when the user lays on at least the central section; and a generally circular second end section integrally connected to a second end of the central section, the second end section having a radius in the range of approximately five inches to approximately six inches and tapering toward the central section, the second end section accommodating at least a derriere of the user when the user lays on at least the central section, wherein the first end section, the central section, and the second end section together form a concave, unitary device.

12. The flotation device of claim 11, wherein the first end section, the central section, and the second end section form a generally hour-glass shape.

13. The flotation device of claim 1 1, wherein the first end section, the central section, and the second end section are constructed from a closed cell foam material.

14. The flotation device of claim 11, wherein at least one of the first end section and the second end section defines an aperture that accommodates at least part of a hand of the user and facilitates at least carrying of the unitary device by the user.

15. The flotation device of claim 11, wherein the unitary device is further configured and arranged to have an overall length that permits a full range of motion of legs of the user.

16. The flotation device of claim 11, wherein the central section is further configured and arranged to facilitate a full range of motion of the appendages of the user when the user lays on at least the central section.

17. The flotation device of claim 11, wherein the first end section and the second end section each taper toward the central section in a non-linear manner.

18. The flotation device of claim 11, wherein at least the first end section and the central section are further configured and arranged to mitigate contact between the central section and the torso of the user when the user lays on at least the central section.

19. The flotation device of claim 10, wherein the concave, unitary device has a thickness in the range of approximately one inch to approximately two inches.

Description:

CROSS-REFERNCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority upon U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 60/721,905, entitled “MINI FLOATATION DEVICE”, under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e), which application is incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to flotation devices and, in particular, to a multi-use flotation device that permits a user to lay comfortably thereon while floating in the water without significantly impeding movement of the user's appendages (e.g., arms and/or legs).

Flotation devices are well known. Such devices come in variety of shapes and sizes and are available in inflatable and non-inflatable forms. Non-inflatable flotation devices (i.e., devices that float without requiring air to be injected into any portion of them by the user) are typically made from open cell or closed cell foam materials. A classic example of an open cell flotation device is the water noodle. Closed cell foam flotation devices are available from various manufacturers, such as Texas Recreation Corporation of Wichita Falls, Tex.

Most flotation devices have a single intended use. For instance, a raft is intended to be laid upon while the user floats in a pool or other body of water; whereas, a floatable chair is intended to be sat in under the same circumstances. However, these single use devices often impede or restrict motion of the user's arms and/or legs during use, thereby preventing a full range of motion of the user's appendages. For example, the overall structure and configuration of the raft prevents a user from flutter kicking in the water while lying on the raft. Additionally, a user can often not readily lower his or her arms or legs while resting in a floatable chair.

Other flotation devices have a variety of intended uses, including permitting full motion of the user's arms and/or legs. For example, the WATER JOGGER floating exerciser manufactured by Texas Recreation Corporation is one such device. The WATER JOGGER device is a generally narrow, rectangular device that includes a notch or dip in a center area to accommodate a crotch of the user. Advertising for the WATER JOGGER device suggests that a user may use the device in various ways, such as by (i) straddling the device to keep the user's hair dry and hands free for water games and/or aqua jogging, (ii) placing the device transversely under the head of the user for use as a headrest, (iii) placing the device transversely under the chest of the user for use as a chest rest during forward flutter kicking, and (iv) placing the device transversely along the upper back and under the arms of the user for use as a back rest during backward flutter kicking.

While the WATER JOGGER device has several purported uses, it is not configured to accommodate a torso of a user and thereby allow a user to lay upon it. In other words, the WATER JOGGER device is not configured to permit it to be used in a raft-like manner. Therefore, a user that wants to float in a generally prostrate manner on his or her back or stomach must use an additional flotation device.

Therefore, a need exists for a flotation device that has multiple uses, including allowing a user to float on his or her back or stomach without significantly impeding the user's ability to move his or her arms and/or legs.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a top plan view of a multi-use flotation device in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a side view of the multi-use flotation device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the multi-use flotation device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a top plan view of a multi-use flotation device in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the multi-use flotation device of FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 is a top plan view of a multi-use flotation device in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a top plan view of a multi-use flotation device in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 8 illustrates one use of the flotation device of the present invention to support a user laying face up on the flotation device.

FIG. 9 illustrates another use of the flotation device of the present invention to support a user sitting in a first position on the flotation device.

FIG. 10 illustrates yet another use of the flotation device of the present invention to support a user sitting in a second position on the flotation device.

