Skip to content

Shark Seating

Innovating Safety: Exploring Shark Seating’s Maritime Solutions

In this exclusive interview, we delve into the world of maritime safety with Shark Seating, a pioneering company revolutionising marine seating solutions. Led by a commitment to ergonomic design and sustainability, Shark Seating has carved a niche in the industry with its innovative approach to marine seating. From high-speed naval craft to tour boats, Shark Seating’s products are designed to enhance safety, comfort, and performance for both operators and passengers alike.


Join us as we explore the strategic vision, sustainability initiatives, and future outlook of Shark Seating with Owner, Paul Zwaan, shedding light on how the company continues to make waves in the maritime sector.


Click below to access the digital brochure version

Company Genesis and Mission: Shark Seating began with a focus on ergonomic design in the marine seating industry. Can you share the story behind the inception of Shark Seating and your mission in transforming the industry?


The formation of Shark Seating happened at a time when the NZ Navy faced delays and rising costs from inflexible suppliers dominating a small market. There was a need for agile and cooperative suppliers offering lighter, more adaptable products and services. This challenge appealed to me, having handled over 500 freelance projects with a focus on finding the most elegant solutions and implementing them with the most appropriate and scalable technology.

Design Philosophy: Your design consultancy started in 1996, leading to Shark Seating’s establishment. How has your background in ergonomic design influenced the development of Shark Seating’s products?


The core principles guiding our work are simplicity, modularity, and versatility. These principles enable us to tackle any ergonomic challenge. It’s a process where all the hard work rests on the designer rather than the user. We work tirelessly to ensure that our solutions are ever more simple, self-adjusting, and intuitive.


Achieving simplicity is like seeking the Holy Grail. Once found, everyone can recognise it but uncovering simplicity is a relentless process of ideation, screening, and refinement. In the words of Michelangelo, ‘The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.

Impact on High-Speed Naval Craft: Shark Seating has been recognised for its suspension seating solutions in high-speed naval boats. How do Shark Seating products enhance the safety and performance of these vessels?


Shark Seating’s suspension seating solutions have garnered recognition for their impact on high-speed naval boats. These products play a pivotal role in enhancing both the safety and performance of such vessels.


In the realm of high-speed craft, the ultimate goal is to achieve maximum performance with minimal inputs. This entails prioritising safety, comfort, and durability while minimising weight, complexity, and cost. At Shark Seating, we achieve this balance through our three design pillars.


Simplicity lies at the core of our approach, ensuring that each component is streamlined to its essential functionality without any unnecessary elements. Modularity further reinforces this principle by ensuring perfect compatibility among components, thereby maximising safety and comfort for occupants. Additionally, our products offer versatility, allowing various modules to be seamlessly combined to meet diverse ergonomic requirements.


Each of our modules is assigned a NATO stock code, enabling navies to configure suspension seats tailored to their specific needs. This bespoke approach not only ensures unprecedented impact protection but also enhances weight efficiency, crucial factors in the demanding environment of high-speed naval operations.

America’s Cup Contribution: Shark Seating’s involvement in the 36th America’s Cup significantly boosted the brand’s visibility. How did this event impact Shark Seating’s business, and what was it like seeing your products on all the chase boats?


Shark Seating’s participation in the 36th America’s Cup marked a significant milestone in enhancing the brand’s visibility and impact on the maritime industry. Reflecting on this event sheds light on its profound implications for our business and the exhilaration of witnessing our products on every chase boat.


Having followed the America’s Cup fervently since its arrival in our neighbourhood in 1987, I never imagined, thirty years later, that our seats would grace the decks of every chase boat and media vessel at the America’s Cup and SailGP events. It was a moment of pride to see our seats accommodating royalty, sailing legends, VIPs, and support crews—a total of 140 seats, a remarkable feat at the time, though now surpassed by our expanding customer base.


An unexpected benefit emerged five years later, during the 2021 America’s Cup in New Zealand, providing an opportunity to assess the wear and tear on 100 seats. Additionally, during the event’s visit to Christchurch in 2023, we conducted the 5-year service on 40 SailGP seats, leading to an extension of our product warranty to three years.


