Bullfrog Spas gets intentional with design, terminology in Swim Series
Good things are often worth the wait.
For years, Bullfrog Spas’ dealers have suggested the manufacturer enter the swim spa category, says marketing director Jake Ricks. But it takes a while to do things correctly, he says; in this case, upwards of five years.
“We didn’t want to do it if we couldn’t do it the right way for us,” Ricks adds, so the company attempted to redefine what ‘swim spa’ means. Ricks says he’s not a fan of the term, but coming up with something better proved elusive since it’s such industry-standard language. Ricks says that calling Bullfrogs’ new line the Swim Series was the next best thing.
Swim spas were primarily developed so homeowners could use them like a treadmill for low-impact, at-home exercise, Ricks says. “But over the years, customers found they really are good pools for the family,” he explains. “They provide other benefits like a place to hang out and, more recently, to have personalized therapy, which is kind of our DNA at Bullfrog with the JetPak therapy system. So [with our Swim Series] we bring what we feel is even better therapy and more fulfilling experiences to the swim spa category than we felt have existed in the past.”
A large component of this mission was using Bullfrog’s existing patents to provide optimal therapy options. Ricks says the Swim Series was specifically designed to experience therapy without taking away the space to swim or play.
The therapy and swimming features in its current models, the S150 and S200, are fully integrated. “There’s usually just been a swim end and a relax end, which is wasted space in our opinion,” Ricks says. “We’re using the front corners of the Swim Series for therapy. We’re putting JetPaks [at all four corners] and making sure there are ample opportunities for someone to sit and relax.”
Another outside-the-box aspect to The Swim Series: The models do not have fiberglass backing. Ricks says the company has concerns about the impact of fiberglass on the environment and employee health. Instead, Bullfrog developed a new way to make spa shells of this size rigid — a urethane material with a proprietary method of application — and dedicated a significant portion of the development process to getting it just right.
Ricks says the goal was to make a shell that would last decades and deliver without compromising the integrity of the spa. “That specific challenge has been quite large and one of the hardest things for us to figure out,” he says, “but we feel like we’ve got it.”
Bullfrog also took a new look at swim jet alignment. The standard approach, Rick says, is to create a uniform surface current for the swim lane. Bullfrog did fluid mapping — “We had a lot of ping-pong balls floating around,” Ricks says — and discovered that setting the swim jets deeper and angling them toward the surface helps users to stay afloat and in swimming mode easier.
Additionally, the Swim Series models have pumps (two for S150 and three for S200) that can be diverted electronically via push-button to alternate between the jetted swim-current system or the therapy system with JetPaks.
Bullfrog employees were able to try out the new Swim Series for research and development purposes. Ricks says the company brought in professional swimmers and triathletes as well, to determine how an advanced user may fare. Many employees with varying degrees of swim skills and mobility tried them too, Ricks says. “Let’s just say, there are some of us who are a lot splashier than others,” he jokes.
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The Swim Series was supposed to launch in 2020, but dealers won’t be able to get their hands on a model or order them for customers until 2022. This is not only due to COVID supply-chain issues, but Bullfrog also wants to be cautious in its approach to the market, Ricks says. For now, the Swim Series is available to a limited number of dealers, and that number will slowly increase as Bullfrog is able to ramp up production. As with the rest of the industry, it’s just another waiting game.
“It’s largely for capacity reasons, but we also want to make sure we understand the dynamics of the market and some of the ways [swim spas] sell best, as well as some of the strategies dealers can use to be successful with this line,” Ricks says. It will be a staged rollout throughout 2022 and 2023, he adds. Dealers can expect to see proprietary accessories and add-ons down the line.
Despite delays, Ricks says Bullfrog feels fortunate to be launching the Swim Series at a moment when the pandemic continues to drive desire for at-home luxury. “[The Swim Series] is coming at the right time for an expanding segment of consumers that are buying swim spas for multiple uses [not just for exercise],” he says. “That’s pretty exciting for us.”