Kingii: This New Inflatable Wristband Probably Won’t Save Your Life, But It’s a Nice Idea.

by Owen James Burke


Kingii, a new concept for a lifesaving flotation device is drawing a lot of interest on Indiegogo and has already raised nearly half a million dollars in funding (almost 10 times its goal), but we were skeptical as to whether or not the tiny wristband could hold the potential to save a life out on the water, above or beneath the waves.

We enlisted the expertise of Scuttlefish friend and veteran open-water lifesaver Jonathan Hoover–who has rescued some of the world’s top watermen (including professional big wave surfer Greg Long). We asked him what he thought about this new device, and he told us that while it’s a nice idea, it doesn’t hold much (above) water.


OJB: Jonathan, what do you think about this new product on Indiegogo, Kingii, “the world’s smallest flotation device”? These guys have sure raised a lot of money, but I think there are obvious shortcomings. You’re supposed to attach this gadget to your wrist, which wouldn’t really help keep your air passages above water once deployed, especially if you were unconscious.

Jonathan Hoover: The problems are fairly obvious. This clearly requires a conscious person to deploy it. I think you nailed it when you talk about location being a problem. Someone who deploys this in a conscious state is likely to be exhausted by the time they deploy it. With that in mind, you can see how it could be problematic trying to hold yourself up by your wrist to keep your airway above water. From the standpoint of deploying this product, I like the wrist, primarily because it is easily accessible unless there is an entrapment issue. (Ed’s note: if you were to get the clunky thing wedged in a crevice or between coral heads, or your other arm were hung up somehow, you wouldn’t be able to engage the device.)

OJB: Are there any circumstances you could see this thing working though? I could imagine it maybe saving an otherwise fit and unhindered swimmer caught in a rip current, but I don’t really see it working very well for surfing or freediving, for instance. Could it help to save someone who’s weak or disoriented; What’s your take?

Hoover: These products are always interesting to look at. The creators have such good intentions, but the application is sometimes lacking. What I do like is, the product is compact and appears to have a large enough mechanism to deploy the air bag. Dexterity is a significant concern when we are talking about drowning incidents.

OJB: So would you recommend the Kingii for surfers?

Hoover: I certainly would not use it in a surfing application. It would be too bulky for paddling. I wouldn’t want to get hit in the face/head with it during a wipeout. Once deployed you couldn’t swim freestyle, so I guess you’d try to float your torso on it and kick? Not very effective. . . . Just another gimmick. Nice try, but I don’t see many scenarios where it would be effective. I like the little girl deploying it at the bottom of the pool. Hilarious!

OJB: What else is out there; anything else worth considering?

Hoover: There are other products like the “fanny pack” style manual inflate PFD that are not in the best location. This would float your hips. . . . If it gets deployed, at least someone can locate you on the surface and POSSIBLY use CPR to get you back. Not ideal, but worth mentioning.

The deployment handle could also be inadvertently pulled based upon the location and design. (Ed’s note: the handle–the red tab in the image below–hangs loose from your hip, and just in swimming, or passing by a rock, a coral head, or poking through a kelp bed, you could easily engage it mistakenly.)



Above: Onyx’s M-24 Manual Inflatable Belt Pack Life Jacket, still not a great option, but it has potential.

Read Scuttlefish Editor Chris Dixon’s interviews with Hoover and fellow lifesaver Ryan Thompson, parts I and II, about their lives in salt, and their harrowing experiences out at Cortes Bank, 100 miles off California–a place where their decisions and actions have quite literally proven to be the diference between life and death. –OJB

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