Against the backdrop of a bright blue sky and a calm lake, the Hyper-Sub roars to life.
The sleek, black vessel hums loudly from its docked position at the Lake Side Park Boat Ramp in Lake Butler, Florida. But this boat attracts crowds of adults and children because it looks like a submarine.
The Hyper-Sub Multipurpose Sub-Sea Utility Vehicle, which has been in development since the early 2000s, is a mix between a speedboat and a submarine. The vessel has a dry cabin, travels on its own and can dive in shallow waters, making the Hyper-Sub stand out from competitors, according to its website.
The Hyper-Sub is the first of its kind, but creators hope it won’t be the last.
“It’s a significant development,” Reynolds Marion, the Hyper-Sub’s concept creator, said.
With an end goal to mass produce the vessel, purposes for the Hyper-Sub range anywhere from tourism to defense, attracting interest from governments around the world, Marion said. Currently, the team is preparing the vessel for demonstrations, showing the product and its capabilities to potential buyers.
“I always wanted to brand this as the first underwater truck,” Marion said.
As a diesel-electric submarine, it can dive as many times as the operator wants as long as there’s fuel to recharge it, Marion said. At the surface, compressors charge the air and batteries needed to dive.
Marion, a Lake City resident, has tested the vessel in 30 feet of water, but with a modification, it could reach a depth of 500 feet. The production boat, which is the version made for customers, will be made of aluminum, making it suitable for the ocean, and will be 10 feet longer than the current model. Clients can modify characteristics of the boat as they see fit, such as the number of seats in the cabin.
In 2010, a marketing study placed the listing price for the boat at around $9.8 million, Delbert Smith, 68, a Hyper-Sub investor, said. Today, Smith said he thinks its purchase value has increased by about $2 million.
In busier times, Marion said crowds of up to 30 people will gather around the boat while he and his team are performing tests.
“We like to pay attention to kids,” Marion said, while handing a business card to a young boy. “They get inspired by it.”
Although many hands have helped bring the Hyper-Sub to life, Marion said build specialist Gene Mock, engineer Scott Shamblin and himself were the primary three.
Together, the team achieved what the engineering community believed to be impossible — a hybrid speedboat submarine, Marion said over the loud sound of the Hyper-Sub charging. He solved the puzzle through 20 years of thinking, simplicity and “country boy common sense.”
However, for Marion, it all began as a drawing. He created the Hyper-Sub’s first design when he was 12 years old, and over many years and sleepless nights, the vessel evolved into what it is today.
More than 250 people have invested in their vision, Marion said.
“It’s rewarding to have that many people that have stayed behind you for that long,” he said.
In particular, Marion feels supported by his wife, Mary, who he said never wavered when the company faced challenges. During testing prior to Oct. 16, they made history once again when he called his wife from the bottom of the lake.
Timothy Bryant, who helped build the Hyper-Sub, transports the vessel, fixes mechanical problems and assists with testing. Bryant has known Marion since he was 19, so he has been a part of the process from the beginning.
“I felt honored that he would ask me to be a part of it,” Bryant said.
Bryant was drawn to the Hyper-Sub because it’s something that hasn’t been done before and was different from his everyday job, he said.
“It’s better than just going to work and paying bills and dying,” he said.
As an investor, Smith has been contributing and raising money for the Hyper-Sub for over a decade. His personal investment is a testament to how much he believes in the company, he said.
When the economy crashed in 2008, the vessel was parked for years, requiring parts of it to be rebuilt, Smith said. Despite the challenges they’ve faced getting the boat active again, they’ve kept going.
“Everyone kept telling us, ‘Y’all need to give up,’” Smith said.
The feeling Smith gets each time he sees the Hyper-Sub disappear underwater is what makes it all worthwhile.