Title:
TOWABLE THAT IS CONVERTIBLE FROM A SIT INSIDE TO A LAY ON TOP RIDING STYLE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A towable (20) that is convertible between a first mode in which at least one recess (32) is provided in the towable and a user may ride sitting in the recess to a second mode in which the at least one recess is filled, and the user can ride on top of the recess. A bladder (36) may fill the recess in the second mode. A cover (40) may be provided so as to present a smooth outer covering over the bladder (36) for a rider's comfort. Two or more such recesses (32) and bladders (36) may be provided on a single towable.



Inventors:
Rockstad, Jordan G. (Andover, KS, US)
Hillard, Jake L. (Wichita, KS, US)
Debrunner, Daniel E. (Wichita, KS, US)
Application Number:
12/034200
Publication Date:
08/28/2008
Filing Date:
02/20/2008
Assignee:
THE COLEMAN COMPANY, INC. (Wichita, KS, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63B35/74
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
AVILA, STEPHEN P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kelly S.K. Elsea (Wichita, KS, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A towable, comprising: an inflatable main body; a connector for towing the main body behind a watercraft; at least one recess in the main body; and a support for removably covering the recess, the support being sufficient in strength to support a user riding on top of the support.

2. The towable of claim 1, wherein the support comprises an inflatable bladder for filling the recess.

3. The towable of claim 2, wherein the support further comprises a cover for extending over the recess and covering the bladder.

4. The towable of claim 2, wherein the inflatable bladder comprises a compartment that may be used as a cooler.

5. The towable of claim 2, wherein the inflatable bladder comprises at least one cup holder.

6. The towable of claim 2, wherein the inflatable bladder comprises a connector for towing the inflatable bladder, independent of the main body, behind a watercraft.

7. The towable of claim 6, wherein the inflatable bladder comprises handles for a user to grip while riding the inflatable.

8. The towable of claim 1, wherein the towable comprises at least two recesses, and for each recess, a support for removably covering the recess, the support being sufficient in strength to support a user riding on top of the support.

9. The towable of claim 8, wherein each support comprises an inflatable bladder for filling the respective recess.

10. The towable of claim 9, wherein each support further comprises a cover for extending over the respective recess and covering the respective bladder.

11. The towable of claim 1, wherein the support comprises a taut cover extending over the recess.

12. A towable, comprising: an inflatable main body, the main body having a forward apex and two wings extending outwardly and rearwardly from the apex, each of the wings having a position for a rider to ride when the main body is pulled behind a watercraft, the wings defining an opening therebetween; a connector at or adjacent to the apex for towing the main body behind a watercraft; and an inflatable filler removably attached within the opening, the inflatable filler being of sufficiently buoyancy and size to support at least one person when the main body is pulled behind a watercraft.

13. The towable of claim 12, further comprising a fabric bridge removably extending between inner edges of the opening and the inflatable filler.

14. The towable of claim 12, wherein the inflatable filler comprises a connector for towing the inflatable filler, independent of the main body, behind a watercraft.

15. A towable comprising: a main body comprising: a recess; and a connector for towing the main body behind a watercraft; and a plug having a first end for fitting in the recess and a second end configured as a riding platform for a user.

16. The towable of claim 15, further comprising: a skirt configured to fit over the second end of the plug and at least a portion of the main body.

17. The towable of claim 16, wherein the main body comprises a first connector, and the skirt comprises a second connector for mating with the first connector.

18. The towable of claim 15, wherein the second end is configured as a saddle.

19. The towable of claim 15, wherein the second end is configured as a seat.

20. The towable of claim 15, wherein the second end is configured to form a planar surface with a top surface of the main body.

21. The towable of claim 15, comprising a plurality of interchangeable plugs, each having a first end for fitting in the recess, and each of the plurality the plugs having a second end defining a different riding configuration.

Description:

REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/891,576, filed Feb. 26, 2007 and U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/957,929, filed Aug. 24, 2007, both of which are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Towables are popular water recreational devices. A towable is typically an inflatable structure, such as a raft, that includes a rope, strap, clip, or other feature that permits the device to be pulled behind a boat or other motorized water vehicle. Often, people enjoy riding on or in inflatables while being pulled behind a boat.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The following presents a simplified summary of some embodiments of the invention in order to provide a basic understanding of the invention. This summary is not an extensive overview of the invention. It is not intended to identify key/critical elements of the invention or to delineate the scope of the invention. Its sole purpose is to present some embodiments of the invention in a simplified form as a prelude to the more detailed description of some embodiments that are presented later.

