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Waikato management alumni play crucial role in success of world-first 'water bike'

12 October 2017

Waikato Management School grads Greg Johnston (left) and Louis Wilks (third from left) watch intently during early phase testing of the Manta5 at the University of Waikato's Aquatic Centre in Tauranga.

Five Waikato management graduates are celebrating their part in the launch of a world-first hydrofoil water bike that won gold for best concept product at the the 2017 Designers Institute Best Awards last week.

The Manta5 Hydrofoiler is the brainchild of Guy Howard-Willis, the Waikato-based founder of Torpedo 7 and The concept has been brought to life after six years of R&D by Roland Alonzo, a bike designer with a passion for cutting-edge technology and design.

The Waikato alumni are key members of the team that has brought the hydrofoil bike to market. 

Greg Johnston (BMS(Hons)) joined the Manta5 team as general manager in 2016, and since then he's employed another six Waikato alumni to fill various roles in supply chain management, operations, marketing, electronic engineering and events.

They include marketing manager Louis Wilks (BMS), operations and supply chain assistant Samaria Mason (BMS(Hons)), Randal Meijerink (BMS(Hons)), and Jeanna Sayson (BMS(Hons)).

"Building a team of alumni through my networks at university has been really rewarding," says Greg. "I love backing young, talented people, and I’m passionate about teaming them up with leaders in their respective industries."

They are joined by two Waikato electrical engineering students, Daniel Dredge and Harrisson Jull.

World-first achievement

The Waikato alumni say they're "pretty stoked" to be part of a world-first achievement in commercialising hydrofoil bikes for recreational use on lakes, rivers and ocean swells.

Five are still employed with the company, as they gear up for the Manta5's public release at Big Boys Toys in Auckland this November, and a limited edition pre-sale over summer 2017/18.

The Manta5 uses hydrofoil and e-bike technology, combined with a propeller and electric motor, to lift the body of the bike out of the water, enabling riders to plane across the water's surface. Riders can even relaunch the bike from deep water - a world-first achievement.

"Our Waikato alumni have come on board and made a brilliant contribution. It’s refreshing to have such young, sharp minds involved," says Guy Howard-Willis, founding director of Manta5.

Secret testing of prototypes

Early development of the Manta5 began in Tauranga, with secret testing of all prototypes done after hours at the University of Waikato's Windermere Campus Aquatic Centre.

In September 2015, the workshop was moved to Cambridge, where Lake Karapiro provided the ideal testing location, with some of the world's best rowers and cyclists right on the doorstep.

The bike is buoyant, so it floats for easy retrieval. When a rider stops pedalling, they are submerged in the water up to about chest-height. However, the rider can re-mount the bike from underwater and perform a ‘submerged launch’ to get going again. Manta5 is the first to introduce this feature in any hydrofoil product.

“Riding a hydrofoil bike is unlike any other cycling experience to date, in fact it’s a step change in the way we cycle altogether," says Guy. "No roads, no traffic, an open-space riding experience ... The electric motor is quiet, not disturbing the natural tranquility, but still offering a level of assistance for up to an hour."

“I want these bikes to go well beyond just being a leisure product - I want it to be a sports product so it's competitive ... and who knows, one day it might be in the Olympic Games.”

Watch the video of the Manta5 in action on water:



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