Up Stream Surfing brings surfing into the city. All it takes is a river whose current has a velocity of one meter per second and a bridge. It is based on a pulley block system and uses the resources that are available – without interfering with nature.
The three founders got to know each other at a trade fair in 2016. Simon Garben (Zurich) was already working on the pulley system, Michael Strobel (Innsbruck) was working on a stationary artificial wave and Andreas Trapp (Munich) had just launched a new technology for inflatable stand-up paddleboards. They teamed up once they found out that they were all working on the same thing. The Up Stream Surfing pulley system was ready for series production and the three launched the first trial season in Zurich the following year. By 2018 they had received permission to use the system commercially in Innsbruck. They have been selling surfing sessions including equipment and coaching there over the past few months. The technique is a mixture of river surfing and wakeboarding. The only prerequisite for the participants is the ability to swim.
The system consists of a pulley block and an underwater sail. The pulley connects the bridge, the underwater sail and the surfer. A person positions themselves on the underwater sail. That absorbs the energy of the water current and transfers it to the pulley system which in turn pushes the surfer three hundred meters upstream. Setting the pace according to the ability of the surfer is done by adjusting the flow velocity. The system is portable, does not consume any energy and is inexpensive, costing 15,000 euros. The patent is valid for Europe and the USA. Interview with Michael Strobel:
What motivates you? What problem do you solve and why is that important?
Surfers who live in cities have almost no opportunities to surf. We see that there is a trend towards urban surfing. Existing solutions are energy-intensive. Our solution is energy-efficient and does not interfere with nature.
What was the biggest obstacle that you had to overcome? Was there a moment when you wanted to give up?
There were many obstacles. But we try to see problems as unseen opportunities. It was difficult to get the product ready for production. Some of the underwater sails in the prototype did not withstand the water pressure and we had to fish them out of the water. We then developed our own training for our surf coaches. It was also a question of convincing the water rescue service during the license approval process. We are now in the process of exploring new locations. This isn’t easy either, because the product is still unfamiliar to most people. Nevertheless, people who come by to try it are having fun. We are getting great feedback. Giving up is not an option. I’ve never seen a product receive such positive feedback.
What have been the greatest moments so far? Which achievements really made you feel proud?
In particular the moment when our product was working, the first trials, the approval for the system’s commercial use in Innsbruck – and then our appearance on the Austrian TV show ‘2 Minuten – 2 Millionen’ ( ‘2 Minutes – 2 Million‘ -similar to the UK’s Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank in the US) where we were able to convince the top-class jury of the potential of our idea. But the best thing is seeing that our product works and that it really does go down well.
What can we expect from you in the coming year?
We would like to find partners who want to bring our system to the city. We are also planning to launch a portable wave as an update as soon as we have more locations. A lot has already been accomplished in this area, but very little has been implemented.
Where would you like to be with your company in five years time – what is your ultimate goal?
We are learning through the approval process in cities how to establish sports facilities in rivers and would also like to become the contact partner for urban surfing. Whereby we not only want to offer our own products, but also products from other providers. For example, Artwave, a wave system from Finland, with which you can surf on a lake. We do not just want to offer our own product ourselves, but also make it available as a franchise system.
What makes your innovation better/different than those that already exist?
A system like ours does not yet exist. Our solution is simple, portable, affordable, fun and does not interfere with nature.
Thank you for the interview.
About the Start-up
Brand name: Up Stream Surfing, company name: Urban Surf Solutions Ltd;
Founder: Simon Garben (Helicopter test engineer), Michael Strobel (MA Sport and Technology), Andreas Trapp (Co-founder Tripstix Surfboards);
Year of foundation: 2017
Funding: Up until the beginning of 2019, the company was financed from its own funds to the amount of EUR 120,000. In May 2019, the start-up received an investment of 125,000 euros as two offers from the television show 2 Minuten – 2 Millionen. Hans-Peter Haselsteiner and Martin Rohla have been involved ever since. The goals were defined collectively and the money will be available as soon as the goals have been reached. In addition, sales of surf sessions have been generating revenue since August 2018.
Employees: Four employees in administrative positions, fifteen surf coaches;
Hiring? We are looking for a product developer and people who would like to operate our system in their city.
Ultimate goal in brief: We see ourselves as the spearhead of urban surfing who can bring that into cities in a simple and tenable way.
Are you interested in start-ups? You can find an overview of all our articles on this topic here.