Inflatables – inflatable stand-up paddleboards (SUP) in the main – have conquered the water sports market in recent years. But times are changing – these days hardboards are in vogue. After all, every die-hard board sports enthusiast knows: no SUP-Inflatable can match the performance of a hardboard. Until now. The German start-up Tripstix Ltd recently patented the VacuuAir technology. This technology – which is roughly comparable to the characteristics of a coffee vacuum pack – combines the advantages of the practical inflatable with the uncompromising performance attributes of a hardboard. We spoke with Dr.-Ing. Stefan Klare, inventor and founder of the fledgling company.
How did you come up with the idea to found Tripstix?
The idea was born out of a need, as a land-locked surfer, to find a comfortable travel solution for surfboards. I live in Munich. The nearest ocean where you can surf is at least seven hours away by car from here. A hardboard is always associated with expenses and effort when it comes to traveling. That annoyed me. Which is why I was looking for a solution to this problem.
What are the board’s special features?
As our boards are characterized by a particularly precise and slim shape (which is immensely important when surfing in waves) the main application area for our boards is surfing. SUP surfing is still relatively unheard of. But there are more and more paddlers who are jumping aboard this train.
What makes the board unique compared to other SUPs?
As already stated, the shapes of our boards are based on those of hardboards. Our boards are much thinner than conventional inflatable SUPs. Yet the art is to achieve a high degree of flex rigidity in spite of the slim design. We have succeeded in doing this. A high degree of flex rigidity is usually achieved using a thicker design. This is why many conventional boards have a thickness of 6″, or 15 cm – which is not really suitable for surfing!
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome initially?
Our product is technologically extremely sophisticated. And the time from the development to production readiness was relatively lengthy – which in turn cost a lot of money. But since I do not want to work with investors and thereby maintain my absolute independence, the biggest hurdle was the development process during this rather long period.
Was there a moment when you wanted to give up?
No, I never really wanted to give up. I am a fighter who keeps on going on. From time to time, I have thought that a classic nine-to-five job would bring some peace into my life. But I know that I would then be entering an employment relationship – a waste of time!
What was the best moment for you when it came to setting up your company, what made you particularly proud?
I am particularly proud that I have remained independent over the years and have developed this sophisticated product without a large team. I do know of a number of start-ups that have grown faster thanks to investment and where the founders earn a lot more than I do.
” Yet these founders are not really very satisfied because they have lost their independence to their investors. – I suppose you could get hired right away and save yourself the stress of starting a business.”
What can we look forward to in the next few years, in other words: What can we expect from you in the coming years?
I have many plans and ideas. The focus is on new board designs and the further development of our technology. My vision now is to make hardboards obsolete. The technology that is mostly used here hasn’t changed much in more than 30 years. I would also like to expand the company so that we are also able to offer contract work for companies operating outside of the water sports industry. The know-how that we have had up until now is already considerably more than that of the usual suspects inside the industry.
What drives you every morning?
I am an engineer with a passion. Turning my own ideas into reality is the most rewarding experience for me.
“Assembly days are good days to look forward to for me!”
What is your vision: Where do you see your company in 5 years time and what is your ultimate goal?
My ultimate goal is to be able to offer the highest quality along with a sustainable value chain. I find what is currently happening in our society frightening and it should not go on like this. The European market is being flooded with cheap products from the Far East which are mostly discarded after a very short time. Consumers are being spoiled when it comes to cheap prices, and sustainability is the last thing that is taken into account when considering a purchase. At the moment we are still manufacturing in Asia, but I want to change that as soon as possible. A modest production in Germany is even being considered. Since our products are unique, we are able to charge a higher price. I hope that at a certain point people will understand that you should spend a little more money every now and then!
“I want to offer products that will last a lifetime, even if it may not make as much sense from an entrepreneurial point of view. It is a matter of principle to me!”