Pontoon boats have a history that can be traced as far back as the 11th century BC when the Chinese Zhou Dynasty used pontoons to create bridges for marching soldiers. However, it is Ambrose Weeres who is credited with inventing the modern-day pontoon boat in 1951. Coming from Minnesota, “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” Weeres desired a watercraft that would be able to support his family out on the lake. He tied a wooden deck on top of two steel barrels and thus, the pontoon boat was born.
Weeres’ pontoon boat, was a simple floating platform—no bells and whistles. Called The Empress, this boat was designed to provide a more buoyant and sturdier option for groups of people, than traditional fishing boats of the time.
Weeres thought that his invention might appeal to other boaters in the area and formed Weeres Industry Corporation—the first pontoon boat manufacturing company—in 1952. Weeres received 40 orders his first year in business. Now, his boats can be found floating as far away as the Nile and Thames Rivers. Needless to say, the pontoon industry has changed a bit since Weeres’ first invention.
As the pontoon trend started to catch on, other manufacturers joined the mix. In the late 1950s, manufacturers started using aluminum barrels, instead of steel. This change created lighter boats and offered more body style options.
In the 1960s, Harris FloteBote changed the pontoon industry dramatically when they installed upholstered seats and furniture into their boats.
Following this innovation, the focus shifted from simple function, to high-end amenities and performance. Features such as wet bars, built-in coolers, changing rooms and stereo systems became popular, as did bigger and more powerful engines.
Pontoons used to be considered boats of leisure that didn’t go fast and were soley for relaxation, while speedboats were meant for water sports. Now, pontoon boats come with larger engines and are able to tow skiiers, tubers, and wakeboarders with ease.
Pontoon boats bring a comfortable living area onto the water and have an abundance of space that allows for groups of people. This and the fact that pontoon boats are crossover boats by design, could contribute to their growing popularity.
Whether you want to fish, enjoy water sports or relax comfortably, pontoon boats make it possible to do it all.
This versatility and the flexibility of price points make pontoon boats a popular option for boaters of all ages. Customers can pick a boat that fits their needs and fits into their budget. From simple, economical options to over-the-top luxury options. There are dozens of layout, color and technology add-on options.
ITC has been able to create products that evolve with this ever-changing industry, starting with our ski tow back in the 1980s. We also manufacture quality wine glass and bottle holders, table legs, functional lighting, LED cup holders and, our latest product, the VersiControlTM Smart System. All of these products bring more personalization and entertainment on board pontoons.
As the pontoon boat industry continues to thrive, we look forward to seeing the next big innovation. You never know, maybe the “next big thing” will come from ITC.