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About Utah: This invention doesn’t suck

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PARK CITY — The fact that the pejorative usage of the verb “suck,” not unlike other words with perfectly harmless origins such as “shut up” and “freak,” has become so prevalent as to render it largely inappropriate in today’s society may prove to be a shock value boon for a little Park City company with a big breakthrough.

OGWA — that’s the name of the company — has patented a water dispensing system that makes it possible for athletes, soldiers, policemen, workmen — anyone, really, who’s thirsty and in a hurry — to get a drink without having to expend effort before swallowing.

The marketing possibilities are obvious.

You don’t have to suck!

Suck no more!

Tired of sucking?

Don’t suck, spray!

Now, granted, for most of us, 99 percent, maybe 99.9 percent of the time, using our mouths to suck in a drink of water is no big deal.

But if you’re a football player, say, in the middle of a big game, or a bicycle racer, or a soldier in a firefight, sucking can use up oxygen and energy already in short supply.

That can lead to dehydration, and that can lead to all sorts of bad outcomes.

Harlan Gardiner, one of the co-owners of OGWA — it’s no coincidence that it’s pronounced exactly like agua, the Spanish word for water — conjures up the image of an NFL game during a timeout.

“They call timeout and what do they do? The players rush to the sideline where a sideline guy sprays water into their mouths. Why do they do that? So the players don’t have to.”

The football players, explains Gardiner, “don’t have the luxury of using air to suck water, they need it to keep doing what they’d doing. So they have someone do it for them.”

But most of the time, for the rest of us, “we don’t have that guy,” he adds.

Which is where the OGWA pressurized system comes in.

Attach the pressurized hydration pack to your back, place the dispensing valve within easy reach, and whenever you need water, twist open the valve and aim the spray at your mouth. The only thing you have to do is swallow.

A lot of people, endurance athletes especially, delay hydrating because it takes too much effort, Gardiner points out, but spraying allows you to take in much more water much more quickly with much less work.

“It’s like having a water fountain on your back,” he says. “When you take a drink at the water fountain, you don’t put your mouth on the dispenser; it’s the same thing here.”

The idea dates back to 2005, when four Utah men, Toby Hazelbaker and Ron, Gabe and Luke Reichert, invented what they called a “Pressure Pak” — a pressurized waterpack. In the summer of 2006, the Pressure Pak made its debut at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City.

On the surface, it looked very much like the popular Camelbak hydration pack that is especially popular to mountain bikers. The difference is that Camelbak is a suck-to-drink system while Pressure Pak/OGWA is a spray-to-drink system.

The OGWA hydration pack has been refined and improved in the years since then (Hazelbaker remains a co-owner in the company). First came a patent on the stand-along pressurized, double-chambered pack that can fit in any existing hydration system. Next, just this past December, came a second patent, this one on a bite dispensing valve that was developed in part by professors and students in the engineering department at Weber State University.

Not only does the bite valve permit easy spraying, but since the water is pressurized it can force itself through an inline filter that cleans dirty water before drinking, making the OGWA bladder attractive as a component in emergency preparedness kits as well.

The OGWA system may be a small contribution to world technology, Gardiner agrees, as he holds the bite valve in the tips of his fingers. “But the best stuff is the simplest,” he says. “And this is pretty simple. It’s the kind of thing you see and wonder, ‘Nobody did this before?’ ”

It makes a lot of sense, for one thing. For another, it doesn’t suck.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. Email: benson@deseretnews.com