In accordance with an embodiment, a towable is provided that is convertible between a first mode in which at least one recess is provided in the towable and a user may ride sitting in the recess to a second mode in which the at least one recess is filled, and the user can ride on top of the recess. In an embodiment, a bladder fills the recess in the second mode. A cover may be provided so as to present a smooth outer covering over the bladder for a rider's comfort. In an embodiment, two or more such recesses and bladders are provided on a single towable.

A cover for the bladder may include a zipper or other attachment structure for attaching the cover to the towable. A similar cover may be used without a bladder underneath, wherein a rider is suspended by the cover. Contact of the zipper teeth and zipper slide with the towable may be prevented by a protective layer, such as a flap, so that the towable is not damaged during use by the zipper teeth and/or the slide. A similar protective layer may be provided over the exposed zipper teeth and slide, so that a rider does not come in contact the zipper teeth or slide.

In an embodiment, the bladder may be turned over so as to expose accessories, such as cupholders and/or a cooler. In this manner, a user may ride on other portions of the towable and utilize the cupholders and/or cooler.

In accordance with an embodiment, the bladder that fits in the recess may be a structure that may be used alone as a towable. As an example, the bladder may be a tube on which one or two persons may ride. Such a bladder may fit into a larger tube, which may be used in a ride-on or ride-in configuration. In the ride-on configuration, the smaller tube is placed inside a recess of the larger tube.

In an embodiment, a towable is shaped like a gull-wing fighter with a recess at a back portion. A separate, small inflatable, such as a tube, is removably mounted in the recess in the back of the gull-wing inflatable. The inflatable may be used with or without this separate small tube.

In an embodiment, a foundation tube or floatable may be used with multiple different inserts that fit into a recess for the foundation tube. As examples, a seat, a saddle, or a filler plug may be fitted into the foundation tube. Other configurations may be provided.

Other features of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with the drawings, in which:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side perspective view of a towable in accordance with an embodiment;

FIG. 2 is a diagrammatic representation of a cross section of a zipper attachment for a cover for the towable of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a bottom, side perspective view of a bladder for use with the towable of FIG. 1 in accordance with an embodiment;

FIG. 4 is an exploded side perspective view of an alternate embodiment of a towable;

FIG. 5 is a top view of a party island for the towable of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a top view of a tube for the towable of FIG. 4;

FIG. 7 is a top view of the tube of FIG. 6 inserted into the party island of FIG. 5 in accordance with an embodiment;

FIG. 8 is an exploded side perspective view of a gull-wing towable in accordance with an embodiment;

FIG. 9 is a partial cut-away, rear perspective view of the gull-wing towable of FIG. 8, in an assembled condition;

FIG. 10 is an exploded side perspective view of a towable in accordance with an alternate embodiment;

FIG. 11 is an exploded side perspective view of an alternate top for use with the foundation tube of the towable of FIG. 10;

FIG. 12 is an assembled side perspective view of the towable of FIG. 11;

FIG. 13 is an exploded side perspective view of the towable shown in FIG. 10 in a further state of assembly;

FIG. 14 is an assembled side perspective view of the towable of FIGS. 10 and 13;

FIG. 15 is an exploded side perspective view of another combination for the foundation tube of FIG. 10; and

FIG. 16 is an assembled side perspective view of the towable of FIG. 15.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

In the following description, various embodiments of the present invention will be described. For purposes of explanation, specific configurations and details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the embodiments. However, it will also be apparent to one skilled in the art that the present invention may be practiced without the specific details. Furthermore, well-known features may be omitted or simplified in order not to obscure the embodiment being described.

Referring now to the drawings, in which like reference numerals represent like parts throughout the several views, FIG. 1 shows a towable 20 in accordance with an embodiment. The towable 20 includes a front 22 and a rear 24. Although not shown in the drawing, the towable 20 includes some type of structure such as a rope, strap, clip, or other feature, for permitting the towable 20 to be pulled behind a boat, for example by a ski rope. The structure may be connected to the front 22 of the towable 20, for example. The towable 20 shown in the drawings is of a size that is sufficient for three riders, but features of the towable 20 may be utilized in larger or smaller embodiments.

The towable 20 includes handles 28 positioned at appropriate locations around a top 26 of the towable. At the center of the top 26 is a fixed lay-on position 30. This lay-on position 30 is designed so that a rider may lay on top of the towable 20 at the fixed lay-on position while the towable is pulled behind a boat. At faster speeds, a user typically holds onto the handles 28.

In an embodiment, the towable 20 is an inflatable product, for example made of polyvinylchloride (PVC) and having one or more inflation valves. Other material may be used for forming the towable 20. I-beams or other appropriate interior structures (not shown, but known in the art) may be used to maintain the shape of the towable 20.

