New Atlas - "Beau Lake taps swinging 60s style for paddle boating makeover"

New Atlas - "Beau Lake taps swinging 60s style for paddle boating makeover"
Swans, pelicans, rubber duckies, cars and dragons. Pedal-powered paddle boat (pedalo) designs tends to swing between cutesy kitsch and blandly pragmatic, which is why Beau Lake's Runabout – a paddle boat that actually looks like a boat – is the most ironically out-there thing to happen to these little leisure craft to date.

"Traditional injection-molded plastic pedal boats stand out like sore thumbs," says Paul Lavoie, co-founder and Chairman of Beau Lake. "Nothing about them blends into the natural surroundings and architectural designs of today's cottage lifestyle."

So, with this aesthetic challenge in mind, Lee Kline, co-founder and design director for Beau Lake, drew heavily from mid-20th century wooden speed boats like the Riva Aquarama, and created a paddle boat far more suited to the Lake Como set than the Walley World brigade.

Beau Lake is no stranger to the classic boat designs of the '50s and '60s, having successfully blended the Riva/Chris-Craft style with modern construction techniques for their range of Stand-Up Paddleboards (SUPs). And while Kline's affection for this retro style is apparent in his SUP designs, it seems to have found it's ultimate expression in the Beau Lake Runabout. This is the sort of paddle-boat you'd imagine Grace Kelly would have owned.

Once Lavoie and Kline decided what they wanted to build, the issue of howtook over. Creating a modern, functional, reproducible and low-maintenance water craft that evokes a hand-built '50s/'60s aesthetic is no mean feat. 

"Before being a designer, I'm a builder, with a heavy focus on materials, construction techniques and processes," explains Kline. "There are merits to be found in the materials and processes of the past, present and future, so collaborating with experienced people from a wide variety of backgrounds has been my entire MO in life."

The self-draining Runabout has three main sections: the molded fiberglass hull, the cockpit, and the inlaid veneer deck. The boat is finished off with stainless steel castings, inch-thick leather seat covers that snap off for storage, a Bimini cover for weather protection, and a food and drink cooler incorporated into the contours of the boat. Steering is controlled via a hand-carved wooden tiller that incorporates a number of joystick components. 

Collaboration was key to the development of the Runabout, and the team Beau Lake brought together was crucial to its success. Steve Killing brought decades of yacht design experience onboard to help develop the boat's tunnel hull, while Spark Innovations chipped in on the problem of ensuring the pedal-drive mechanism was both silent and efficient.

"I wanted it to do everything, but sometimes the best design is the most elegant solution, which looks great, is mechanically understood and enjoys the greatest longevity," says Kline. "But I remained married to the concept of having a retractable, turning drive unit."

Eventually the team came up with a simple mirror-polished stainless steel drive shaft that eliminated noise and surface splash by keeping all of the propulsion action beneath the water.

Future plans for the Runabout include a battery-charged e-bike motor, with four power settings to assist pedaling in headwinds – or those pesky uphill lakes. 

If James Bond ever decided to save the world in a paddle boat, you can bet your boots he'd be doing it in a Beau Lake Runabout. It's available now, starting at $25,000, with optional enhancements already in the pipeline.