FIG. 11 illustrates yet another use of the flotation device of the present invention to support a user resting his/her arms on the flotation device.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENT(S)

Before describing in detail exemplary embodiments that are in accordance with the present invention, it should be observed that the embodiments reside primarily in combinations of apparatus components related to implementing a multi-use flotation device. Accordingly, the apparatus components have been represented where appropriate by conventional symbols in the drawings, showing only those specific details that are pertinent to understanding the embodiments of the present invention so as not to obscure the disclosure with details that will be readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art having the benefit of the description herein.

In this document, relational terms, such as “first” and “second,” “top” and “bottom,” and the like, may be used solely to distinguish one entity or element from another entity or element without necessarily requiring or implying any actual such relationship or order between such entities or elements. The terms “comprises,” “comprising,” or any other variation thereof are intended to cover a non-exclusive inclusion, such that a process, method, article, or apparatus that comprises a list of elements does not include only those elements, but may include other elements not expressly listed or inherent to such process, method, article, or apparatus. A claim element proceeded by the article “a” or “an” does not, without more constraints, preclude the existence of additional identical elements in the process, method, article, or apparatus that includes the element.

Generally, the present invention encompasses a multi-use flotation device for use by a user in a body of water. The flotation device includes two end sections integrally connected to a central section. The central section is configured and arranged to accommodate a torso of the user without significantly impeding a full range of movement of the appendages of the user when the user lays on at least the central section. The end sections are characterized by respective geometric shapes that are generally wider than the central section and optionally taper toward the central section. One of the end sections accommodates at least a head of the user when the user lays on at least the central section. The other end section accommodates at least a derriere of the user when the user lays on at least the central section. The two end sections and the central section together form a concave, unitary device. In some embodiments, the flotation device has a generally hour-glass shape and/or is constructed from closed cell foam. In other embodiments, the tapering between the end sections and the central section, when included, is non-linear (e.g., curved) and/or the overall length of the flotation device is selected to permit a full range of motion of the user's legs when the user is in a prostrate position.

By constructing a flotation device in this manner, the present invention provides a device that is sized and shaped to not only facilitate sitting or leaning upon the device, as does prior art multi-use devices, but also to facilitate laying upon the device while still maintaining a substantially free range of motion of the user's arms and/or legs. In other words, in contrast to prior art multi-use devices that facilitate movement of a user's arms and legs but do not facilitate use of the device in a raft-like manner, the present invention provides a multi-use flotation device than can be used in a raft-like manner while maintaining the benefits of other multi-use devices.

The present invention can be more readily understood with reference to FIGS. 1-11, in which like reference numerals designate like items. FIGS. 1-3 illustrate one embodiment of a multi-use flotation device 100 in accordance with the present invention. The flotation device 100 includes a first end section 101, a central section 102, and a second end section 103. The three sections 101-103 are integrally connected together, preferably without any separate fastening mechanisms, to form a unitary device.

The first end section 101 is preferably configured in a generally circular shape to accommodate a head and possibly part of the shoulders of a user when the user lays on the flotation device 100 as contemplated herein. The second end section 103 is also preferably configured in a generally circular shape to accommodate a derriere and possibly part of the upper legs of a user when the user lays on the flotation device 100 as contemplated herein. In alternative embodiments, the first and second end sections 101, 103 may be other predetermined geometric shapes as discussed below. In a preferred embodiment, the flotation device 100 is symmetric along its length and/or width; therefore, the first end section 101 may function as the second end section 103, or vice versa, depending on the orientation of the flotation device 100 with respect to the user. FIG. 1 includes phantom lines to indicate the preferred, generally circular nature of the end sections 101, 103. In an embodiment of the present invention intended for use by older children and adults, the head end section 101 is preferably characterized by a radius 110 in the range of approximately five (5) inches to approximately six (6) inches. In an embodiment intended for use by young children, the head end section 101 is preferably characterized by a radius 110 in the range of approximately four (4) inches to approximately five (5) inches. The second end section 103 is preferably substantially identical to the first end section 101, but may be alternatively characterized by a different radius range or a different shape altogether.

