Durable Boards from Imagine Surf
Imagine Surf’s plastic boards were some of the original, durable paddleboards. They’re made from plastic, a material people are used to seeing in kayaks. These boards have a reputation for being heavy, slow, and absolutely indestructible. (Having owned one for years, I can attest to that.)
For my latest interview on my series on durable boards, I interviewed Adam Cummings from Imagine about the company’s line of plastic boards. Since Adam was in Asia at the time, he answered my questions via email. His responses have been slightly edited.
How did Imagine develop its plastic board line? What was the thinking and research?
The founder of Imagine Surf, Corran Addison, had an illustrious career in the kayak industry, both as a designer and a competitor. So when he started to make Stand Up Boards it was a natural progression to follow the success the kayak industry had, and still has, with plastic manufacturing. The first stand up paddleboards Imagine made out of plastic were rotomolded. We soon realized that SUP was going to become a consumer recreational pastime. It was going to move away from Maui and work its way into mainland America and other non-traditional surfing markets.
Our goal was to replace every plastic kayak you see sitting in back yards, on boat docks and outfitters racks with a plastic Imagine Surf SUP. We wanted to grow the sport and introduce SUP to as many people as we could. We quickly realized that the traditional foam and epoxy glass boards were to expensive, fragile and hard to find outside of the traditional surf market. So for us plastic was a natural solution.
How are your plastic boards manufactured?
In the beginning they were rotomolded. We could not keep up with demand. So we started to look at more time/cost-effective ways to make a quality plastic board so we could increase production to be able to keep up with demand. We decided to move to blow molding. We took the production time including assembly and packaging from 1 hour per board to 6 minutes. It was a game changer.
Do you see board durability as a critical issue with SUP owners? What does a durable board mean to you?
Yes absolutely. We wanted to target the recreational outdoor market. The kayak and paddle sport market. Most of these consumers do not know what fiberglass is. And if they do, they do not have access to ding repair facilities if they do ding their boards. So a durable board enables this market to get into the sport in a cost-effective manner with a product that can truly be used in a recreational environment. They don’t have to be babied. They can be dropped, drug, bumped and scratched without compromising the integrity of the board. This means the initial investment will have great return for the end user.
How successful have the plastic boards been. What are their markets?
They were a home run two to three seasons ago. We were very successful in the outdoor and bigger sporting goods segment. However, as we have seen the emergence of entry-level durable inflatable boards we have seen these products start to take some market share away from the plastic boards.
Where are plastic boards most successful?
Now we are seeing them be most successful in the rental and outfitter category. Markets where the end-user does not have to store and transport the boards to the water (loading and unloading from cars is a hassle with the heavier plastic boards).
Do you have future plans for plastic boards?
No we do not. We have 3 very versatile designs. The Surfer is our best-selling all around design, The FIT is our touring shape and the Angler is a good fishing and adventure platform.
Does Imagine Surf have any plans to break into the high-end markets with plastic boards? (Development of them seems to have stopped. At one point you were advertising a 12’6” plastic board (the Racer), and I even saw a 17’ Imagine plastic prototype.)
Not at this stage. We are looking at other types of plastic manufacturing with higher end finishes like thermoforming for example. There is a lot of work being put into development and we will see where this takes us next season.
For some clarification, here are (edited) Wikipedia definitions of rotomolding and blow molding:
Rotational Molding (BrE moulding) involves a heated hollow mold which is filled with a charge or shot weight of material. It is then slowly rotated (usually around two perpendicular axis) causing the softened material to disperse and stick to the walls of the mold.
Blow molding ( BrE moulding ) is a manufacturing process by which hollow plastic parts are formed… The blow molding process begins with melting down the plastic and forming it into a parison or in the case of injection and injection stretch blow moulding (ISB), a preform. The parison is a tube-like piece of plastic with a hole in one end through which compressed air can pass. The parison is then clamped into a mold and air is blown into it. The air pressure then pushes the plastic out to match the mold. Once the plastic has cooled and hardened the mold opens up and the part is ejected.