'Jungle Float' a.k.a. the 'Tarzan Boat' debuts today in Chattanooga

'Jungle Float' a.k.a. the 'Tarzan Boat' debuts today in Chattanooga

May 13th, 2017 by Tim Omarzu in Business Around the Region

The Jungle Boat, which is docked Friday, May 12, 2017 at Big Ridge Marina, features trampolines and a water slide.

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

The Jungle Boat, which is docked Friday, May 12, 2017 at Big Ridge Marina, features trampolines and various levels of decks.

The Jungle Boat, which is docked Friday, May...

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

The Jungle Float — previously known as the Tarzan Boat — is the "world's first mobile floating water park."

Built in Chattanooga, the $65,000 two-story craft comes with trampolines, diving platforms, a climbing rope or cargo net and a water slide.

Swimmers bounce, jump and slide off Tarzan Boats and Jungle Floats at two dozen vacation spots around the world, from Rockaway Beach in Queens, N.Y., to Sydney, Australia, to Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

Even former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney bought one for his family's personal use.

But Chattanoogans haven't had a chance to experience the craft — until today.

Weather permitting, the Jungle Float will be open to the public, free of charge, at 1:30 p.m. at the TVA swimming beach above Chickamauga Dam.

"Anyone can show up," said Chris Hampton, who co-owns the Jungle Float business. "You've just got to sign in and sign our waiver."

Hampton, 49, is a long-time entrepreneur who remembers the day his sons' antics jumping into a lake inspired him to build the Tarzan Boat.

"I've got three crazy boys, and we were out boating," he said.

He teamed up with Mike Johnson, 31, a welder, to build the craft.

In two years of business, the duo and about six employees at a factory on Hixson Pike near Chester Frost Park have produced two dozen Tarzan Boats and Jungle Floats and have orders for 15 more.

Video goes viral

The business took off after an August 2015 Facebook video of the craft went viral with 18 million views.

"Our phone was blown up for three months after that," Hampton said.

The Jungle Float is a great investment for a small businessperson, Hampton said, because the craft can gross $3,000 to $5,000 in a day.

"Potentially, you can," he said.

The largest Jungle Float holds around 40 people. So, if a business charges $10 per person an hour — and takes photos and video of people jumping in the water — it adds up fast.

Also there are no franchise fees, royalties or contracts. Hampton, whose previous entrepreneurial experience includes building mobile video game trailers, calls the Jungle Float a "turn-key operation" that's ready to go.

The Jungle Float's purchase price includes training buyers how to safely operate the craft. Hampton recommends zero tolerance for horseplay and no alcohol use around the float, which he says has no more liability risk than a trampoline park, jet ski rental, or bungee jump business.

Producers of the entrepreneurial reality TV show "Shark Tank" have been in contact with Hampton and Johnson.

"When Shark Tank calls you, you know you're on to something," Hampton said.

Insurance 'biggest issue'

Buyers of the craft include Casey McQuinn, who co-owns the Lake Martin Jungle Float southeast of Birmingham, Ala., with his father.

"As soon as Memorial Day weekend comes and school lets out, we should be doing very well," said McQuinn, who got the float about a month ago. "It seems like it's going to work out good."

The Facebook video inspired McQuinn, who works with his dad building custom kitchen cabinets, to buy the Jungle Float.

The biggest issue, he said, has been finding insurance. It costs about $10,000 a year, McQuinn said, and came with rules and regulations, such as having two lifeguards on duty, age and height limits and refusal of service to those on drugs or alcohol for the craft that's anchored a ways offshore.

"If you can't swim to our boat, then you probably shouldn't be playing on it," he said. "That's kind of our safety test."

The Jungle Float near Chickamauga Dam will be available all summer for private parties as well as occasional "open play" days for the public, Hampton said. Also today, the Jungle Boat will make a brief appearance at 10:30 a.m. near where the Delta Queen used to dock in Coolidge Park where a video will be made of people playing on it.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.