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Local man invents 'Swimmer Buddy'

The product aims to make open-water swimming safer.

September 06, 2011|By Mark Kellam, mark.kellam@latimes.com
  • Jim Zinger is the inventor of the Swimmer Buddy, a flotation device that can hold personal items such as clothes and sunglasses. It is designed for long-distance swimmers and people who are timid about swimming in open water. (Photo courtesy Jhonatan Villena)
Jim Zinger is the inventor of the Swimmer Buddy, a flotation…

A Burbank businessman is navigating into new waters with a device designed to improve the safety and visibility of swimmers.

Jim Zinger, a long-distance swimmer, said he created the Swimmer Buddy after his wife expressed concerns about him swimming in open water.

“She is always concerned I might get hit by a boat,” Zinger said.

The Swimmer Buddy’s belt attaches to a swimmer’s waist. A 6-foot-long leash connects to a body board that floats a few feet behind the swimmer.

Colorful “noodles” can be attached to the board so the swimmer can be seen by boaters and lifeguards, said Zinger, who lives in Glendale. A variety of colorful flags — as well as an American flag — can be attached to increase visibility.

The Swimmer Buddy can also be used as a flotation device, ideal for swimmers training for long-distance competitions or those who are afraid of swimming in the ocean or in lakes.

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“If you get tired, you can hold on to it,” he said.

The Swimmer Buddy’s light-weight board measures 42 inches long by 22 inches wide and can hold up to 250 pounds. Using waterproof compartments and bags, swimmers can store personal items, such as clothes, flip flops and sunglasses. There is also a mount to store a camera and attach lights, Zinger said.

He said lifeguards at the beach in Santa Monica have told him that they can clearly see the Swimmer Buddy out in the water.

“They’ll drive up the beach when they see me getting out of the water to find out what the heck that thing is,” he said. “They say they can spot that thing forever.”

Parents can also use different-colored noodles and flags — yellow, blue, red, orange and pink — on their children’s Swimmer Buddies to help differentiate them in the water.

The Swimmer Buddy doesn’t cause drag for swimmers because it’s light and rides on top of the water, Zinger said.

“You feel like you have to look behind you to make sure it’s still there,” he said.

Swimmer Buddies are manufactured in the building that houses Hypmotivation Inc., a company owned by Zinger that promotes self-hypnosis to balance business and personal lives.

Zinger has several years of experience as a long-distance swimmer. He participated in the Alcatraz Swim when he turned 65 about four years ago, departing from Aquatic Park near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco shortly after 6 a.m., swim out to a boat in front of Alcatraz and back.

The year Zinger participated, the water was around 50 degrees, he said.

Zinger completed the swim — without a wet suit — in one hour and 42 minutes.

“One lady died and others got hypothermia,” he recalled. “And they were wearing wet suits.”

For more information, visit www.swimmerbuddy.com.

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