Though he grew up in Indiana, Brad Hartfield’s second home was always Naples. Now, after 25 years of living in the state full-time, Hartfield is leading a local business with global reach as the owner of WaveJet of Florida, which uses a propulsion system to power surfboards, kayaks and paddleboards for use in both recreation and rescue operations.
In November 2016, Hartfield became the global distributor for WaveJet, expanding his operation to testing products in the field at his base in Naples, working with manufacturers and designing boards. He had seen people from all walks of life use WaveJet products at the beach resort, from grandparents who could finally get back out on the water with their families again to Hartfield’s own 9-year-old daughter. So he knew the system had wide-ranging potential applications for users of all skill levels, and that the next step was to connect his products with the communities who could use them most.
“Besides my wife and daughter,” Hartfield says, “changing lives is the only reason I get up every day.” That’s what he set out to do with WaveJet system, by designing boards that could be used by people with disabilities and partnering with organizations like Life Rolls On, a nonprofit dedicated to adaptive surfing and skating founded by world champion quadriplegic surfer Jesse Billauer.
Hartfield’s other mission was bringing the technology to rescue operations that could use WaveJet at sea and in flooded areas. He reached out to North Collier Fire & Rescue and brought them down to the beach to see three different types of boards—capable of operating in calm waters, choppy waters, and massive waves, respectively—and asked for their feedback in improving and refining the design for rescuers. He donated WaveJet equipment to North Collier and is working with a local group to research government programs and grants that will allow fire departments, lifeguard stands, and other rescue organizations to afford the boards at a discounted rate. He’s even used the technology for rescue operations himself: during Hurricane Irma, Hartfield used WaveJet vessels to save animals and assist neighbors in Bonita Bay as they evacuated or made their way back to check on their homes.
The next generation of WaveJet technology will allow riders to control the boards via an app on their smart device, and will add GPS tracking, speed variance, mobile charging, and an increased continuous run time to the system’s capabilities. Over the next decade, Hartfield envisions WaveJet technology becoming mainstream worldwide: he already ships WaveJet systems all over the world, and has had international interest in using the technology for rescue operations.