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PaddleAir in the News

Revamped PaddleAir Improves Ergonomics

by Corky Carroll
Surfs Up!
Orange County Register
August 21, 2010

Corky Carroll Surfing in PaddleAirI thought I would give you a little update on a couple of new things in the local surf world.

First off there is a new version of the very successful "PaddleAir" inflatable surfing vest that came out some years ago. The inventor, Dave Hilts, along with longtime Orange County surfing legend Herb Torrens, of Newport Beach fame, has taken his product one step further with the current release of the new "Ergo" PaddleAir ... >> Read the article online

Surf Longer No More Sternum Pain

Waterhoundby David Wells
April 2010
>> Read the article online

Surf's Up: Get a Little Air and
You'll Paddle Stronger, Surf Longer

by Corky Carroll
Orange County Register
August 26, 2004

Corky Carroll in PaddleAirI love it when somebody comes up with something completely new that really works and has an immediate value to the surfing community. Especially when it is something that I can use and, in fact, really need. Such is the case with a new product not even in stores yet, called "Paddle Air."

About a month ago, my pal Herbie Torrens, of the "Paraffin Chronicles" new-book fame, sent me an e-mail raving about a product that Dave Hilts has invented. Dave is a longtime Orange County surf dude who grew up in Huntington Beach and is a fellow Huntington Beach High School alumnus who also was on the first HBHS surf team in in1972.

He also competed on the Western Surfing Association tour and still occasionally enters longboard events.

For most of his life, Dave has worked in the sporting goods industry, including for a major wetsuit company and a surfboard company and has owned his own retail store. So knowing Dave was not just another dude with something to peddle, I was interested in what his invention was.

Herbie said it was a "paddle thing" and that because of my surfing bumps, I should check it out.

In case you have never seen me in person, I should tell you that I have two massive bumps right on top of my rib cage that look exactly like breasts.

I had them removed some years ago and they grew back even bigger within a few months. They are from the contact between my ribs and and my board when I am paddling.

So I got together with Dave, and he turned me onto his new product to try out. Because of the name, I was thinking that this was going to be some sort of glove or something you wore on your hands to make you paddle faster.

But it was way better than that. It is actually a rash guard or a light-weight wetsuit shirt that incorporates a balloon-like pouch in the chest area. It has a tube attached to the back of the neck that allows you to inflate the pouch and adjust it with a really easy-to-use nozzle.

The idea is that a little pocket of air just under your chest area puts you in a slightly better angle for paddling and takes the pressure off your lower back. This relaxes your back muscles, and that can allow you to surf longer and catch more waves -- a good thing.

Almost all surfers who have surfed for a number of years can testify to lower-back problems directly related to paddling. It also gives protection to your rib cage and makes your surfing experience just that more comfortable.

I have to tell you that I was pretty amazed at this. I had been thinking for years that I wish there was some way I could pad my rib cage that would no be a real hassle and look really stupid. God knows I look stupid enough already without having to amplify it with some sort of monster padding strapped around my body.

The next morning, the surf was kinda good right in front of my surf school at Bolsa Chica, and I decided to do the big test. At first I blew the pouch up full and started to paddle out. The bag was too big and it was sort of weird paddling that way.

So I let some air out and continued. It took me about three times to get it just right. It turns out that just a little bit of a cushion is the answer. You hardly notice it, but it is there. I was very comfortable paddling and felt like I was more relaxed at once.

I stayed out for a long session and when I came in, I did not feel the normal soreness of my rib cage surf bumps.

And my back felt fine, too. In short, I was really stoked. This is a really good product and one that is long overdue. It is really easy to use and it makes sense. I can see the benefit for all beginners with this. They will be less sore and be able to last a little longer before wearing out.

It will work for girls or guys. I know that when I teach girls, they all comment on how hard it is on their rib cages. Guys get sore backs easier. This seems to be the answer for both.

And you hardly notice that you have it on. Except for the little air tube, nobody else would have a clue that it not just a normal rash guard or wetsuit shirt.

I am confident that within a short amount of time, you will be able to buy these at your local surf shops. More information is available on the Web site:

I give it five fins up (out of a possible five). [Visit Corky's Web site.]

Inventor Aims to Give Surfing a Lift

by Bradley J. Fikes
The North County Times
Saturday, August 7, 2004

Jay Boyde, a team rider for David Hilts, the founder of PaddleAir, inflates the vest.MURRIETA -- A few seconds of joy on the waves, tiresome minutes paddling out to catch them. That's the less glamorous side of surfing that movies don't highlight.

For surfers who love the ride, but find the effort a bit too much, David Hilts has an invention: PaddleAir, a rash guard-like inflatable garment that provides a touch of extra buoyancy. With it, Hilts says, surfers get extra endurance when they need it.

Worn outside or inside a wetsuit, PaddleAir can be inflated or deflated at will through an external hose. When deflated, it acts as a regular rash guard.

PaddleAir goes on sale next month through a Web site, The official launch will come in an advertisement to run next month in Longboarder magazine.

Hilts said PaddleAir will help inexperienced surfers as well as older surfers such as himself: He began surfing in 1966 while living in Huntington Beach.

Now a Murrieta resident, Hilts developed PaddleAir with other students as a marketing project while attending the University of Phoenix. Hilts said his classes helped him learn how to put the polish on his basic idea and turn it into an actual company.

"I got the parts from other technologies, like the dive industry, and bought a couple of rash guards and took them to a tailor and had it sewn together. I took it out and tried it, and was blown away," Hilts said. "We did all the marketing stuff, made a plan and a logo, and then we did a video for the class. It just kind of grew from there."

It's not a full-time venture; Hilts' main job is as salesman for a fishing equipment company. He estimates the cost so far at $10,000 to $12,000.

Hilts is starting with men's sizes, from medium to extra large. Once those are securely on the market, Hilts said he'll roll out other designs for women's and children's sizes.

PaddleAir comes in two basic designs, one called the Insider, made of Lycra and worn inside the wetsuit, which will sell for $90. Another, the Outsider, will sell for $100.

Hilts said he would like to get PaddleAir into surf shops, but wants to establish demand first.

"My marketing idea is to drive the dealers to me," he said.