Bungee surfers can cruise over the surface of a river at 30 miles per hour. Slingshot-like, they surf upstream on a board held by a bungee that is secured to something stable, such as a submerged rock. The average ride: 12-14 seconds.
Kids say the darndest things when they discover us, says Robert Geier of Even Surf Co., formerly Banshee Riverboards.
Geier says people who try bungee surfing ask him why he isnt a millionaire. Its a question he often asks himself.
After Even Surfs incorporation in 2003, its bungee-propelled surfboards won the 2006 Best New Sporting Goods Product of the Year award at the ISPO international sports trade show in Germany, the largest sporting goods trade show in the world. Even Surf has sold 500 of its river-surfing kits from Boulder, Colo., to Russia to New Zealand.
Even means ideal bungee tension. When beginners are learning to ride, they have a hard time getting stretched back far enough to get a good ride, Geier says. The point where they are back far enough is the even point.
But unlike a ride on one of its bungee surfboards, Even Surfs fortunes have been anything but meteoric. Sales of the kits, which cost between $300 and $500, have dwindled to two or three units per year. Even Surfs State Street store opened in May 2010 and sold surf kits and brand clothing. It closed its doors the following October. For three months, Geier, who had put his savings into his business, was homeless.
Geier says his business has hit hard times because its perceived as dangerous, though to his knowledge, no one has ever been injured on a bungee surfboard.
The city of Boise has told me that what we do is dangerous, he says. Parks and Rec has denied us a one-day permit. They wont tell us why.
Doug Holloway, interim director of Boise Parks and Recreation, says Geier has been denied access to the stretch of the Boise River between Barber Park and Ann Morrison Park. He cites the high volume of floater traffic there. It's primarily for floating and safety reasons, he says.
Holloway says he worries about potential dangers to floaters posed by collisions with surfers and dislodged bungee lines, but the agency hasnt blacklisted Geier and river surfers from the river entirely. According to Holloway, Geier is free to apply for access at the recently built water park near Garden City and other areas of the river.
We havent denied anything except our core area, he says. We have provided alternatives.
FROM PARTNERSHIP TO SEPARATION
River surfing began in the 1920s with primitive rope and board setups that allowed surfers to ride the surface of the water but didnt propel them against the current. Geier has found evidence of similar river coasting setups in Germany in the 1940s and 50s.
Geier built his first river surfboard in 1977 from a sheet of plywood and a length of rope. Today his boards are made of foam and fiberglass, the rope replaced by bungee cords.
In 1985, Geier began making high speed river-surfing systems that used bungee cords for propulsion. Not until 1999 did he think to sell them. By 2003, hed gone into business with a partner, Kevin Veon, the first president and principal investor of the newly formed Banshee Riverboards. Veon helped write the companys business plan and raised $1 million for the company.
Geier says that the company sold about 500 river-surfing kits in five years. But the business was never really profitable, and he and Veon parted in 2008, splitting the company and its patents between Banshee Bungee and Even Surf.
Right now we cant braid a bungee, he says. Banshee owns the patent. That means Geier cant sell boards with the braided bungees, so he provides unbraided ones.
Since the store closed, Geier has paid his bills working as a computer programmer for Ada County. But he hasnt given up on river surfing or Even Surf. Hes looking for angel investors and sponsorships.
Wed love to find a company like Mountain Dew or Monster or Red Bull to send us on a 50-state tour, he says. He also hopes to establish partnerships with local river rafting companies.
The way that we really see this company growing is getting rafting companies to offer surfing lessons, he says, citing as a possibility Cascade Raft and Kayak, which offers lessons in riverboarding, a competing sport.
Geier is trying to revitalize his company by generating interest outside Idaho notably on the American River in Sacramento, Calif. while continuing to offer lessons on the Payette River and hoping for an angel investor to take up his cause.
He also wants to start a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a film about the history of river surfing.
We believe this could be an Olympic event someday, he says.
Harrison Berry: email@example.com