The central section 102 of the flotation device 100 is configured and arranged to accommodate a torso of the user without significantly impeding a full range of movement of the user's arms and/or legs when the user lays on the flotation device 100. The central section 102 interconnects at a first end 105 with the first end section 101 and interconnects at a second end 106 with the second end section 103. The ends 105, 106 of the central section 102 are identified by phantom lines and are used for reference only. In one embodiment intended for use by older children and adults, the lineal distance between the ends 105, 106 of the central section 102 is in the range of about twenty (20) inches to about twenty-eight (28) inches. In an embodiment intended for use by younger children, such lineal distance would, of course, be shorter (e.g., in the range of about sixteen (16) inches to about twenty-four (24) inches).

In an adult embodiment of the flotation device 100 depicted in FIGS. 1-3, the central section 102 is preferably characterized by a minimum width 111 in the range of approximately six (6) inches to nine (9) inches and flares outward at each end 105, 106 to interconnect with the end sections 101, 103. Thus, when viewed from atop while the device 100 rests in its intended operating position, the end sections 101, 103 of the flotation device 100 are wider at their widest points than the central section 102 of the flotation device 100 and taper toward and interconnect with the central section 102 at the respective ends 105, 106 of the central section 102. As illustrated in the embodiments of FIGS. 1 and 3, the taper from the end sections 101, 103 to the central section 102 is non-linear (e.g., curved). However, in alternative embodiments, the taper may be linear (e.g., as illustrated in FIGS. 6-7) or any combination of linear and non-linear.

In a preferred embodiment, the three sections 101-103 of the flotation device 100 have substantially the same thickness 201 in the range of about one (1) inch to about two (2) inches. Additionally, the overall length of the flotation device 100 is selected such that a full range of motion may be achieved by a user of the device 100. For example, in one embodiment, the overall length of the flotation device 100 is approximately equal to the average length from the top of the head to the top of the hamstring of the group of intended users of the device 100. For instance, in an embodiment intended for use by older children and adults, the overall length of the flotation device 100 may be in the range of about forty-four (44) inches to about fifty (50) inches. The overall length for a device 100 intended for use by younger children would be shorter (e.g., in the range of about thirty-two (32) inches to about forty-four (44) inches).

The flotation device 100 may optionally include one or more apertures 108, 109 (two shown) in the end sections 101, 103 to accommodate at least part of a hand of the user. The apertures 108, 109 preferably act as handles to enable the user to carry the unitary flotation device 100 to and from a desired destination (e.g., the pool or the beach). The apertures 108, 109 may have other uses also, such as providing a means by which a user can balance himself or herself while sitting on the flotation device 100 or providing a means by which the flotation device 100 can be readily retrieved in the event that the user were to fall off the device 100 for any reason. In one embodiment, the apertures 108, 109 have a generally oval shape with a length in the range of about three (3) inches to about five (5) inches and a width in the range of about one (1) inch to about two (2) inches. One of ordinary skill in the art will readily recognize that the apertures 108, 109 may be of other shapes and sizes as desired by the user.

FIGS. 4-5 illustrate another embodiment of a multi-use flotation device 400 in accordance with the present invention. Similar to the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 1-3, the flotation device 400 includes two generally circular end sections 401, 403 and a central section 402. However, in contrast to the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 1-3, the central section 402 in the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 4-5 is generally rectangular instead of flaring out at both ends. Additionally, the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 4-5 excludes the handle apertures 108, 109.

FIGS. 6-7 illustrate further embodiments of a multi-use flotation device 600, 700 in accordance with the present invention. Similar to the embodiments depicted in FIGS. 1-3, the flotation device 600 of FIG. 6 includes two end sections 601, 603 and a central section 602 that flares out at both ends thereof. However, in contrast to the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 1-3, the end sections 601, 603 in the embodiment depicted in FIG. 6 are generally triangular instead of generally circular. Similar to the embodiments depicted in FIGS. 4-5, the flotation device 700 of FIG. 7 includes two end sections 701, 703 and a generally rectangular central section 702. However, in contrast to the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 4-5, the end sections 701, 703 in the embodiment depicted in FIG. 7 are generally triangular instead of generally circular. Additionally, the flotation devices 600, 700 depicted in FIGS. 6-7 exclude the handle apertures 108, 109 of the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1, although such apertures 108, 109 can be optionally added to any of the alternative flotation devices contemplated by the present invention.