Furthermore, the legacy of our involvement extended beyond the event itself, with a majority of New Zealand Coastguard boats now equipped with Shark Suspension Seats, having adopted 26 retired America’s Cup RHIBs. This integration underscores the enduring impact of our participation in the America’s Cup, solidifying our commitment to innovation and safety in maritime seating solutions.

International Expansion: Following Shark Seating’s expansion into Europe and increased sales, what strategies have you employed to maintain and grow your international client base?


At Shark Seating, our passion is deeply rooted in our mission: to significantly reduce the number of people affected by spinal injuries on boats. Central to our success is a customer-centric approach that drives our strategies for maintaining and expanding our international client base.


We recognise that our mission remains critical as long as there are customers who lack adequate protection from wave impacts. This drives our continuous efforts to innovate and improve our products, ensuring they remain accessible to all who need them.


Additionally, we are committed to tripling our investment in the 5 P’s (Product, Price, Place, Promotion, and People) every three years. This bold strategy has yielded remarkable results, with sales increasing thirty-fold over the past decade.


Looking ahead, we have a robust plan in place to achieve another thirty-fold increase in sales over the next ten years. Our aim is to make suspension seating a standard in the maritime industry, bringing safety and comfort to the forefront. We invite you to stay tuned as we continue to push the boundaries of innovation and accessibility in maritime seating solutions.

Innovations in Seating Design: Shark Seating is known for its innovative approach to marine seating. Can you discuss a recent product innovation that you’re particularly proud of?


Shark Seating’s commitment to innovation in marine seating design is exemplified by our recent breakthrough in addressing the pressing issue of back injuries among tourboat passengers. Six years ago, reports surfaced of tour boat operators facing severe financial repercussions, including bankruptcy, due to the denial of public liability insurance claims stemming from passenger back injuries. This alarming trend prompted us to develop a solution that would benefit both passengers and operators alike.


To meet this challenge, we set out to create a suspension seating system that was compact, lightweight, and cost-effective enough to be installed in large numbers on tourboats. The result of our endeavor was the development of the ULTRA-lite and EVO suspension seats, crafted using injection-molded technology. Weighing in at a mere 7kg each and priced comparably to standard unsuspended jockey seating, these seats offer unparalleled comfort and safety for passengers without imposing significant financial strain on operators.


Our innovation has not only revolutionised the tourboat industry but has also paved the way for enhanced safety standards across marine transportation sectors. For a detailed account of this groundbreaking development, we invite you to explore the full story in our article: Link to the article.

Sustainability Initiatives: Sustainability and environmental responsibility are key concerns for many businesses today. What steps is Shark Seating taking to reduce its environmental impact?


At Shark Seating, we recognise the importance of sustainability and environmental responsibility in today’s business landscape. To reduce our environmental impact, we have implemented several initiatives, with a focus on innovative materials and carbon sequestration.


One notable achievement is the development of our FLEXANITE material, which is used in all our suspension seats. FLEXANITE is composed of 100% bio-plastic, designed to consume its own weight in carbon dioxide. This not only reduces our reliance on traditional plastics but also contributes to carbon sequestration, even if the material ends up in a landfill. Furthermore, FLEXANITE is recyclable, ensuring a circular lifecycle for our products.


To learn more about our sustainability initiatives and how we’re harnessing carbon from the atmosphere to mitigate environmental impact, we invite you to visit our website: Link to the article.

Challenges and Achievements: Every business faces its set of challenges, especially when it comes to innovation. Can you share a significant challenge Shark Seating overcame and what it taught you?


Every business encounters its share of challenges, particularly in the realm of innovation. One significant challenge Shark Seating faced underscored the importance of rigorous testing and adaptability.


As Albert Einstein aptly stated, ‘If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.’ A decade ago, we embarked on the ambitious endeavor of crafting all our suspensions from plastic, fully aware of the immense forces they would endure—nearly 1 tonne. Despite subjecting prototypes to rigorous lab testing, simulating up to 1 million full impacts, we recognised that real-world conditions would provide the ultimate test, especially in defense and rescue boats.


