Common in offshore raceboats and military vessels, shock-mitigating seats are far less so in recreational go-fast V-bottom sportboats and catamarans. And they’re rarer still—as in mostly nonexistent—in performance-oriented center consoles, which typically are equipped with one to three rows of bolsters. But collaborating closely with engineers at Fox Factory, Inc., the famed suspension-component company’s air-shock design, engineering and production arm, the team at Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Powerboats is hoping to change that.
Tommy Mason of Soflo Boats demonstrated the air-shock-mitigating rail system that Fox currently is developing in collaboration Nor-Tech.
Speaking to a group of domestic and international Nor-Tech dealers yesterday at the company’s third annual dealer meeting at the Westin hotel in Cape Coral, Fla., Tim King, a former Navy SEAL and the program manager for the Fox Defense and Marine division (Fox already builds shock-mitigation systems for military vessels) said he was immediately intrigued in developing such a product for the recreational performance center console market when South Florida-based Nor-Tech dealer Bob Crow reached out to him with the idea. The owner of SoFlo Boats in Fort Lauderdale, Crow has a chronic neck injury that can be aggravated during boat rides in rough water.
“When Bob called me, I was eager to get involved with this project,” said King. “There were two things I hated as a Navy SEAL, cold water and long, hard bone-crunching boat rides.”
Still in the prototype stage and installed on Crow’s own Nor-Tech 340 center console, the Fox “OverSea” system is based on an air-shock rail-mounted setup that Fox developed exclusively for Nor-Tech and specifically for marine use. The system incorporates Fox’s “proven Float Air shock architecture” and boasts an impressive eight inches of travel, according to Fox press information. Features include modular design for multiple seating positions and military grade components.
The prototype Fox OverSea air-shock rail system is completely hidden in the bolster console.
But the rail system also had to be concealable in the bolster console—that was imperative. Even in Crow’s 34-footer, the prototype system is completely enclosed and hidden from view. To help make that happen, Sloflow Boats and Fox Factory, Inc., worked closely with Sarasota, Fla.-based Premiere Performance Interiors, which handles much of Nor-Tech’s interior work.
“You don’t see the shock system—it looks like any other Nor-Tech 340 cockpit,” said Crow. “But the system really makes a difference. And working with Fox has been a study in professionalism.”
Just as it is for mountain bike and motocross riders, Fox’s Air Float shock technology is sensitive to the weight of powerboat drivers and their passengers. So as it does with its other shock-mitigating products, Fox made air-pressure adjustable and will provide a pump with each system. The connection point/fill for the air pump is easy to access in the prototype system and will remain that way in the final version of the production-ready system.
Asked when the Fox air-shock-mitigation system will be available as an option, the Nor-Tech’s Henrik Margård said “not imminently,” then chuckled. But like his fellow Nor-Tech team members, he’s eager to see the system become an option for the company’s present and future customers. And Fox’s King is equally enthusiastic about the project and to be working on it exclusively with Nor-Tech.
“Nor-Tech is on the cutting edge and will be the leader of this technology in the performance center console market,” he said. “We only have time to work on it with one company, and we only have time to get it right once.”