Located next to Coolidge Park, Adventure Sports Innovation bills itself as an experience shop. It features some of the latest in recreation technology — an electric surfboard that lifts its rider several feet above the water and the world's first all-terrain snowboarding device — broken down by medium: water, land and virtual reality.
Following a bit of on-site training, most of the gear can be rented, allowing the user to experience all the Scenic City has to offer in brand-new ways.
This model also serves as a unique "try before you buy" opportunity, as the shop doubles as a retailer. And with some of the gear on offer not available anywhere else in the Southeast, ASI has seen a lot of foot traffic. Besides, who could merely walk by the curious-looking mash-up between a dune buggy and a Model T displayed outside, otherwise known as a Swincar e-Spider? Recently, Chatter staff had the chance to try out a few of ASI's offerings. Here, they share their experiences.
When my editor said she had signed us up for a 30-minute water bike experience at Adventure Sports Innovation, what I imagined was a group cycleboat sort of event.
And I'll admit that I was only mildly amused by the idea.
But when we met ASI guide Reilly Blackwell at the Tennessee River put-in beneath the Market Street Bridge, I was pleasantly surprised to see the actual craft — unlike anything I'd ever seen.
ASI's Schiller S1C water bike is basically a single stationary bike, ruddered and fixed to a catamaran-like standup paddleboard. The result is one super-stable craft. In fact, Blackwell told us, volunteers used those water bikes during the swim portion of this year's Ironman. Had a swimmer needed help, the water bike was stable enough to offer support.
While I waited for my co-workers to climb aboard their crafts and join me, I pedaled into the channel, dropped my rudder and started doing doughnuts at sprint speeds. The water surface barely rocked. I was impressed with the bike's balance.
I was also impressed with the burning in my thighs.
Riding a water bike is a great workout, which is what sets it apart from ASI's collection, predominantly featuring e-powered high-tech toys: hovershoes, self-balancing boards and electronic bodyboards, for example. Its rental ranges from $30 to $70.
"We like to offer unique, weird things that we believe are cool enough for primetime," ASI CEO and co-founder Patrick Molloy told us.
Though the water bike is self-propelled, it is nonetheless innovative, and easily one of the most creative ways to get a workout on the water — and one of the quickest. While most of ASI's toys require some instruction, the water bike has almost no learning curve. Just like riding a bike, only on water instead of road.
— Sunny Montgomery
I've never been good at the figurative balances in life, but when the tipping point is literal, I'm usually pretty stable. Still, I was nervous about putting that sense of balance to the test at Adventure Sports Innovation, which stocks mini Segways, self-balancing boards, hovershoes and a compact electric unicycle, each of which can be rented for $25 to $35.
I was even more apprehensive when they suited me up in a helmet and hand/wrist guards.
While most people come for one or the other of these rentable offerings (or any of the other land/water/VR innovations on offer), I wanted full bragging rights. Save for the more familiar electric bikes and scooterboard, the shop's self-balancing options act as a hierarchy, allowing the user to stair-step up in difficulty with each new piece of gear.
The first in the group, the mini Segway, actually looked the most daunting, its directional knee bar making it seem like a piece of space equipment I wasn't intuitive enough to maneuver sans hands. But like most of the curious novices who wander in, I was jetting around the training room within 15 minutes — sans spills, I might add, though I did end up jumping off once when instincts trumped my few moments of basic training.
The hardest part for me was just letting go of my fear. The rest came fairly naturally. Though I did keep my hands preemptively out at my sides should those wrist guards be needed.
After the Segway, the learning curve was smaller, despite the self-balancing hoverboard being more attuned to shifts in bodyweight. Steered and sped entirely through subtle leans and tilts, it looked like a rugged, high-tech skateboard with a forward-facing stance. It was my favorite of the bunch. I felt like a superhero gliding above the earth, forgetting entirely that the board was beneath me until a mindless, careless shift snapped me back to reality (though still without crashing me to the ground).
With the unicycle requiring more extensive training, the hovershoes were the last item I tried. Better described as self-balancing skates, they were my least favorite, maybe because my feet kept trending in different directions. But they were good for showing you such inconsistencies in your balance and coordination.
— Jennifer Bardoner
Before our trip to Adventure Sports Innovation, I'd never tried out any sort of virtual reality simulators, not even those cardboard boxes you can slide your smartphone into.
The ASI team offers four in-store virtual reality experiences ranging from $8.50 to $20 per person: a hang-gliding simulation, a roller coaster ride, an interactive VR movie and the opportunity to save a kitten.
To learn more about Adventure Sports Innovation’s offerings and prices, visit adventuresportsinnovation.com.
I tried out three of these experiences, the first being the "Finger Coaster" where I designed my own 950-meter-long roller coaster. Next to the interactive computer screen which turns your random finger swirls into a virtual ride, there is a four-person coaster cart complete with a safety bar — which was needed. With the help of wind and sound effects and, of course, VR goggles, it felt very much like I was actually twisting and flipping upside down.
Erin Smith, our photographer who watched the machine jostle me around, said she could tell when I was scared by how my body folded inward and my feet clenched together.
The least interactive experience for me was the hang-gliding. Though I was strapped into a harness that had me horizontally hovering about 3 inches above a padded mat, on this program, you're just along for the ride and don't get to dictate where the imaginary lakeside adventure takes you. For some reason, I couldn't quite shake the knowledge that I was in the middle of a store and strapped into a strange device.
Anybody with a hero complex can find validation in ASI's "Vertigo" VR, or walk the plank simulator.
The task may seem simple: Travel to the top of a virtual skyscraper and walk a beam to rescue the gray kitten stranded at the end. But the room is padded for a reason. In reality, you're balancing on a 4-inch-wide beam, you can't see your feet and you're strapped into a harness, wielding a Star Wars-esque lightsaber to fight off one-eyed mutated bat creatures. Not so easy.
ASI says only about one out of three people successfully saves the kitten. I was one of them.
— Sabrina Bodon