The reality soon set in as we encountered variations in plastic batches, highlighting the need for meticulous quality control measures. Embracing Shane Parrish’s wisdom that ‘it’s not the failures that define us so much as how we respond,’ we made a pivotal decision to implement 100% testing of all production parts six years ago.


This decision was not without its challenges, as we faced the necessity of recalling a batch at considerable expense, requiring personnel to travel to Iceland on two occasions.


However, this proactive approach proved instrumental in averting potential safety hazards. Despite thousands of our seats being subjected to harrowing conditions—such as boats free-falling up to 6 meters in rough seas—our commitment to quality assurance has yielded an impeccable safety record: zero injuries in ten years.


This experience has taught us the importance of resilience, adaptability, and unwavering dedication to safety and quality. It serves as a testament to our ongoing commitment to innovation and excellence in maritime seating solutions.

Customer-Centric Approach: Shark Seating emphasises a strong connection with its customers. How do you ensure that your customer service stands out in the industry?


At Shark Seating, we recognise the dual layers of customers inherent in our mission to safeguard backs across the maritime industry. Our customer-centric approach extends beyond boat owners and operators to encompass boat builders, forging symbiotic relationships that drive mutual success.


We pride ourselves on fostering exceptionally strong connections with boat builders who integrate our seats into their vessels. This partnership is founded on a shared commitment to excellence, where we enhance their offerings with cutting-edge technology, and in turn, they amplify our brand recognition.


In our experience, boat builders fall into two categories: those who prioritise offering the best and safest technology to their customers and those who only consider safety options upon request. Fortunately, within the realm of professional boats—such as government tenders, sea rescue, and defense—the specification mandates the inclusion of suspension seats. Leveraging the weight and cost advantages of Shark Suspension Seats, we’ve observed that whenever boat builders opt for our seats in tenders, the resulting vessels not only meet safety standards but also benefit from enhanced range, capacity, and performance, to the delight of end users.

To reflect our unwavering dedication to achieving tangible outcomes for both boat providers and end users, we’ve rebranded our customer service as ‘customer success.’ This shift underscores our commitment to delivering results and ensuring the success of our customers at every stage of their journey

Future Outlook: Looking ahead, what new markets or innovations is Shark Seating exploring to continue its growth and influence in the marine industry?


While we have ambitious plans for the future, we recognise the importance of strategic discretion. Rest assured, Shark Seating remains dedicated to our core principles of affordable performance, usability, lightness, simplicity, and customer success. These values will continue to drive our growth and influence in the marine industry, enabling us to achieve our goal of a thirty-fold expansion every decade.


As Forrest Gump famously said, ‘and that’s all I have to say about that.’ Rest assured, our commitment to innovation and excellence remains steadfast, propelling Shark Seating into exciting new markets and pioneering groundbreaking innovations. We invite you to stay tuned as we embark on the next phase of our journey


In Association with:

Springfield Group is a leading manufacturer of marine seating, pedestals, and mounting systems. They provide a wide range of products, including removable and fixed pedestals, mounting systems, tables, and accessories, catering to the needs of boat builders and marine enthusiasts. Springfield Group is committed to quality and innovation, ensuring durable and comfortable solutions for marine environments. They also offer extensive support and resources for their products, enhancing customer experience.

DM8 Composites specialises in the construction and repair of fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) boats, including pleasure yachts, passenger ferries, and patrol boats. Located in Danao City, Cebu, their modern boatyard aims to lead in FRP vacuum-bag construction, adhering to international standards. Established in 2018, DM8 Composites focuses on innovation, quality, and advanced engineering to deliver world-class vessels and services in new builds, repairs, and refits.

Hypro Marine, since 1976, designs and manufactures high-quality power-assisted steering systems for luxury motor yachts and commercial vessels. They provide bespoke hydraulic control solutions and distribute top marine products like Zipwake and Lectrotab. Known for innovation and reliability, Hypro Marine also offers extensive technical support and is ISO9001 accredited, ensuring superior performance and service.