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On Water: Need for Speed

On Water: Need for Speed

Oct 24, 2023

Picture yourself right at the front of an open boat, facing the sea and being one with the water—sometimes cutting through the waves, sometimes gently gliding on them. This exhilarating experience, that is a heady mix of speed, agility and the dynamic nature of water itself, is something you would encounter with RHIB Rides Singapore, the brainchild of father-daughter duo Roy and Ariel Soeigiarto. The company is the first of its kind to offer tours using RHIBs (rigid hull inflatable boats) that are tropicalised for Asian use, with foam tubes, and are built to specifications by Kairos Boats.

“But safety first, always,” quips Ariel. These were the words her father had always insisted on from when she was a child when he used to take her and her three younger siblings out to sea. The 23-year old holds a diploma in UX design from Republic Polytechnic—“I graduated during lockdown, so all I got was a letter in the mail,” she laughs. Ariel is also a speedboat racer, and the only one to also be PPDCL certified—which is a mandatory requirement unique to Singapore.

A passionate boater and an exclusive distributor of specialised water crafts, Roy also owns a fleet of boats that offer safety and security services for events and runs educational programmes.

RHIB Rides Singapore, which was launched in 2019, is a celebration of their combined love for the water and exploration, as Ariel explains. Here, she shares about herself, her company and her experience working with her dad.

Where does your attraction to the water come from?
It’s because of my dad—he would always take me and my siblings out boating as kids. We would go out to Nongsa in Batam or sometimes all the way up to Tioman, and spend the day snorkelling and having a barbecue by the water. I feel very old when I say this, but I have actually seen how Lazarus and St John’s Islands changed and developed over the years.

Tell us how the idea to start RHIB Rides Singapore came about.
I had been working part time with my dad’s company, prior to my diploma, doing security for events. During that time, we did bring in new boats and even those designed specifically for touring—for the benefit of VIPs or guests who would come on board. So we thought, why don’t we take this concept and make it into tourism?

The idea was to also bring more awareness about Singapore waters. I realised through conversations with friends and others that many Singaporeans do not know about The Southern Islands or the history behind them.

Some of them even don’t know about Fort Siloso on Sentosa Island—although Covid-19 brought more awareness. So it was a mix of all these factors. We are not competing with yacht charters or other luxury services. We think of ourselves as a good appetiser—we just want to introduce people to Singapore waters. If they want to take it forward to the main course, we can connect them with the right resources.

Were there any initial challenges?
Right about the time we started, lockdown happened, but it was not a challenge for us, to be honest. In a way it gave us more time to plan and refine our standard operating procedures. When the lockdown lifted, but with border closures still in place, many locals came on our tours—it was something new that people were keen on trying. Singapore Tourism Board’s Singapore Rediscover Vouchers also helped speed it along. We were able to take all their feedback and tailor the experience further.

How do you balance safety with the excitement of being on a RHIB?
To give you a bit of an idea of RHIBs, they are very different from other kinds of inflatable boats. They have two tubes at the side that help balance the boat. They are also positioned such that the water splashes away from the boat rather than in, so you can stay dry—unless the captain wants you to get wet. The ride is not like a rollercoaster, it is a set speed and something we can control.

When we started, we had one 10-seater boat, and now we have expanded our fleet to four of various sizes and configurations to suit people of all ages and demographics. We are also able to customise the seating arrangments to varied preferences and comfort levels.

These are things we actually tried out ourselves, to determine which part of the boat is the most comfortable or stable or where’s the most exciting. I did a lot of testing on the boat myself. We would take the boat out and I would pretend I was “user A” (honing in on my training in UX design), and if this was my first experience on a boat or I had a fear for water, which part of the boat would be the most comfortable for me.

We also replaced the original seat belts the boats came with, which were like the ones on commercial aeroplanes. We tested the seatbelts on my sibling—she was 10 years old then—and the first thing she did when she got in was to unclasp the seatbelt. Our new lap belts are reinforced with velcro and children cannot remove them by themselves. Wearing a lifejacket and keeping the lap belt on are mandatory aboard our boats.

What else makes the RHIB Rides Singapore experience different from the rest?
One of the things that we really wanted to incorporate into our rides was curation. My dad has some deejaying experience, so our boats are fitted with a sound and mic system, which we are able to control from the captain’s console at the back of the boat. Our playlist has also grown as we cater to our guests’ preferences. Many of them share with us the memories and emotions that certain tunes or songs stir in them and we try to recreate those moments during our rides. We have guests from different countries, so music plays a big part in the experience.

Our guests also get other kinds of knowledge such as the dangers involved in the waters. Many jet skiers and boats try to go under the tunnel that connects St John’s and Lazarus Islands—where the current is very high, there are also many fishing lines hanging from above. Sometimes during our rides, we have had to rescue boaters who have capsized. We always inform our guests about what we are about to do and urge them to just observe and not record or document the incidents on their phones or other devices. It’s a different kind of learning experience for them.

How inclusive are your rides for differently-abled people?
We have had instances when some guests are on wheelchairs. So that’s why our latest boats are designed to be at the hip level, which means that people with mobility issues do not have to climb into the boat and put unnecessary stress on their legs and knees or have to be carried in by someone. They can sit down and just slide into the boat. They can do the same when they go back up onto the jetty as well.

How has working with your father been?
At the beginning, it was quite difficult. I am a very headstrong person—I actually get that trait from my dad [laughs]. So there were a few clashes, but in the end we realised that we both wanted the same things. Over the course of time, we have learnt to communicate better. Now, we don’t even have to use words, through just a nod or a gesture, my dad gets what I am trying to say.

Any unforgettable experiences?
There have been many, but one incident keeps coming back to me. My dad and I are usually at the back of the boat so we can watch over our guests. I am usually a silent photo- and videographer. There was once when a father had come with his very young daughter. It was so wonderful watching how he was indulging her and making sure she was enjoying the ride—it brought back memories of my time with my dad as a child. I still look at the photograph and think back on the days he and I used to have disagreements. It brings tears to my eyes— we have come a long way.

The original article was published on the November/ December 23 issue of Longitude, ONE°15 Marina’s Club magazine. Read it here.