Product review: Waboba water toys
Photos: Alex Benson
There is only so much you can do on the beaches of Lake Michigan. After a couple of hours of sun bathing, wading into the lake and tossing the Frisbee around, most people are pretty spent/bored. Well if beach blues have you down, there might be a cure: Waboba (pronounced like it’s spelled). This interestingly-named company makes a series of toys designed for use on the water. Yes, not in the water, but ON the water: nearly all the Waboba products are made for skipping across the water's surface.
The Waboba ball was created in Sweden by a man named Jan Von Heland. By throwing a Frisbee upside down on a pool—making it skip across the water—Von Heland saw the potential in an object that was tailored for water surface use. In 1998, Von Heland began experimenting with various materials, exploring how they preformed on water. After years of experimenting and testing, the modern Waboba ball was created.
Given Chicago’s close proximity to water and beautiful summer weather, TOC got it's hands on some Waboba products to see how well they worked on Lake Michigan. The good people at Waboba generously decided to aid us in our reviews by sending us their entire product line: an “Extreme” ball, a “Pro” ball, a “Blast” ball, one of their “Waboba Flyers” with racquets and two “Extreme Catch” gloves.
To review these products, I gathered a group of friends and headed over to Rogers Park’s Hartigan Beach to enjoy a nice day in the sun. Here’s how it all went down: pictures up top and reviews down below.
Made from the same material and a bit larger than the “Extreme” but a tad small than the “Blast” lies the “Pro.” This ball is made with the official Waboba game in mind (a modified game of keep away) and is a bit heavier, allowing for more accurate passes.
Extremely easy to use- Barely any coordination is required, as long as you understand how to skip a stone.
Varitey of throws- You can throw it like you're skipping a stone or throw it down to the water like baseball and it will most likely reach your target.
Size- Fits well in hand. It’s not awkward or difficult to hold. Didn’t slip out of my hand when I threw it.
Difficult to catch- With the wind blowing and the waves moving, it can be hard to get your hands on.
Hard to aim- My aiming difficulty was most likely not a problem with the ball, but with my release. For a while I had trouble getting the ball to travel straight towards its intended target. But after some practice I got the hang of it.
The smallest of the three Waboba balls, this ball bounces faster and higher then the rest. The “Extreme” ball provides more of a challenge when playing on open water, due to its size and movement.
Goes faster: If you want to throw or play at a quicker pace, the “Extreme” ball is for you.
Orange you helpful: The orange coloring helps you keep an eye on the ball, making it easier to catch.
Hard to catch: Although it is a bit easier to see, just like the “pro” ball, this one is difficult to catch.
Size: On the small side, it might be better suited for the smaller hands of children.
Made with the pool in mind. I didn’t have a chance to travel to a pool to test the ball, but still played with it on lake Michigan. The "Blast" ball is designed to be slower and bounce less, making it better for close quarter play
Very easy to see: The most visible ball tested, due it’s bright yellow color.
Easy to control/throw: My testing group and I wound up playing with this ball the most. We found it was both easy to throw and to control each pass.
Slower movement: The ball’s speed isn’t as break neck as the other, making it easier to play with in a more casual fashion.
Water collects in ball: It’s not made of gel like the other balls, so water collects inside after a series of throws. Not a big deal, but it slows the ball down a bit.
Extreme Glove for Left and Right Hand
Intended for use with the “Extreme” ball, the "Catch" is designed to help control and corral the speed of the ball. The glove is designed like a baseball mitt, but with a smaller pocket. The glove is light weight and fits well on a variety of different hand sizes.
Makes ball a bit easier to catch: Glove helps some, but not much.
Light weight: It doesn’t feel like your wearing a water-logged baseball glove.
Expensive: One glove and one ball retail for $21.99
Doesn’t work terribly well: The ball had be throw pretty much directly at the glove’s net to have a chance at catching it. It works, but not enough to justify the price tag.
Net is too small: Net could stand to be a bit wider and longer.
Uncomfortable for some: I didn’t mind the glove, but some of my friends had troubles wearing it.
Think of the Waboba "Flyer" as a fusion of beach paddleball and badminton. The Flyer is quite a bit bigger than a shuttlecock, but performs much the same way. With a large rubber front, the Flyer can be used without racquets by hitting it with your feet or hands. .
Easy to see- Sometimes I have trouble seeing the shuttlecock in badminton. But this problem doesn’t exist with the Flyer. It’s size and colorful feathered end makes it easy to spot.
Solid- The over all construction of the Flyer seems fairly solid and impervious to everyday wear and tear. The feathers were a different story…
Easy to keep a loft even without racquet- While playing paddle ball, I have often attempted to kick a falling ball back into play with no avail. The Flyer’s large rubber front make it easy to kick a short pass back to your partner.
Feathers broke easy- The flyer’s feathers seemed pretty beat-up after only an hour of play.
Sand trapped in front- While I like the rubber front, there is a hole between it and the base. When the Flyer fell into the sand and I went to hit again, a small amount of sand flew out getting into my eyes and face. There wasn’t enough to impair my vision, but enough to annoy me.
Poor case design: The case for the racquets and Flyer is poorly design. It works pretty well for sort trips from the car to the beach, but walking with it a couple blocks wasn’t fun. The strap didn’t extend far enough for my shoulder and the bag was awkward to carry.
So what does Time Out recommend? All the products were fun and usable in their own right: we spent the better part of three hours throwing on the water. But a couple products stood out above the rest: the "Blast" ball, "Extreme" ball and Flyer + Racquets were the one's we found ourselves gravitating towards.
To get your hands on these products before the summer runs out, head on over their official website to order online.