In the spring of 2005 we met with a skateboard manufacturer and showed them our prototypes. It was suggested to us to pursue the skate model first. It would look technical, advanced and fun as one whole unit. I also had some interesting ideas with the rail system and having one made from wood was not ideal.
We found ourselves at a rapid prototyping company that eventually closed up shop years later. We met with engineers, endlessly talked details and eventually they created an all-in-one skate deck with a 2" perimeter rail model. The model was then cast into a silicone mold and an actual plastic board was created. It looked awesome but unfortunately could not hold up to riding on a ball. At this point I was pretty defeated with the loss of time and huge expenses.
They also made our very first solid ball from urethane. Since we couldn't find anything suitable to ride they took on the challenge of making a perfectly round and solid ball. They did with precision. I dropped it and to my surprise it bounced back to me and almost knocked my teeth out. And from there the obsession with bouncing balls began! Except it cost almost $400 per ball- ouch... back to the drawing board.
We were introduced to mechanical engineer Chris Moore of CCM Design and the summer grey cloud lifted over my world. He had a packet of drawings with fresh ideas for our board. We went back to our original 45" wood board and decided on a metal rail system.
I bought a pair of Softrucks urethane skateboard trucks on a whim. Just in passing conversation, Chris saw them and came up with the concept of urethane blocks to hold the rail to the board. He quickly whipped up some prototypes and a bent rail pieced together. It took a while to find the right hardware but eventually that rail was secure and we were up and riding! Ryan and I thrashed on these boards and I knew it was the right direction.
Next we needed to find a tube bender and rail supplier. Our first set of rails were aluminum but the cost for material alone steered us towards a stronger and thinner steel. Our current tube bender makes military jet engine exhaust systems and gladly took on our project.
And then came along Geno. He made skateboards and skimboards for 30 years and had great ideas and high energy. He produced our board tops and kept the outpouring of inspiration to follow the dream. Working side by side he showed me the secret processes of hand making boards, fine details and tricks of the trade. I even learned how to keep all 10 fingers!
I thought I solved the ball dilemma and finally found a ready made product to ride on. The Ooof ball was made from foam urethane with a harder exterior shell. The balls did not break, had great traction, were big and were solid enough to provide a fast ride. Well, they went out of business in the late 1990's and in 2006 I bought up all the surplus I could find on the internet. Back to the 3 year drawing board...
We knew the only option was to manufacture our own ball. Nobody was willing to take on the project of a solid urethane ball. It was either out of their scope of work, too difficult to perfect or too reactive with a closed mold system. People laughed at me on the phone and said it was near impossible. On a last round of numbers I called Mike and hesitantly but confidently said he would give it a try.
Creating a solid urethane ball is much more difficult than it seems. It needs a metal mold that is sealed shut with one valve for urethane and one valve for exit gases. Getting the right mix of material, speed of pour and curing time is extremely difficult. Mike kept pursuing a complex item with complex material. After a lot of trial and error, blem balls, out of round balls, no bounce balls, rock solid balls, half hollow balls... they finally reached perfection!