When Were Pool Floats Invented? Dive into Their History

Pool floats have been around for quite some time now, but have you ever wondered when they were invented? In this article, we’ll explore the history of pool floats and how they evolved from life-saving devices to fun and colorful accessories for your swimming experience.

When Were Pool Floats Invented
Tommy Wong (CC BY 2.0)

Let’s dive into the beginnings of pool floats – they were invented by Marvin Stone in 1958, originally designed for life-saving purposes. However, the idea of providing buoyancy for swimmers dates back earlier, with Peter Markus inventing the first inflatable life preserver, or “swim ring,” in 1928, followed by water wings in the early 1930s.

So, as you relax on your colorful pool float, you’re not only enjoying a great invention but also a piece of history that has made swimming safer and more enjoyable for all. Keep reading on as we unravel more fascinating facts about pool floats and their evolution through the years.

History of Pool Floats

Early Inventions

Pool floats have come a long way since their invention in the early 1900s. They were originally designed for military purposes – to allow soldiers to cross bodies of water more quickly and safely than ever before.

Back then, the affordability and versatility of rubber and plastic materials paved the way for the development of these buoyant devices. Over time, their life-saving functionality shifted from combat use to recreational use; to help the average Joe learn how to swim or to have fun in the water.

The first swim ring, also known as an inflatable life preserver, was created by Peter Markus in 1928. Following the swim ring’s invention, inflatable armbands, or water wings, became popular in the 1930s. These rubber armbands were worn on the upper arms and inflated through a valve.

These early inventions aimed to assist those learning to swim, as well as those looking to relax and have fun in the water.

Modern Pool Floats

As time progressed, more diverse and entertaining pool float designs emerged. A notable invention in the 1980s was the swim noodle—an inexpensive, flexible, and versatile pool toy. These noodles could be used for numerous water activities, and their buoyancy made them suitable for beginners and experts alike.

Another important invention was the air mattress, the first of which was invented in 1981 by Comfortaire. Although not exclusively a pool toy, air mattresses provided an enjoyable way to float on water as an alternative to a pool lounger.

In more recent years, the pool float industry has witnessed the rise of aesthetically pleasing and social media-worthy floats. Coinciding with the rise of social media in the early 2010s, from giant swans to unicorns, these modern floats have become iconic symbols of leisure and fun at pool parties and beach vacations.

Alongside these inflatable floats, other manufactured goods, such as personal flotation devices and lifebuoys, have been developed to provide extra safety and comfort in the water.

Today, you can find pool floats for every age and skill level, whether you’re learning to swim with the help of armbands or relaxing on an inflatable raft. The evolution of pool floats has certainly contributed to making water-based activities more enjoyable and accessible to a wide audience.

Types of Pool Floats

There are various types of pool floats available, each serving a unique purpose. Let’s explore some popular ones and their history.

Swim Rings

Swim rings, also known as swim tubes, are circular inflatable devices designed to provide buoyancy while you’re in the water. They have been popular since the invention of the first inflatable life preserver by Peter Markus in 1928.

Typically made of rubber or plastic, swim rings are now available in several sizes, styles, and designs to suit different age groups and swimming abilities.

Inflatable Armbands

Inflatable armbands, often called water wings, are worn around the upper arms to help you maintain buoyancy.

They were invented in the early 1930s, shortly after swim rings became popular. These pool floats have evolved over time, with modern versions featuring adjustable straps and bright colors for added safety and visibility.

Pool Noodles

Pool noodles are long cylindrical foam devices that offer buoyancy and support during water-based activities. They were invented in the early 1980s and have since become a popular choice for both fun and fitness.

Today, you can find pool noodles available in various colors, sizes, and materials, such as closed-cell foam, which is more durable and less prone to damage.


A kickboard is a buoyant board used in swimming to isolate and strengthen the leg muscles. It is usually made of foam, but can also be made of other materials such as plastic or rubber.