The towable 20 includes two recesses 32, 34 on opposite sides of the fixed lay-on position 30. Each of these recesses 32, 24 is sized and arranged so that a rider may sit in the respective recess while the towable 20 is being pulled behind a boat. Many riders prefer this “sit in” method of riding on a towable 20, because riding within a recess, such as the recesses 32, 34, provides more stability and comfort than riding on top of the towable. Often a rider may sit in the recess. Other riders prefer the “lay on top” type of riding style, such as is provided by the fixed lay-on position 30.

In accordance with an embodiment, structures are provided for filling or covering the recesses 32, 34 so that riders may perform lay-on top riding over the recesses.

In as embodiment, the structures are inflatable bladders 36, 38, although other structures may be used. To provide maximum support for a lay on top rider, the bladders 36, 38 may be structured to fit tightly in the recesses 32, 34. In the embodiment shown in the drawings, the recesses 32, 34 are bullet shaped, and therefore the bladders 36, 38 are bullet shaped. However, other shapes may be provided for both the recesses 32, 34 and the bladders 36, 38. In addition, the bladders do not have to match the shape of the recesses identically. However, in an embodiment, the bladders 36, 38 are tightly fitted into the recesses 32, 34 so that the bladders may fill the recesses fully.

In accordance with an embodiment, the bladders 36, 38 are inflatables. To install the bladders 36, 38 in the recesses 32, 34, the bladders 36, 38 may be placed in the recesses 32, 34 after the towable 20 is inflated, and the bladders may be inflated in the recesses for a tight fit. Alternatively, inflated bladders 36, 38 may be placed in the recesses 32, 34 after the bladders are inflated.

Although the bladders 36, 38 fill the recesses 32, 34 sufficiently so that users may ride on top of the bladders, if the bladders are made of an inflatable product, such as PVC, the bladders may be slippery. Therefore, in accordance with an embodiment, covers 40, 42 are provided for extending over the bladders. These covers 40, 42 may be made of, for example, neoprene or another suitable material that is comfortable against a person while the person is riding on the towable 20. The covers 40, 42 may also work to reduce slippage.

The covers 40, 42 may be attached with suitable fasteners over the recesses 32, 34. In the embodiment shown in the drawings, the covers 40, 42 are attached by zippers. Other connection mechanisms or methods may be used for connecting the covers 40, 42 over the recesses 32, 34. However, the zipper embodiment described below works particularly well in that a tight, wrinkle free surface is provided, and the covers 40, 44 may be quickly and easily removed or installed.

In an embodiment, the covers 40, 42 may extend over the recesses 32, 34 without a structure, such as bladders 36, 38, underneath. A rider then is suspended over a recess 32 or 34 by the respective cover 40, 42. However, such an embodiment would require very taunt and strong covers. Alternatively, the covers 40, 42 are zipped to the top 26 of the towable 20 so as to cover the bladders 36, 38. In this embodiment, the bladders 36, 38 provide support for the riders, and the covers 40, 42 provide protection and/or slip prevention, but do not have to fully support a rider.

FIG. 2 shows a representation of a sectional view of a connecting system for connecting one of the covers (the cover 40) to the towable 20. As can be seen in FIG. 2, the cover 40 is designed so that it extends to approximately the junction of the towable 20 and the bladder 36. However, because of the rounded nature of the towable 20 and the bladder 36, there is a gap at the top edges of these two structures.

A first zipper tape 50 is attached to the bottom side of the cover 40. This zipper tape 50 may be formed of, for example, nylon or another suitable material. A second zipper tape 52 is attached to the towable 20. In the embodiment shown in the drawings, a top protective flap 54 extends over the second zipper tape 52 and beyond the edge of the cover 40. A bottom protective flap 56 extends under the second zipper tape 52 and at least to the juncture of the first and second zipper tapes 50, 52. A zipper slider 58 is utilized to attach the first and second zipper tapes 50, 52 in a manner known in the art.

The top and bottom protective flaps 54, 56 provide protection for a rider and the towable 20, respectively. The top protective flap 54 extends over connected zipper tapes 50, 52 and/or the zipper slider 58, protecting a rider from direct contact with the zipper tape and/or the zipper slider 58. The bottom protective flap 56 protects the towable 20 from direct contact with the first and second zipper tapes 50, 52 and/or the zipper slider 58. In this manner, the towable 20 is not damaged by the connection of the cover 40 to the towable.

