In an attempt to maintain surf stoke on land, a Huntington Beach clan of seven surfers spent eight years of both purchasing and making skateboards before they perfected the solution to their land-surfing needs. On those harsh days when the ocean flattens like a pancake, a solid skate session can usually fulfill your daily stoke needs. For the Hamborg family, nothing could be closer to the truth.
“We don’t design products; we just make boards that we want to ride,” states Hamboards founder, Peter Hamborg.
Hamboards began one evening when the Hamborg mother of 5 drove over one of her family’s handmade skateboards, launching it into the front yard bushes. After a few minutes of stress and finger pointing, one of the Hamborg brothers jumped on the smashed skateboard, only to find out that it was the best he has ever ridden. When the family took the board into the garage and realized that Mom had mashed over a limiting system in the trucks, they realized the damaged board felt more like surfing than anything they had ever made. After two neighbors, a friend, brother, uncle and cousin all asked for a similar board, the Hamborgs realized a business was on the frontier, and Hamboards was born.
Recently, Hamboards was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, and has given up 30% of their company for $300,000 to expand. The Surf Channel got the inside scoop on the details from the Hamborg family’s experience on Shark Tank and what is in store for the future in this exclusive interview below.
The Surf Channel: What was it like to pitch your product on television on Shark Tank?
Peter Hamborg: It was an amazing experience that had so many different levels of intensity to it. There was the intensity of preparing for it and the intensity of auditioning for it through the selection process. There was the experience of trying to convey our message the best that we could, and then working to negotiate the framework.
The initial framework of the business deal was right there in front of 17 cameras; that was very intense. There was the intensity of actually of being in front of 6 almost 7 million people. We had a viewing party where there were 450 people at a restaurant in Huntington Beach.
I didn’t know how they were going to edit the show. Everybody else saw 6 – 9 minutes of what happened on national television on ABC. That was actually the result of being in the shark tank for 50 min. Now we have had the intense experience of all this business and all these opportunities that are just being flung at us from every direction. We are trying to manage that with our little family run business, striving to stay true to our core, and managing the business we want to.
Did you make a deal with the Sharks?
Hamborg: The final deal was for us to give up 30% of our company to our partner and in exchange for that, we are going to get $300,000.
Origins of Hamboards?
Hamborg: You had a family of five little boys and a dad who lived right behind the power plant in Huntington Beach, close to the water. I was not getting into the ocean very much, because I had these little ones running around. I knew that the sooner I could get them to connect with surfing and develop a love for it, the quicker we as a family were going to get out to surf.
In order to get the whole family into it, I wanted to first skateboard with them and interact with the kids while riding, so we made this big skateboard – so I could teach them how to surf. It was frustrating, because every board that we purchased or made did not emulate surfing very well. None of them had the carve and the flow of surfing. I made a few boards, but none of them worked that well.
One night, one of the boards was left on the driveway and Mom came home in the family wagon and drove right over it, landing in the bushes. We all assumed it was wrecked forever. After some finger pointing, somebody jumped on it and said, ‘Wow! Hey Dad, you got to try this thing out; it’s amazing!’ We took the board into the garage and realized that she had mashed over a limiting system in the trucks, which is the turning mechanism that holds the wheels to the bottom of the board like a suspension. We grabbed the box of safety glasses and put them on all the kids, and started modifying all our boards.
These skateboards really had a unique and amazing dynamic to them, and one thing led to another. The neighbor tried one and then asked us to make him one, then his buddy, then another neighbor and then a brother, uncle, cousin… We realized that in order to meet the demand, we would need to start some sort of a company, so we did. We started a company making big, crazy skateboards that felt like you were surfing when you rode them.
How are Hamboards unique?
Hamborg: They are unlike any other skateboard, because they truly capture the essence of what it is like to ride a wave. The dynamic of your ability to control a rail and drive it into a turn, as well as work the carve and flow, is singularly unique on a Hamboard. That is why we have people who want to surf riding Hamboards. That is really gratifying.
Last year, Hamboard brother No. 4 won the NSSA National Championship in longboard surfing. It is more than incidentally that he rarely surfs a longboard; he is a shortboarder who transitioned into big wave surfing. His highschool team needed somebody to throw down in the longboard competition, so he borrowed his mom’s pink-nosed longboard. He won the National Championship, and he said that his ability to power through his turns is because he rides a Hamboard. That was a powerful moment for me as a designer.
The giant ones were the first boards we made, and they emulate classic longboard surfing really effectively. The smaller ones, with a shorter wheel base, have a more driving turn and translates to short board surfing. We have the little ones that are the biscuits and those are great because they have the feel of a Hamboards, but are affordable and they are handmade.
What about Hamboards for SUP?
PH: Being connected with the community, we initially took a little bit of a hit with our embracing of stand-up paddle with Hamboards. You don’t need a paddle, but many people like to ride a Hamboard like a surfboard. There is such a fun workout with a paddle and it is a great way to get around; it is green transportation and a great core fitness workout. We just had to develop that side of it.
What does the future of Hamboards look like now?
Hamborg: We have a plan for next year to plug that money in. It is really important to us that we just continue to make more of our high quality products here in Southern California. It is great, because Robert [business partner] understands it’s not about having enough money to make things out of plastic and get them all done over in China [laughs]. He gets it… We are going to keep making our boards in our own authentic way. This company came about in such an organic way that it would not feel right to all of a sudden to turn our company into a mass produced, ‘slap a sticker on it, bubble wrap it and put it in Costco’ type of a company.
We are going to make more Hamboards, plug money into marketing and find ways to get more Hamboards into the hands of surfers.
Where can someone purchase a Hamboard?
PH: We have a super effective website at Hamboards.com and we ship all over the world. We have a special now on free shipping for bamboo boards – the best way to get your Hamboard. We are in a number of upscale surf shops like Huntington Surf and Sport, Maui and Suns and Ron Jon Surf Shop on the East Coast. We have our own little shop behind the power plant, and everyone is welcome to come by to hangout and borrow a board. We have hit an exciting growth curve this year [to say the least]…