The kickboard was invented in the early 20th century and has since become a staple tool in swimming training. While the basic design of the kickboard has remained relatively unchanged over the years, there have been some modifications to its shape and size to better suit the needs of swimmers.

Today, kickboards come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with some designed specifically for children or for use in different types of swimming strokes.

Pull Buoys

A pull buoy is a figure-eight shaped piece of closed-cell foam used in swim workouts to support the body without kicking the legs. It allows the swimmer to focus on training their arms and developing endurance and upper body strength. The pull buoy was invented in the mid-1960s by Fred Carbonero, a swim coach.

The original design was a thick dual-cylinder that caused significant drag and was intended as a tool for added resistance in the water. Over the years, pull buoys have become more streamlined and are now more of a buoyancy aid than a resistance tool.

Today, pull buoys come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with some designed to be more ergonomic for a better fit between the legs. Some pull buoys are also made with soft, EVA foam for added comfort during use. Overall, the pull buoy remains a popular tool for swimmers of all levels to improve their stroke and build upper body strength.

Air Mattresses and Loungers

The first air mattress was invented in 1981 by Comfortaire. Though not originally designed for this purpose, they can serve as large floating surfaces that allow for relaxation and sunbathing while you’re in the pool.

These pool floats come in a range of sizes and styles to accommodate multiple people or individual use. Some modern designs also include built-in cup holders and headrests for added comfort.

Inflatable Rafts and Pools

Inflatable rafts and inflatable pools themselves became available for recreational purposes around the 1950s.

These large inflatables provided enough buoyancy to support the weight of multiple people, allowing them to sail over lakes, oceans, or simply lounge in their backyard pools.

The lightweight design of an inflatable raft allowed it to be much more portable compared to a regular boat. As for inflatable pools, they could simply be deflated as the weather got colder, providing incredible versatility.

Now, there are even inflatable playgrounds, rock walls, and water slides designed for children of all ages.

Inflatable Dumbbells and Seals

Inflatable dumbbells and seals are unique pool floats used for fitness and rehabilitation exercises in water.

They provide resistance with the added benefit of buoyancy, making them ideal for low-impact aquatic workouts. These floats have gained popularity in recent years as more people recognize the advantages of exercising and rehabilitating in water.

Now that you have a better understanding of some common types of pool floats, their history, and their uses, embrace your inner mermaid or merman and dive into a world of aquatic fun!

Materials and Manufacturing

In this section, you’ll learn about the materials and manufacturing processes involved in the creation of pool floats.

Early pool floats were made of rubber, but over time, manufacturers began experimenting with different materials. In the 1950s, vinyl pool floats became popular due to their durability and resistance to fading. Today, most pool floats are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is both lightweight and durable, making it ideal for pool floats.

Air Valves

Since pool floats need to be inflated and deflated, they are equipped with air valves. The type of air valve determines how easy or difficult it is to inflate or deflate your pool float. In most cases, the material surrounding the valve is made from the same material as the rest of the float.

In the early days of pool floats, inflating them was a laborious process that required a lot of effort. However, with the advent of one-way valves, inflating pool floats became much easier.

One-way valves allow air to enter the float but prevent it from escaping, making inflating easy and keeping the float buoyant. Multi-function valves, on the other hand, offer multiple ways to inflate and deflate the float, allowing you to choose what best fits your needs.

Buoyancy Materials

Pool floats are mainly constructed with materials that provide the required buoyancy. While PVC is the most common material used, there are also some pool floats that are made entirely out of foam or are covered with a nylon coating.

Foam pool floats provide excellent buoyancy without requiring inflation and can be a great option for those seeking a low-maintenance, easy-to-use float.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in eco-friendly pool floats made from sustainable materials such as recycled plastic or biodegradable materials. As technology continues to advance, it’s likely that we’ll see even more innovative materials and manufacturing processes in the world of pool floats.