While not native to the Hamptons, they can certainly be found there—sunning themselves in the swimming pools of New York’s wealthiest denizens and posing for selfies with the rich and Instagram-famous. Flightless, featherless, and completely rideable, they may not be the spitting image of their real-world counterparts, but with increasing demand from retailers and sunbathers, inflatable swans are the summer’s hottest pool accessory.
The inflatable swan—swan float if you’re fancy—first appeared on the swim scene in 2006 (between 5 million and 23 million years after its brethren of the cygnus genus). A byproduct of intelligent design rather than natural selection, the pool toy was first dreamed up by Edgewood, New York-based Swimline, which manufactures pool floats and toys.
“We had made a giant duck, because a pool is basically a giant bathtub,” says Swimline national sales manager Kieran Glackin. The company wanted to “class it up,” Glackin says, “while still remaining fun. Hence, the swan.”
Swimline has already sold about 300,000 of its $40 swans so far this fiscal year, up from 80,000 last year. On Amazon, the company’s “International Leisure Giant Swan,” priced at $39.99, is currently the sixth-best seller in the patio, lawn and garden category. According to data from Sellics, a tool for Amazon sellers, that means Amazon is selling roughly 94 swan floats per day.
Inflatable-swan sales are also up at BigMouth Inc., a Glastonbury, Connecticut-based company that sells a $30 version. Sales there have increased by 350% since 2012, when the company began producing the swan as an offshoot of its signature inflatable donut.
At Swimline, which also makes inflatable parrots, unicorns, flamingoes, and various food products, Glackin says swan sales started climbing noticeably around 2014, after an end-of-summer Wall Street Journal article about the toy’ popularity with the Hamptons set.
“It took time, and the help of lounging celebrities, but the Original Giant Swan is pretty much a must-have in America,” he says.
Emphasis on lounging celebrities. While inflatable swans now make their homes across the country, their true natural habitat is social media. Kourtney Kardashian and Kendall Jenner both hit Instagram on a giant swan in 2014. A year later, Taylor Swift posted a picture of herself and then-boyfriend Calvin Harris astride a swan, with the caption, “swan goals.” The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills use them at parties. Kaley Cuoco has one. Rihanna fell off one last month. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are littered with posts tagged #giantswan, #swanfloat, and #inflatableswan.
Says BigMouth CEO Steve Wampold: “The social media-savvy market simply demanded a funner inflatable for the summer season.”