Story and photos by Skyler Wilder
What started as a hobby for high school students in the Tacoma area has morphed into a competitive skimboard company. Today, the faces behind Dashboards Skimboards (DB) have their work cut out for them, juggling college course loads and maintaining shop productivity. And in a time when small businesses are not succeeding, DB needs to find a way to stand out.
DB is a small company that makes an innovative kind of skimboard the market has never seen. Apart from one recent college graduate, DB is run by a group of friends who are currently finishing their college degrees. They hope to put their years of studying to use on their privately owned business.
"We want to make the best skimboards possible because there aren't many good boards out there" Bryce Hermansen, co-owner of DB Skimboards and Western junior says. "We want a quality product."
What started out as a fun way to pass the time quickly grew into something much more than a leisure activity. By attaining contracts with local skate shops, DB turned into a legitimate business, with a niche market to satisfy.
Similar to a skateboard, skimboards are made up of several layers of pressed wood that are kicked and spun around along the edge of the beach as a recreational board sport. Typically skimboards are similar in length to longboards, but can be as wide as a surfboard.
There are four styles of skimboards ranging from the basic "plank" to the premium "pro" model. Styles are based on the grade of materials that make them; each board is available in small, medium and large. DB strives to provide a board for everyone, from the inexperienced novice, to the up and coming pros.
What really makes DB stand out among their competitors is the foam top available on the three higher-grade boards.
The "plank," like most traditional skimboards, uses wax on the top sheet for bare feet to catch on. But the other DB boards have what they call "Super Cush Traction," which creates a gripping, yet comfortable ride that dampens vibrations.
The thick ripples of foam on the top of the board allow the rider to jump on it with confidence that they won't slip off or bruise their heels. When a rider is ready to start learning tricks, the foam makes a more inviting surface to stomp their feet down on.
Instead of garages in their parent's houses, these boards are assembled in a small warehouse and sold either in bulk or on a case-by-case scenario. It's no secret this small company is thriving. Last year alone, DB sold more than one thousand skimboards.
Gliding toward its seventh summer, DB is still growing and beginning to draw international attention. With more than 40 shops in the US carrying DB gear, and international representatives for DB in Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand, the impact this company has on the sport is hard to ignore.
Skimboarding dates back to the late 1920s, but the progressive movement of the sport has just recently taken flight. Previously conceived as a very limited sport, DB strives to push the sport to new heights by promoting progressive skimboarding through films that showcase the DB pro team's skill. DB uses innovative boxes and rails to showcase their tricks and boards on the water.
Western senior Isaac Thomas has been with DB since the beginning. Representing the company as a pro team rider and as the skim camp manager, Thomas is always working to advance the sport. He believes that hosting summer contests is the key to creating a strong skimboard community.
"Kids knowing they have a contest to look forward to every year that they can practice and enter. Having something stable like that really allows the sport to grow," Thomas says. "This summer we are going to try and hold more contests than in previous years."
Carrying their foam technology over to a new product this season, DB will soon be ready to release its longboard series that maintains their unique board feel-foam-top griptape.
"You have an option to get normal griptape [sandpaper-like material] on your board or a thin layer of foam with griptape on top. It gives you the feel of griptape but with the cush [cushion] and comfort of a skimboard." says Emile Panerio, Western freshman and DB pro team rider.
"You can also get [plain] foam and ride barefoot."
Just "feelin it out," DB is not looking to take over the longboarding market, Hermansen says. Because everyone on the team rides longboards, everyone felt like they knew what they wanted with the product so they just went for it.
If nothing else, the new launch of longboard series illustrates a healthy growth rate for a company first produced by friends in their parent's garages.
But it's not just about capitalizing and commercializing; it began as a recreational way to have fun at the beach with a board to kick around.
"It's all about fun!" Thomas says. "Skimboarding isn't a super intense sport, it's something fun to do and it's fairly inexpensive."
Looking into the future, Hermansen says DB will continue to take it step by step and maintain to make a quality product to help the progression of both the sport and company.
Not many college students can say they have a successful business. By focusing on quality relationships with core retail shops and increasing online sales, Hermansen feels that apart from potentially moving to a bigger warehouse, DB is steadily growing.
The future of DB is unknown but one thing remains certain, these guys aren't going anywhere. Check out more DB Skimboards at their website