In the embodiments depicted in FIGS. 1-5, the flotation device 100, 400 has a generally hour-glass shape when viewed from atop or above when the device 100, 400 is in its intended use position. Alternatively, the flotation device may be embodied in other geometric shapes, such as a more traditional hour-glass shape as illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7, in which the end sections 601, 603, 701, 703 are straight or flat at their respective distal ends instead of being curved as are the end sections 101, 103, 401, 403 illustrated in FIGS. 1-5. For example, the end sections 101, 103 may be generally triangular shapes as illustrated in FIGS. 6-7, generally rectangular or square shapes, generally oval shapes or any other general shapes. In other embodiments, the flotation device may be any concave geometric shape, so long as the central section of the flotation device is configured and arranged to accommodate a torso of the user without significantly impeding a full range of movement of the appendages (e.g., arms and/or legs) of the user when the user lays on at least the central section. As used herein and in the appended claims, a “concave” device is one that has a shape in which a hypothetical line segment drawn between any two points inside the shape lies at least partially outside the shape.

The various configurations, arrangements and shapes of the flotation devices 100, 400, 600, 700 illustrated in FIGS. 1-7 may be constructed of closed cell foam using well known molding techniques. Closed cell foam is available from a variety of manufacturers, including Spongex Corporation of Shelton, Conn. Alternatively, the flotation devices 100, 400, 600, 700 may be constructed from open cell foam, inflatable plastics, or any other materials that are inherently buoyant or that become buoyant upon insertion of air or any other gas or liquid.

FIGS. 8-11 illustrate various potential uses of the flotation device 100, 400, 600, 700 of the present invention. For example, FIG. 8 illustrates one use of the flotation device of the present invention to support a user laying face up on the device. For this use, at least the head end section (e.g., 101) and the central section (e.g., 102) of the flotation device (e.g., 100) are preferably arranged and configured or sized and shaped to mitigate contact between the user's torso (e.g., back) and the central section of the flotation device while the user lays on the device. Such configuration of the flotation device enables the user to effectively free-float with full or substantially full range of motion of the user's arms and legs. Such contact mitigation is preferably accomplished by selecting dimensions of the flotation device, such that the user, when standing in the water, can grip one end section (e.g., 101, 103) of the flotation device with one hand and position it behind his or her back while gripping the other end section with the other hand and pulling the other end section down to the user's derriere, and then lean back to a horizontal floating position making sure the flotation device is position to support the head as well as the lower torso/derriere.

FIG. 9 illustrates another use of the flotation device of the present invention to support a user sitting in a first position on the flotation device. In this position, the flotation device essentially forms a floating chair. Since the minimum width of the central section of the flotation device is sufficient to accommodate the average torso size of the intended group of users, the width of the central section of the flotation device is also sufficient to accommodate the average width of the buttocks of those same users. As a result, the flotation device can be used as an aquatic chair.

FIG. 10 illustrates yet another use of the flotation device of the present invention to support a user sitting in a second position on the flotation device. In this use scenario, the user straddles the central section of the device as if on a saddle. The width of the center section is preferably selected to balance the comfort level of the user when using the flotation device in either the chair use position of FIG. 9 or the saddle use position of FIG. 10. In the preferred embodiment, the minimum width of the central section of the flotation device is approximately six (6) to nine (9) inches for a flotation device intended for use by adults.

FIG. 11 illustrates yet another use of the flotation device of the present invention to support a user resting his/her arms on the flotation device. In this case, the user places the flotation device in front of him or her such that the flotation device is generally perpendicular to the user. The user then rests his or her arms on top of the flotation device to assist with buoyancy.

As described above, the present invention encompasses a multi-use flotation device for use by a user in a body of water. With this invention, flotation device users may not only sit and/or lean upon their flotation devices, as with prior art multi-use devices, but may also lay upon the device in a raft-like manner while still maintaining a substantially free range of motion of the user's arms and/or legs. In other words, the present invention provides a multi-use flotation device than can be used in a raft-like manner while maintaining the benefits of other multi-use devices.

In the foregoing specification, the present invention has been described with reference to specific embodiments. However, one of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that various modifications and changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as set forth in the appended claims. Accordingly, the specification and drawings are to be regarded in an illustrative rather than a restrictive sense, and all such modifications are intended to be included within the scope of the present invention.

Benefits, other advantages, and solutions to problems have been described above with regard to specific embodiments of the present invention. However, the benefits, advantages, solutions to problems, and any element(s) that may cause or result in such benefits, advantages, or solutions to become more pronounced are not to be construed as a critical, required, or essential feature or element of any or all the claims. The invention is defined solely by the appended claims including any amendments made during the pendency of this application and all equivalents of those claims as issued.





 
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