Compression molded bodyboards from Wave Skater LLC turn easier in the water than competing brands and are gaining market recognition, according to the inventor, but production challenges exist.
We go into a surf shop that sells our boards, and they [sell] out right away, said Bruce Blumenfeld, owner and president of the small business and Wave Skater inventor.
According to Blumenfeld, a woman at a trade show told him: I cannot take on your line. It's a superior product, but I am selling 200,000 of other people's boards.
Blumenfeld said he receives positive feedback from major distributors and retailers. Wave Skater deals directly with 80 retail outlets. Blumenfeld understands that shopkeepers face pressure to sell inventories of other brands.
Wave Skater holds a U.S. utility patent and 22 claims on the bodyboard's dual-tapered pontoons with recessed stomach cavity and arm wells, and elevated railings. The pontoons act like hydrofoils, allow water to pass and elevate a board through a wave.
Collaborating with bodyboard legend Tom Morey, We had a happy design accident and figured out one piece is better than assembly, Blumenfeld said.
Compared with a traditional bodyboard with a polypropylene, expanded polystyrene or polyethylene core, my board is half the price and has 10 times the durability, Blumenfeld claimed. We are fighting an uphill [market] battle with a better product.
His line of 42- to 48-inch-long boards retails for $129-$169, although a shop can charge whatever they want for the 48-inch model, he said. Some 48s sold for $280 because that model can support a heavier rider, he said.
The current contract manufacturer in Taichung, Taiwan, blends crystalline ethylene vinyl acetate foam and color concentrates for the core and encompasses it with a PE sheet wrap containing the same coloration.
They squeeze down and re-melt the resins together under heat and pressure, and put five boards on the press to cook at one time, Blumenfeld said.
Random swirling color dispersion varies each board's appearance. No paint is used on the textured surface.
The design omits carbon or graphite structural stringers or rods, and one-piece construction avoids the glued or hot-air-bonded laminations used with other boards.
The industry makes bodyboard components from different foams with different melting points, and laminates and seals them together, Blumenfeld said. After one use or 10 uses in rough conditions, those boards may start to delaminate and come apart. The parts can become razor sharp.
Popular bodyboard brands include Custom X, BZ, Elemenohpee, Mike Stewart, No. 6 and Wave Rebel.
Wave Skater has sold about 2,500 boards since restarting distribution in May 2009 of a new generation of far superior EVA/PE boards, Blumenfeld said.
He created the original concept in late 2005, but a fractious 2006-08 production experience with Spongex Corp. of Shelton, Conn., killed an early version. Among indiscretions, Spongex used the wrong foam on one production run, Blumenfeld alleged.
Wave Skater sold a few thousand bodyboards during 2007 and was on the verge of high-profile orders, according to Blumenfeld, but at the end of the season, the rug was pulled out from under us when there was a delay in the processor returning the molds.
Subsequently, he learned via a contact in the Dominican Republic that boards of his design without Wave Skater identification were appearing in retail outlets. After extended exchanges over almost one year and threatened litigation, Wave Skater regained possession of three molds at the end of 2008, but they were completely unusable because they had been constructed for Spongex's proprietary expanded foam process, he claimed.
Wave Skater lost an unfilled backlog of at least 10,000 orders, according to Blumenfeld. He said he and his lawyer opted not to sue Spongex, which by that time had new ownership.
In August 2007, holding company NoÃ«l Group LLC of Wake Forest, N.C., acquired Spongex as a limited liability company and opened a Tarboro, N.C., facility to mold Spongex's products. Spongex is a sister company to foam extruder Nomaco Inc. and wine closure coextruder Nomacorc LLC.
Jeff Lawson at Spongex declined to comment on the company's prior relationship with Wave Skater.
Interlaken, N.J.-based Wave Skater has storage and distribution sites in Neptune, N.J., and Carlsbad, Calif.
Blumenfeld applied in June 2006 for the patent, which was issued in August 2008.
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