In accordance with an embodiment, as shown in FIG. 3, one or more of the bladders 36, 38 may include features that are accessible by riders when the riders are on the towable 20 and the respective cover 40 or 42 is not in place. In the embodiment shown in the drawings, the bladder 36 includes cupholders 60 and a cooler 62 formed in a bottom surface of the bladder. When the bladder 36 is used as described with reference to FIG. 1, these features are turned downward so that a smoother surface is provided for a rider. However, if a user desires to utilize the cupholders 60 and/or the cooler 62, the cover 40 may be removed, and the bladder 36 may be turned upside down so that the cupholders 60 and cooler 62 are accessible. In this manner, a rider may ride in another location on the towable, for example in the fixed lay-on position 30, and utilize the features on the bladder 36.

The towable 20 described above provides a lot of flexibility in towing recreation. Many users prefer to sit in towables, and thus may utilize one of the recesses 32, 34. Alternatively, if one or more users prefer to ride on top of a towable, the bladders 36 and/or 38 may be installed so that the user may ride on top of the covers 40 and/or 42.

In addition, if desired, the recesses 32, 34 may be filled or covered or remained open, and the towable 20 may be turned upside down, permitting a rider to utilize a bottom surface of the towable for a different riding experience. In addition, in accordance with another embodiment, a towable may include two separate structures, such as bladders, that are stacked on top of one another in one manner (e.g., a first on top of a second) to provide a sit on riding position, and are movable to a second or more riding styles (e.g., the second on top of the first or the first turned over and on top of the second) to provide another riding style, such as ride on top.

Although the embodiment shown in the drawings includes two bladders 36, 38 located on opposite sides of the towable 20, a towable may include only a single bladder or more than two bladders. A single recess and bladder may be provided, or more than two recesses and bladders may be utilized on a single towable. Users may elect to fill only one recess with a bladder, and thus different users may ride a towable in different ways. In addition, other structures may be used to fill a recess in a towable. The covers 40, 42 provide comfort and slip protection. Also, as described above, in an embodiment, the covers 40, 42 may be used without the bladders 36, 38. In addition, the bladders 36, 38 may be used without the covers 40, 42. In such an embodiment, the bladders 36, 38 may have top surfaces that provide a function similar to the covers. In addition, in another embodiment, the covers 40, 42 may connect only to the bladders 36, 38.

In accordance with an embodiment, as shown in FIGS. 4-7, a bladder that fills a recess in a towable may be a smaller, stand-alone towable that may be used independent of the towable having the recess. In the example shown in FIGS. 4-7, a towable 100 includes a party island 102 having a recess 103. The party island 102 is shown in FIG. 5 from a top view. The party island 102 may be sized so that it may receive any number of people within the recess 103 so that they may ride in a sit-in fashion. As an example, the recess 103 may be sized to fit two people.

A two person tube 104 is configured to fit inside the recess 103 in a manner, for example, as the bladders described above. When the two person tube 104 is fitted in the recess 103 of the party island 102, the towable 100 is configured as shown in FIG. 7. In this configuration, a number of riders may ride on the top of the assembled towable 100. As an example, the towable 100 may be configured to receive three on-top riders in this configuration.

If a fewer number of riders desire to ride on the towable, or a smaller towable is desired, then the two person tube 104 may be used independent of the party island 102. To this end, the two person tube 104 includes a tow ring or other structure for connecting to a ski rope. Also, if desired, the party island 102 may be used separately from the two person tube 104, with one or more persons in the recess 103.

Although called a “two person tube” herein, the two person tube 104 may be sized or configured as desired for a particular number of people, which may be more or less than two. In addition, although the party island 102 is called a “party island,” the lower structure having a recess may take other forms.

The party island 102 includes handles 106 along a perimeter of a top surface. Similarly, the two person tube 104 includes handles 108. A cover 110 extends over a top portion of the two person tube 104, and may be formed, for example, of neoprene. Cupholders 112 extend around an outer portion of the party island 102. Each of these items is an accessory that may or may not be included with a towable 100, and if desired other accessories may be provided.

An alternate embodiment of a towable 120 is shown in FIG. 8. The towable 120 in FIG. 8 includes a three person gull-wing 121 and a one person base tube 122. The three person gull-wing is a V-shaped towable with a rounded cutout centered in a rear portion. This cutout matches an exterior front contour of the one person base tube 122.

A leading upper edge of the one person base tube 122 includes zipper teeth 124. Zipper teeth 126 are also provided on the upper edge of the cutout for the three person gull-wing 121. A bridge 128, which may be made of nylon or another flexible material, is designed to be attached to the two sets of zipper teeth 124, 126. To this end, the bridge 128 may include matching zipper teeth for each of the zipper teeth sets 124, 126. When the one person base tube 122 is positioned in the cutout of the three person gull-wing 121, the bridge 128 may be zipped into place to offer a smooth transition between the one person base tube 122 and the three person gull-wing 121 and to keep the two pieces connected. In addition, other connectors may be provided. In the example shown in the drawings, a quick release buckle 130 (best shown in FIG. 9) is provided that attaches between rear portions of the three person gull-wing 121 and the one person base tube 122.

