Friday, June 17, 2011

The Strange History of British Snowboarding Inventions

Britain has a long and proud history of invention. Tinkering Britishers have created many of the things that make the world as we know it today including the likes of; the television, the postage stamp, jet engines, gravity, football (proper football), the internet and the flushable toilet. Over the years the Britlanders have even turned their dabbling skills on the unsuspecting world of skiing, a sport that the British Isles is hopelessly unsuited to, and despite that the British are credited with inventing: 
  • Ski mountaineering
  • Ski package holidays
  • Slalom ski racing
  • International level downhill ski racing
  • The World Championships
  • Dendex
  • Snowflex
  • and Eddie the Eagle

You can't get it right every time
However in the field of snowboarding Britain has really been surprisingly off its game. Over the 25 years of snowboard history Britain has provided the world with just three rather poor inventions...

British Snowboarding Invention #1 - The Snowboard Pole 
A punting stick for lost gondoliers, which you can buy for an unfathomable $245 (£150) plus postage. I’m struggling to decide what is the worst feature of this idea, whether it the actual product itself which fixes a problem that no one has on a way that nobody wants, or whether it’s the fact that they think people will fork out the price of a snowboard for a stick.
If you do think it’s a good idea then let me know, I’ll sell you one of these for half the price and I’ll even cover the postage costs. 
Photo is to scale

British Snowboarding Invention #2 - The Ruroc Helmet 
Look at it. Just look at it.
That monstrosity will set you back between $267 and $364 (£165 and £225) and for a hefty $275 (£170) extra you can chose your own colour. You’ve got to seriously give a shit about colours for that to be a good decision.
Joseph's amazing technicolor helmet
For comparison you can buy some pretty decent mid-priced standard head coverage options and still end up at the lower end of the Ruroc price range. [Red Mutany helmet + Anon Figment goggles + Airhole facemask = $288 (£178)] Plus, if you go down this route you don’t have to keep buying from the same company if you want to replace any part of the set-up…and you can choose your own colours for free.
The idea for the company came from the mind of a lad called Rob Gavin, but the helmet was actually designed by Curventa, an industrial design company. Makes you wonder how loaded Rob Gavin is that when he wanted to start a snowboard company the first thing he did was reach into his pockets and throw a whole lot of money at another company  so they could do all the work. Sounds like a nice way to start up a business to me, much easier than my new stick selling business. Those sticks don’t grow on trees you know. 

British Snowboarding Invention #3 - The Snowboard Rom Com 
It didn’t look like a good idea, and it didn’t turn out to be. Before it came out we estimated the Chalet Girl would get a mediocre IMDB rating of 5.4, in the end it got a slightly different mediocre rating of 5.8. Goes to prove how just how accurate our scientific movie foretelling  was, but ultimately after seeing it we couldn’t find enough of interest in the movie to go to the trouble of writing a review on it. And we still can’t now.
A rare conjunction of British Snowboard Inventions 2 & 3
The Twist
In a unexpected twist of fate one of those ideas, despite its inherent flaws, is really taking off in a totally unplanned and unintended way. Over the last few years Ruroc has becoming the biggest name in the niche but lucrative world of motor racing pit crew head protection. If you happened to catch the seemingly endless Formula 1 race at the weekend you might have spotted them in action.
Dave - The baddest nut tightener in the business
Back in 2008 they were contacted by Red Bull team who were looking for a lighter alternative to the motorbike helmets that the pit crews had worn in the past. This idea was sparked off a year earlier when McLaren made a set of helmets based loosely on a Carrera ski helmet, which amazingly looked even more ridiculous.
Oakley goggles. These F1 boys sure do like snowboarding kit.
So it was back to Curventa to add a bit of fireproofing and a lick of paint and Bob’s your uncle you have a $645 (£400) shiny new F1 spec helmet. You can currently spot a Ruroc helmet on the bonces of the McLaren, Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Mercedes, Force India and Lotus F1 teams and you might spot them in a few other racing formulas too.
And the moral of the story is, it doesn't matter how bad your idea is as long as you get very, very lucky.

Speaking of last weekend’s F1, it’s a good opportunity to take another look this. Who knew the Canadians had such difficulties walking? 

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  1. Funny. I am sat in a pub with Rob. I have never read so much shit in my life. He took a clay moulding to Curventa who turned it into CAD drawings. The design and original idea was his.

  2. Of course you could have been polite, but it just shows the character of some people in business.


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