Reinventing the surfboard

Posted by: Helen Walters on May 13, 2009

meyerhoffer.jpgTo an outsider, the surfing world may seem like a free-wheeling bastion of unbridled creativity. But in reality, not much has changed since the 1950s. That’s according to Mark Kelly, President of Australia-based surf distributor Global Surf Industries. Kelly’s critical of an industry he says is reluctant to innovate and which is too reliant on a sponsorship model that exploits young surfers. “They’re commercial pawns,” he says of the well-paid athletes. “Companies steal their youth.”

Instead, Kelly prefers to focus on catering to the “time-poor surfer trying to get three or four more waves.” The newest addition to the GSI roster is a board created by former Apple industrial designer, Thomas Meyerhoffer, above. The curvy, swooping design is the result of some five years of experimentation. California-based Meyerhoffer even acted as his own personal market research group, trying out each prototype in the waves in order to refine his design. “I got laughed at on the beach,” he says, ruefully. “But the design connects with the open-minded.”

As an avowed land lubber, I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of the board, which will cost $645 to $895. And there’s a provocative thread here that suggests the design itself isn’t entirely new. But it’s interesting to see what happens when a designer in one field (in this case, consumer tech) applies his learning and thinking to another discipline altogether (in this case, surfing.) And it’s another good example of a company eschewing the top end of a market (in this case, the pros) in order to focus on the bottom end (in this case, the enthusiasts.) If you try one, let me know what it’s like.

Reader Comments

jake

December 17, 2009 10:09 PM

a tech guy who just started surfing and shaping. anyone can make a board like this....but most people won't for a good reason! He's got great marketing skills on the web probably through his work at apple....but boardbuilding is a craft that takes years to acquire and isn't done in thailand.

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What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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