The one person base tube 122 and the three person gull-wing 121 may each be used alone, or may be used in combination when connected. This feature provides a lot of options for use of the towable 120.

In accordance with an embodiment, a towable may be provided that includes a single base and to which multiple different riding structures may be attached. As an example, as shown in FIG. 10, a towable 148 includes a foundation tube 150. This foundation tube 150 includes zipper cuffs 152, 153 that are attached at upper inner and outer edges of the foundation tube, respectively. A recess 154 is positioned at the center of the foundation tube 150. A tow ring 156 is positioned on a front end of the foundation tube 150.

In an embodiment, multiple different riding structures are mountable to the top of the foundation tube 150. As an example, these multiple different embodiments may fit into the recess 154. In an embodiment, the different embodiments are also attached using the zipper cuffs 152, 153.

One example is shown in FIGS. 10, 13, and 14. This riding structure is similar to a saddle. As shown in FIG. 10, the saddle embodiment includes a saddle cover 160 having a skirt 162. An inflatable plug 163 is configured at a lower end to match the contour of the recess 154, and at an upper end to provide a saddle shape.

The skirt 162 includes two separate zipper teeth (not shown) for attaching to the zipper cuffs 152, 153. To attach the saddle embodiment in place, a user places the plug 163 in position in the recess 154, with the saddle configuration facing upward. The saddle cover 160 is then positioned over the plug 163. An inner zipper is attached to the inner zipper cuff 152, and the skirt is then extended outward over the outer surface of the foundation tube 150. The outer zipper teeth of the skirt 162 are then attached to the outer zipper cuff 153. The rounded shape of the skirt 162 matches the outer shape of the foundation tube 150, and the two sets of zipper teeth ensure a firm hold between the two surfaces. In addition, the protrusion on the bottom of the plug 163 preferably fits snugly into the recess 154, further enhancing the attachment of the saddle to the foundation tube 150.

A user may ride on the saddle after it is connected to the foundation base to the foundation tube 150. As an alternative, the user may ride on the foundation tube without any attachments on top. As another alternative, a user may ride on a different attachment structure, such as is shown in FIGS. 11 and 12. In FIGS. 11 and 12, a seat 170 is provided for fitting over the foundation tube 150. The seat 170 in the embodiment shown in the drawings is a one piece structure that includes an inflatable plug on an underside (not shown). The plug for the seat 170 includes a similar protrusion for fitting the recess 154 in the foundation tube 150, but an upper part of the plug is shaped like a seat. The seat 170 also includes a skirt 172 that is similar in function and attachment to the skirt 162. The lower portion of the plug is designed to fit into the recess 154 in a snug manner to prevent movement after attachment. Zipper teeth may be provided for attaching to the two zipper cuffs 152, 153. In the embodiment shown in the drawings, the seat includes handles 174 and a seat back 176 to provide riding comfort and a secure grip for a rider.

As yet another embodiment, the foundation tube 150 may receive a filler plug 180, similar to the bladders 36, 38 described above. The filler plug 180 may include only one set of zipper teeth 182 for attaching to the inner zipper cuff 152.

The towable 148 provides a lot of flexibility for riding. As described above, the foundation tube 150 may be ridden alone. In addition, the filler plug 180 may be placed in the foundation tube 150 so that a person may ride on top of the towable 148. As other alternatives, a user may attach the saddle embodiment described together with FIGS. 13 and 14, or the seat embodiment described together with FIGS. 11 and 12 for alternative riding patterns. Other configurations may be provided.

Other variations are within the spirit of the present invention. Thus, while the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative constructions, a certain illustrated embodiment thereof is shown in the drawings and has been described above in detail. It should be understood, however, that there is no intention to limit the invention to the specific form or forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, alternative constructions, and equivalents falling within the spirit and scope of the invention, as defined in the appended claims.

The use of the terms “a” and “an” and “the” and similar referents in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) are to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms “comprising,” “having,” “including,” and “containing” are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning “including, but not limited to,”) unless otherwise noted. The term “connected” is to be construed as partly or wholly contained within, attached to, or joined together, even if there is something intervening. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., “such as”) provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate embodiments of the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-claimed element as essential to the practice of the invention.

Preferred embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventors for carrying out the invention. Variations of those preferred embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. The inventors expect skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventors intend for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.





 
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