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Old 03-14-2014, 09:36 AM
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RickI RickI is offline
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I just came across a local article about Cal Gongwer in the Sunsentinel, . I didn't recall it but he competed in the first International Submarine Races held on Singer Island in 1989. I shot the race for a local rag at the time. I think I have a photo of his entry, have to go through the archives.

"Near 74, Calvin Gongwer Is Competition`s Old Man Of The Sea.
June 23, 1989|By ELAINE A. ELLIS, Staff Writer

Call him the sage of the sub races.

Calvin Gongwer, who turns 74 on Sunday, is the oldest participant in the International Submarine Races being held this weekend off Singer Island.

But this California guru of hydrodynamics research and engineering doesn`t confine himself to the ivory towers of academia.

``He`s so respected in the field, but he`s not a muckety-muck. He likes a good vodka gimlet,`` said Tony Carone, 42, the brawn behind Gongwer`s arm- powered entry in the local race.

This weekend, Gongwer is getting his feet wet piloting his unique spherical entry in the race. He calls the clear acrylic orb the Knuckleball.

Unlike the unpredictable pitches of baseball greats Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm, Gongwer`s Knuckleball travels in a straight line.

This unique concept has three patents and ``kind of sinister`` potential for use on torpedoes, Gongwer said. Behind Gongwer`s tanned face -- reminiscent of an American Jacques Cousteau -- the wheels of invention are turning.

``He`s an inventor basically,`` said Joe Grosser, Gongwer`s son-in-law, who helped drive the 2,700 miles from California with Gongwer to the sub competition. ``He`s got a good imagination. That`s what it takes.``

Gongwer holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University, a master`s degree in aeronautical engineering from Cal Tech and about 80 patents, mainly for underwater devices. He has his own marine engineering company called Innerspace Corp.
``I made my first pair of swim fins in 1935,`` said Gongwer, who grew up on Washington`s Puget Sound. ``I love to fool around with anything related to water.``

Working in his California garage in the 1950s, Gongwer developed 15 submarines similar to the vessels assembled this weekend -- sleek, cigar- shaped tubes with funny fins and innovative propellers. Several of the concepts were patented and snapped up by the defense industry. One of the subs even ended up slipping behind the Iron Curtain on a spy mission, Gongwer said.

He also invented the Aqueon swimming aid.

``Swim with no more effort than walking -- at speeds never before possible. Inspired by the efficient swim thrust of the porpoise using only leg power,`` the brochure boasts.
With the Aqueon clamped to your legs, you can slice through the water at more than 6 mph. To prove his product, at the age of 52, Gongwer swam across Lake Tahoe. ``It was after that I got on this physical fitness kick,`` Gongwer said. ``I quit smoking. I`ve been on a fitness kick ever since.``

Once, Gongwer took up the land-lover`s sport of golf. ``I went through the game mathematically,`` he said. ``I invented clubs. I could do everything but really play golf.``

For the past eight years, Gongwer has been concentrating on building a massive tri-hulled, diesel-powered steel ship. The vessel can carry 135 people and weighs 400,000 pounds fully loaded. It can travel from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia and back to Honolulu before refueling. ``I want to build one three times as big,`` Gongwer said. ``It would be ideal for a cruise ship. ``But that`s dreaming.``"
FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi
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