Each week DoubleUP Wakeboards executive Tim Runyard will answer a couple of questions relating to the business side of the wakeboard industry in order to allow the wakeboarding public learn more about that side of the sport.
This is the first set of answers for questions asked by Wakeboarder.com visitors.
What do you do with the prototype boards after research is completed? - Justin Jones
Tim Runyard: Our prototypes at DoubleUP come from our Finish Tool, so they are not production quality boards, and thus don't have a long life span. Essentially, we do the design work, have it put into a CAD format, and then have the finish tool cut. (There are two tools necessary for our board production. A Core Tool, and a Finish Tool: The Core tool is shot with foam, and produces the blank core. The Finish tool takes the blank core, which has already been wrapped with Fiberglass, and compresses the graphics on to it, producing a finished board.) Once the Finish Tool is cut, we actually have that shot with Foam, and make a board entirely out of the Finish Tool. While the board's riding characteristics are virtually identical, the finish, construction, and weight of the board is not up to specs. We then take these boards and go ride them. At DoubleUP, it's probably a little different than most companies. In addition to giving the boards to our pro riders, all of us here test the boards personally. We want to make sure we have a wide cross section of people try the board, so we get input from all the different ability levels. When we are finally done testing, the boards usually just get thrown away, or kept for posterity. In most cases, the prototype has been abused pretty hard,
and often times is unrideable by the end of it's testing period.
What kind of company structure is there at a wakeboard company such as DoubleUP? - Tom Murray
Tim Runyard: I think you'll find that a wakeboard company is set up much like any other company. At DoubleUP, we have your standard Sales Department with a Sales Manager and customer service people. We have a Marketing and Product Development Dept, Accounting/Finance, and a Shipping Dept. In addition, we have a Product Manager to take care of our Product Line. At DoubleUP, we are still at the size where we end up wearing many hats. While job descriptions are defined, we often get involved in areas outside our normal job descriptions. For instance, while Accounting/Finance is my strong suit, I also am very involved with product development and testing, as well as board and binding production, and our marketing/pricing strategies. As our
company grows, and this is probably true of the larger companies in our industry, job descriptions start to get more focused, and there are just more people in each department. The one thing that is different about DoubleUP, is that we don't have any manufacturing jobs at our company. Our boards are actually manufactured at another facility. Thus, DoubleUP is considered an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) company, in that we have all of our own designs and tools, but someone else puts them together.
People always ask me how you get a job in a wakeboard company. They always assume it's the greatest job in the world. (I'm elaborating a little here, so hang with me a moment) Well, it is a great job. To work in an industry you are passionate about is a great thing, and I would say pretty rare. Being involved with a wakeboard company is probably as much, if not more work than any other job out there, but at the end of the day, you are excited about what you've done and where you're going. I know at DoubleUP, it can be tough to get a job here. Mostly because the industry itself is pretty tough to survive in. We have to keep our overhead low, and this doesn't open a lot of doors for people, and when they do open, the positions are quickly filled. I'm assuming, it's pretty similar in other wakeboard companies as well.
Anyway, back to our structure. In the U.S. we use Independent Sales Reps to help sell our product. We have roughly 10 sales reps that cover the entire U.S. Most of these reps have other lines that are related to watersports,
or sports in general. Internationally, we have distributors that sell to certain countries. For instance, we have an exclusive distributor in Japan that imports our products, and then sells to all the shops in Japan. In total, we're probably in 30 countries, from Russia to South Africa to Australia to Canada. Essentially all over the world, in places you'd never expect wakeboarding to be popular.
Where do you see the direction of board composition going in the future? - Andrew Fritz
This is the million dollar question for sure! Hyperlite and Liquid are coming out with Balsa Wood Cores. The problem with that, is that it doesn't address the need to have a lighter, stronger, CHEAPER material. These boards are going to be expensive, from what I've heard, and know, and is only going to affect a small portion of the market. The real winner, is going to be the material that reduces costs, and retains all the current riding characteristics of foam, or improves upon them. It's been my opinion over the last couple years, that board shapes are going to stabalize here pretty soon, and that material is going to be the next big step in the wakeboard market. For instance, we've had the batwing, diamond tip, swallow tail, and on and on. Yea, they all ride a little different, but the reality is that most of these shapes will settle back to what makes the most sense, not what looks new, or is gimmicky (That might not be a real word, but go with me on this) Once all the "looks" are tapped, we're going to see a focus on the material used to make the board. This is pretty much where we are today. Shapes, tips, tails, are starting to stabalize and now we see Balsa wood, which has been around a while. Honeycomb went away because it was too expensive, and really didn't offer any benefits (For me personally anyway) while riding. Personally, I don't know exactly where we're going to end
My feeling is that Balsa may be nice for the high end in the short term. However, over time, one of us is going to have to come up with a less expensive way to make a light, snappy, board, so everyone can enjoy them.