11:52 PM Thu 18 Aug 2011 GMT
It had to happen. Just when you thought that everything that could be invented had been invented, along comes David Guillot with a breath of fresh air for the sailing scene - the Skate Sail.
'The Skate Sail in action'
David, who hails from Geneseo in New York State, USA, told Jeffrey Blackwell of the Democrat and Chronicle that he had been thinking of the idea for 20 years and 'the vision has been knocking around in his head ever since'.
'I was taking down a tent on the beach. It was a dome tent and the wind was picking up and it was kind of carrying us,' said Guillot, 36, of Geneseo. 'At the time I was also a skater, so I kind of put the two together and put my first prototype together with a couple of garbage bags sewn together and it was neat and I had fun with it.'
But it was not until nine years ago that Guillot began to develop his little idea on the beach. In the time since, the idea of the skate sail has gone from garbage bags to a product ready to hit the mass market this upcoming holiday season in SkyMall magazine, a publication read by an estimated 1.5 million airline passengers a day.
The Universal Skate Sail is a handheld sail that can be used for inline and roller skates, skateboards, snowboards and even skis and ice skates. Guillot, who works in an electroless nickel plating laboratory at Bausch + Lomb Inc., said the sail catches the wind and pulls the riders down the road, across the field or snow or ice.
'Even at the time I thought it could be a thing, but as a child I had no funds and no capital, but it was in the back of my head,' he said. 'I never lost track of it and about eight or nine years ago, with a job and some money, I started thinking about developing it and built a more serious prototype.'
Guillot's story is the classic inventor story. He built a series of prototypes at home until the design of the nylon sail was perfected and then he applied for a patent for his idea. He has also contracted with a manufacturer in China to produce the sails.
The Livingston County man calls the process of bringing the product to market similar to writing a novel or giving birth.
'The patent was a big obstacle, because even if it is a good idea, if there is no patent it is worthless because anyone could steal it,' he said. 'It was difficult, because I'm not reinventing the sail here, it's just another version of it and I had to get it through government regulations and prove it was different.'
So far, he has a lot of local commercial interest in the product, which should retail for around $80. Like many inventors, Guillot said he doesn't want to be in the business of making his product. A company or investor willing to take his invention to the next level would be ideal.
by Lee Mylchreest