Adrenaline Ignited! Airboating

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The Man Cave was established to bring all those other sports and hobbies that four-wheel drive enthusiasts crave to your attention. Something to talk about in your Man Cave. We know each one isn’t perfect for you, but we think it’s important to know what’s out there.

You’ve probably heard of airboats before, maybe even taken a group ride on one through the Everglades; I’m here to tell you, that might technically be an airboat from the description, but it’s not all the fun it can be.

Every motorhead knows and craves adrenaline; it’s why we do what we do, challenge ourselves and our equipment. What a great natural drug, and even better when we cause the production of it ourselves! Our bodies produce adrenaline when stressed or excited – it is often referred to as our “fight or flight” response.

As a person who is in search of the “Rush,” you should go airboating!

What is an airboat?

An airboat is a flat-bottomed watercraft propelled by a propeller, similar to an aircraft; generally powered by either an aircraft or automotive engine. Airboats have been built with many different types of engines, most common in early designs were aircraft engines, and while still widely used, the automotive engine designs are becoming more popular. They are commonly used for fishing, hunting, and ecotourism. Airboats are used in many different conditions: shallow water, deep waters, streams, rivers, flooded plains, frozen lakes, waterways, estuaries, and bays.

There are different hull designs and various materials used to create the hull.  Commonly used materials are aluminum, fiberglass, and a poly-plastic material. Designs include shallow hull, deep hull, and deck over boats. Coatings can be paint or spray-on material or a solid sheet of material like UHMW.

How does an airboat work?

Giant fans propel an airboat instead of in-the-water propellers. When the propeller is operating, it pushes air behind the boat, which drives the boat forward. The boat can glide quickly across the surface of the water or over dry land because nothing is causing friction in the water. Steering is done by one or more large air rudders mounted in the same airstream at the aft.

How much does an airboat cost?

As with anything, prices vary greatly depending on size, condition, and accessories, but in general new airboats can run between $20,000-$140.000. In searching used airboats, prices ranged from $6,000-$65,000. Like anything with a motor, it loses half its value when you drive it off the lot.

We had the opportunity to experience air boating with our friend JT Taylor, Race Director for Ultra4. JT’s airboat is a 13’7” aluminum DiamondBack hull with a sheet of UHMW (Ultra High Molecular Weight) polyethylene attached to the boat’s bottom. It’s powered by a 550hp LS engine, a 650 Holley carb., MSD ignition, 2.6:1 rotator reduction gearbox, and a carbon fiber three-blade propeller. All of this creates an awesome ride on water or dry land. You may question that last part, land? Yes, land or the ability to get across it is a thing with airboats. Why? Because sometimes it gets in the way, other times because you can, and it’s always good to get to friends hanging out on dry ground.

You may think of air boating as only a southern swamp activity, but you’d be wrong. Airboats are popular in any area where normal boat travel can be hampered by low water, frozen water, or tight, narrow waterways where most boats can’t travel. A lot of these airboats are used in the Midwest, north-central states, and along the gulf coast. Any activity can be done from an airboat, except maybe water skiing, but I’m pretty sure it’s been done. Airboats are versatile but truly run the best in shallow water and over waterborne vegetation.

We air boated on Lake Kissimmee in central Florida this fall. The day was clear, a bit chilly, the lake was calm except some wind chop across the large open bay areas. Lake Kissimmee has airboat trails all along the shoreline; there were a lot of birds, alligators, and cattle, there is also a private island stocked with exotic game animals. You know that moment in Wild Kingdom that a flock of birds takes flight in front of the camera?  It was just like that.

As with any boat, there are no brakes. It keeps it interesting running in shallow shoreline waters; having a boat that can run “dry land” is very helpful, as we found out. Sometimes shallow areas become dry and these spots can just happen to jump right out in front of you. Airboats are agile, quick, and loads of fun. But BEWARE, airboats are addicting…as is that adrenaline rush!

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