Hybrid sports machines tickle enthusiasts' fancy

By Laura MacInnis

Sails on snowboards, skis on wheels and a bicycle that glides from side to side are among the treats for outdoor sports enthusiasts at an inventions show that opened in Geneva this week.

"I'm a windsurfer and I'm a snowboarder, and I wanted to bring the two things together," said Marc Kaeser of Murten, Switzerland, as he adjusted the metal brace and foot straps he made to merge the summer and winter activities.

Kaeser, who hopes to start selling his "Snoorf" snowboard adaptor in September for about 800 Swiss francs ($1015), said it was easier to windsurf on snow and ice than water because there was no lifting of heavy wet sails.

Windy, open fields like those in Switzerland's Jura region, which is also popular among walkers and cross-country skiers, would be ideal for the hybrid sport, he said at the International Exhibition of Inventions.

Among the nearly 1000 gadgets on display at the Palexpo arena, which is expected to attract more than 70,000 visitors, were a soccer chessboard, extendable eyeglasses for women that make room for make-up brushes, fish-based breakfast cereal and a device for measuring the heat of chilli peppers.

Several entrants sought to adapt adrenaline-filled winter sports activities for summer weather and urban conditions.

Philippe Despoix of France said he invented the "Skiturn" scooter - made from a single ski cut in half, put on wheels and attached to bicycle handlebars - to give city-dwellers the chance to feel the rush of downhill skiing.

"It really gives the sensation of gliding, like on skis," he said of the gadget he sees selling for €60 ($122) to €70, mainly to teenagers and skateboard enthusiasts.

Others said it was time to spice up traditional sports.

"We're all after the same thing, really. It's exhilaration," said Michael Killian of Dublin, standing beside his "sideways bike" that mimics the swaying motion of skiing and snowboarding.

After taking the bicycle - which has one handlebar in front and one in back - for a curvy spin around the arena, Killian said it was best suited as a plaything for children but could be for purpose-driven adults too.

"It's not going to win the Tour de France but you can play all day on it."

An engineer by training, Killian cycled sideways around Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam, New York and Los Angeles and said he expects most demand for the bicycle - to sell for about € 250 - to come from Holland, Germany and Switzerland.

The annual Geneva exhibition is now in its 34th year.


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