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Is an Electric Surfboard a ‘Hovercraft’ and Excluded from a Homeowners Policy?

A carrier is saying an electric surfboard is a hovercraft, but the the agent argues that an electric surfboard would be a watercraft, less than 50 horsepower, and therefore would be covered under the homeowners liability.
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is an electric surfboard a ‘hovercraft’ and excluded from a homeowners policy?

A carrier is saying an electric surfboard is a hovercraft and therefore it says the homeowners policy excludes coverage. However, the wings of the surfboard don't leave the water, so the agent argues that an electric surfboard would be a watercraft, less than 50 horsepower, and therefore would be covered under the homeowners liability.

Q: Is an electric surfboard a hovercraft or watercraft?

Response 1: At first, I wanted to agree with you. But then I looked at online videos that show electric surfboards hovering above the water, no waves necessary. There's a difference between an actual electric surfboard, sometimes called a jetboard that travels across the water's surface, and an electric hydrofoil (efoil), which flies above the water on a hydrodynamic wing and mast, according to E-surfer.

From your description, it does sound like your client has the type which has wings that don't leave the water's surface. Perhaps you need to educate the underwriter on the difference between an electric surfboard and an efoil. Dig down and present the manufactures specs. If the underwriter declines coverage, arrange a watercraft policy.

Response 2: Even an efoil uses some contact with water, but a true hovercraft “floats" on a bed of air. It's definitely a watercraft, but until the person in the black robe comes back to tell us what the jury decides, I'm not sure we know exactly what it is. 

Response 3: If the carrier is unwilling to insure the craft, that's that. Either market it to another of your carriers or look to the surplus market. Appetite and coverage are two different things. It's not worth the hassle at the time of loss to argue with the adjuster. Strongly consider an excess liability policy if there's not one already in force.

Response 4: I would say that an insurance carrier can either exclude from coverage or withhold specifically writing coverage for anything that they wish to avoid. I would hope that you have other carriers available that might have a different approach. Please be very careful to describe accurately and in sufficient detail the electric surfboard exposure to any and all underwriters.

We live in a time where new electric, electronic, autonomous and hybrid devices are emerging every day. Carriers have been scrambling to keep up. As always, agents depend on them to develop and offer coverage solutions and clarifications.

This question was originally submitted by an agent through the Big “I" Virtual University's (VU) Ask an Expert service, with responses curated from multiple VU faculty members. Answers to other coverage questions are available on the VU website. If you need help accessing the website, request login information.

This article is intended for general informational purposes only, and any opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s). The article is provided “as is" with no warranties or representations of any kind, and any liability is disclaimed that is in any way connected to reliance on or use of the information contained therein. The article is not intended to constitute and should not be considered legal or other professional advice, nor shall it serve as a substitute for obtaining such advice. If specific expert advice is required or desired, the services of an appropriate, competent professional, such as an attorney or accountant, should be sought.

Friday, June 16, 2023
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