Skijak Zealot David Kiner Has Big Feet, a Dream and at Least One Oar in the Water

updated 07/27/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/27/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Someday, if David Kiner has his way, everyone will be able to walk on water. Kiner, 41, already saunters across lakes, rivers and even his backyard pool in Slingerlands, N.Y., with nary a hint of divine intervention. Instead he relies on a pair of "Skijaks"—11-foot-long polyethylene pontoons that are a cross between skis and kayaks—and propels himself across the surface with an oversize, twin-bladed paddle. A marketing professor at Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y., Kiner is in effect testing the U.S. waters for the Austrian-made product, which was invented in 1928 by Harold Strohmeier as a way for alpine and cross-country skiers to stay in shape during the summer. Instead, according to Petr Kakes, a ski racer and European Skijak champion who has walked the English Channel, Strohmeier's invention caught the attention of Adolf Hitler, who purchased 200 pairs of Skijaks for his troops to use during the invasion of Russia.

Six years ago the inventor's son resurrected the design and began producing Skijaks in Europe, where white-water and long-distance competitions are now regular events. Meanwhile in New York, Kiner, who has taught marketing since 1980 but had never marketed a product by himself, was looking for a way to get his feet wet. Kiner saw a promotional video and says he "knew at that moment that I wanted to be involved."

To promote Skijaks, Kiner walked 155 miles down the Hudson River from Albany to New York City, a feat that he hopes will land him in the Guinness Book of World Records. He plans other promotional walks in a dozen major cities and may attempt a stroll from Miami to Bermuda. Such stunts have helped him sell 150 of the $600 rigs so far, which came as no surprise to Kiner's boss at Russell Sage. As Kiner's department chairman wrote in a recent newsletter, "All college professors think they can walk on water."

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