BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This application is a continuation-in-part of pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/172,762, with a filing date of Jul. 2, 2005, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.
This invention relates generally to field of non-powered swimming and swim training aids, and more particularly to such devices that are referred to as kickboards or swim boards.
A kickboard is a non-powered floating device that is used by swimmers as an exercise or a training aid, the kickboard being designed to be held by the swimmer with both hands and in a forward extended position. The buoyancy of the kickboard assists in maintaining the body of the swimmer at or near the surface of the water, and forward movement is accomplished by kicking movement of the legs and feet. A kickboard may be used recreationally for floatation purposes or as a toy, may be used as an exercise accessory to allow the swimmer to swim longer and to cover a much greater distance than can be accomplished without the kickboard, or may be used as a training accessory for competitive swimmers to improve their kicking technique, efficiency and speed.
A kickboard typically comprises a relatively thin, somewhat rectangular, main body, often with a rounded nose portion, and may be provided with handles or similar gripping means disposed to each side of the main body. The upper and lower surfaces may be flat or contoured, and the kickboard may be structured to have good aerodynamics so that water resistance is minimized as the swimmer advances through the water. Conversely, for exercise and training purposes a relatively non-aerodynamic configuration or features may be employed to increase drag and resistance. Examples of kickboards in known prior art include U.S. Pat. No. 4,781,638 to Winters, U.S. Pat. No. 5,158,034 to Hsu, and U.S. Pat. No. 6,694,911 to Gallagher et al.
The known kickboards lack any means to provide information to the swimmer as to his or her speed through the water. Such information may be purely of amusement interest, such as when the kickboard is used by children to determine who can swim the fastest. However, for exercise and training purposes information as to the speed of the swimmer can be highly useful, enabling for example an exercise swimmer to vary swim rates during a long swim with periods of sprinting followed by relatively slower periods, or to provide feedback as to the maintenance of predetermined swimming rates. For competitive athletes, having immediate and continual information on swim speed is vital to determine whether the most optimum kicking technique is being employed, and to allow various kicking techniques to be employed to determine the optimum.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
It is an object of this invention therefore, to provide swimmer's kickboard having a speed sensing means and a means to display such information to the user in real time, whether for amusement, exercise or training purposes.
The invention comprises in its most general sense a swimmer's kickboard having a speedometer, i.e., a speed measuring and display device, incorporated therein, such that the speed of the kickboard through the water is determined and displayed to the user. Thus, the invention comprises a kickboard composed of a buoyant, relatively rigid material, such as a polymer foam, having a speed measuring means and a speed display means. The speed measuring means may be of any known type suitable for sensing the rate of passage of the kickboard through the water, and the speed display means may be of any suitable type for displaying speed information to the user that is suitable for use in a wet environment.
In a preferred embodiment, the speed measuring means comprises a propeller mounted to the underside of the kickboard, such that passage of the kickboard through the water causes rotation of the propeller. A housing or guard means generally enclosing or protecting the propeller is preferably provided. Most preferably, the propeller is mounted to the kickboard in a pivoting manner such that the propeller's axis can pivot relative to the board when the user angles the kickboard relative to the water's surface, i.e., out of horizontal.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
In an alternative embodiment, the propeller may be mounted such that it is visible to the user.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a representative embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 2 is a rear view of the invention shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is a side view of the invention shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 4 is a top view of the invention shown in FIG. 1.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of the invention.
With reference to the drawings, the invention will now be described in detail with regard for the best mode and the preferred embodiment. In general, the invention is a swimmer's kickboard that incorporates a speedometer such that the rate of travel through the water can be conveyed to the user.
As shown in FIGS. 1 through 4, the invention comprises a kickboard 10 having relatively thin, generally rectangular main body 11 with a rounded or curved nose portion 12, sides 13, an upper surface 14 and a lower surface 15. The kickboard 10 may be composed of any suitably buoyant material, and is preferably composed a relatively rigid polymer foam, with or without an outer covering and/or internal or external bracing structures. The sides 13 are configured so as to be easily and securely gripped by the user, or in the alternative handles, contours or the like, not shown, may be utilized. Such devices are well known in the art.
The kickboard 10 is provided with a speed measuring means 20 and a speed display means 30. Speed measuring means 20 may be of any suitable type capable of determining the rate of passage of an object through the water, but preferably comprises a non-powered, free-spinning propeller 21 mounted onto a rotating shaft 22, which is connected to the lower surface 15 of the kickboard 10 by brace members 23. The propeller shaft 22 is mounted roughly in parallel to the lower surface 15 such that it will be disposed generally horizontally in the water when the kickboard 10 is in use. In known manner and through known communication and calculation means, rotation of the propeller 21 is translated into revolutions per time and then into distance over time, such as miles per hour, using suitable calculations. For example, a magnet within an armature could be rotated by the shaft 22, creating an electrical circuit whose voltage can be translated into rotational speed.
The resultant speed information is displayed upon a speed display means 30, such as for example a liquid crystal display, light emitting diodes, an analog meter or the like, which is mounted on the upper surface 14 of the kickboard 10 so as to be visible to the user. As shown, the speed display means 30 extends upward from the upper surface 14, but it is contemplated that the speed display means could also be partially or completely disposed in a recess within the upper surface. The speed display means 30 may be comprised of any suitable display device suitable for use in a water environment, and preferably provides numerical information on a display screen 31 mounted in a protective housing 32.
Preferably, the speed measuring means 20 is protected by a housing or guard member 24, the guard member 24 being designed such that it does not interfere with passage of water past the propeller 21. Guard member 24 may comprise, for example, a wire or screen material, or may be provided with solid lateral walls with openings in the front and rear.
In a most preferred embodiment, as best seen in FIG. 3, the propeller 21 and propeller shaft 22 are mounted to the brace members 23 is a pivoting manner, such that the propeller shaft 22 is able to pivot relative to the lower surface 15 of the kickboard 10. In use, the kickboard 10 tends to be inclined with its nose portion 12 slightly raised, such that the kickboard main body 11 is not maintained parallel to the surface of the water. By allowing the propeller shaft 22 to pivot, the axis of rotation of the shaft 22 can be maintained in a generally horizontal position parallel to the flow direction of the water, such that the accuracy of the device is maintained. The shaft 22 and propeller 21 could also be provided with balancing floats, not shown, to further maintain the proper orientation.
In an alternative embodiment, as shown in FIG. 5, the kickboard 10 may be structured so as to serve more of an amusement function rather than a training function. In this embodiment, propeller 21 is disposed in an opening 16 extending through the main body 11 of the kickboard 10, such that the spinning propeller 21 is visible to the user. A transparent cover 17 may be provided to protect the propeller 21. The propeller 21 may be of sufficient size to extend beneath the lower surface 15 of the kickboard 10, or bores 18 may be provided in the main body 11 of the kickboard 10 to channel water to the propeller 21.
It is contemplated that equivalents and substitutions to certain elements set forth above may be obvious to those skilled in the art, and therefore the true scope and definition of the invention is to be as set forth in the following claims.