Turning surf knowledge into money.

OK so I'm never going to own a corporation like Qwiky, but like a lot of you I come up with a lot of ideas for boards, books, accessories, gadgets that are surfing related. I can get them to the point where they are ready to make the jump into serious consideration for production but where does a person go with a good idea to make that jump ?

I know its easier and more sensible to just let good ideas lie on the ground and get back to the drone factory but its a dream that everyone has, to step up with a unique idea and make it into something.

Its very altruistic to give the fruit of your labour away for free like Simon Anderson, but how does a member of the rank and file turn a surfing idea into money these days ?

Put a professional proposal together and make a presentation to an appropriate corporation.

Have non-disclosures signed.


I heard a guy approached Kentucky Fried Chicken with a concept that would save the company a lot of money. He made his presentation, they accepted it, and made a lot of money.

How? He suggested using 'KFC' in all their signage and advertising instead of the full name. Simple, but effective.


Go for it.

Another way if you want to runthe show your self is to try and get Angel investors.

This will still require a darn good presentation though.

Either way best of luck to you.

Hey Surffoils,

Just get out and do it.If its plastic gadgets and accessories there are a ton of plastic injection places in any city that wont even ask you what its for all they want are the plans, diagrams etc. If its boards build it. Books, write it and get it published.

Altruistic or "I just dont really know much about this patenting stuff"? after reading Dawkins I'm torn between altruism and genetic sefishness.

There is a thread somewhere on here about patenting etc. Mailing plans to yourself all that sort of stuff.

Remember mate opportunities all look bigger going away.

Good luck


Sorry Wildy, the KFC story you heard is false. The state of Kentucky decided to trademark their state name, meaning it would cost each KFC money to obtain license fees to pay for this. So KFC was used instead. Again sorry, but very few people make money the way you heard. Mostly little guys get used and burned.

Most successful companies will not sign non-disclosures or confidentiality agreements. I know I wouldnt - too risky.

Surffoils, if youre an idea guy, you need to partner with a good sales guy in the industry. Give him/her a part of the profits. Profit is a major motivator for many people, esp sales people.

There are numerous books on the subject of getting products/inventions to market. As you charge into it, always keep the four P's of marketing in mind - its easy to lose sight of the big picture.

Dont sign stupid contracts. A guy who wanted to use my service wanted me to sign one where I would assume financial risk with not much to gain. Some people just assume youll do stupid things. I guess a lot of people do. I have in the past but not anymore.

Thanks Crafty, stories heard are just that, stories. Or 'rumours', like the Al Merrick thing.


Snopes.com verifies that kentucky (tm) story, I'll be damned.   Learn something new every day!


Cool story, crafty.

Everybody seems to have lots of good ideas. The trick is not to just dream stuff up, but take one idea and try to follow through with it all the way to market. Ideas will happen all by themselves forever. Developing the skills needed to make a marketable product is the hard, but neccasary part.

Take Hobie Alter for example. That guy has it down to a science. Idea-prototype-market test-ditributors-production-sales-money in the bank-vacation!

Start with your best idea ever and go from there. It won't happen by becoming "partners" with somebody else (who will take care of all the details), or by asking all your friends or on a forum. It happens by you doing all the footwork and follow through. Even if you fail on the first few attempts, you will gain vast knowlege to help you eventually succeed. I consider myself an "Idea" guy and I've given up many times only to see somebody else continue and go to market and then to the bank.  

One suggestion is to do the numbers first. Meaning, if you dream up some little plastic widget that you can sell for a quarter and there's a thousand guys to buy them in the market, you will stand to bring in $250.00 before expenses. After you do your runnin' around and packaging, etc, how much did you make per hour? Maybe $6.00? So make sure it's worth bothering with. Same with a book or photos or T-shirts or custom cars or skateboards etc. The lower the cost and revenue the more thousands you need to sell. That's why all the cheap little crap things in our life are made in China. Because you can make 40 million of them for 2 cents a piece in China. Also, the market determines what sells, not you. "I bet we could one of these to everybody!" Make a few samples and give them to people (friends) to try. See what happens to your idea in the real world.

The people that usually make it big make a long series of attempts. Some work and some flop. But like Amway, a little money comes in from several different sources if you are lucky.

Back to Hobie on that one, he had surfbaords, Hobie Cats, swimwear, Sailfish, T-shirts, and probably half a dozen other things we didn't know about, all goin' at the same time. He retired in Idaho and still came up with fishing products.All his eggs were not in one basket as they say.




There are many ways to protect surfing related inventions and things which hardly ever seem to be utilized. As a patent attorney myself (that also specializes in other intellectual property), I’m often surprised/shocked how many revolutionary ideas in surfing were never protected (e.g., the thruster setup, bottom configurations, rails shapes, fin shapes, etc.).


Curiously, there is even a relatively new law which arguably would provide protection for surfboard “hull” configurations (i.e., the law was directed towards “vessel” hulls in particular, but could possibly (with emphasis on “possibly”) be utilized for surfboard “hull” designs as well (realizing that not all surfboards have “hull” configurations - depending, of course, on what definition of hull you are using). This would be in addition to normal patent protections of either the design or utility type. And, with the new classifcation of SUPs as vessels (in CA anyway), unique SUP hull configurations could almost certainly be protected in this way (and rather inexpensively at that - this is all relative, of course). (not that I like SUPs - no offense anyone - but, they drive me crazy)


Anyway - one of the most important things (in my experience) is not to trust anyone where a potentially valuable innovation is involved (not even manufacturers - they rip people off all the time and are very well suited/positioned to do it - they have your design AND the equipment to make it). Therefore, always use contracts and don’t sign anything you don’t understand (people make this mistake ALL the time).


Given that Swaylocks has provided me with much useful information over the years (although I have only maybe posted once - now twice), I’m certainly willing to give a little back in terms of this type of information if anyone has more specific questions.







wanna turn surf knowledge into money? write a book, make a movie, sing a song… all the guys that do that seem to do a whole lot better than board builders…



Matt, I thank you for your post, Ive gone down the 'IP and patent' road several times, twice on my own and once with the Australian government who chose to patent a medical invention of mine. In each case it was a very long and winding road of applications, reviews,meetings and objections but the bottom line is that formal legal protection is very expensive. Its not only the cost of establishing and securing a patent (nationally or internationally) but the cost of defending it when and if its allegedly infringed. And several companies dont recognise patents at all.

 Informal protection in the form of Non disclosure forms/agreements is cheap to establish but similarly expensive to defend if a company chooses to dishonour the agreement. In my experience, one manufacturer wouldnt sign but wanted to see what I had ( he said he wouldnt sign just in case they were already developing an identical product. Yeah sure..)

The other company signed, made the product, accepted full payment and never gave me a cent. So a signed agreement is poor protection. And understandably, why would a company start sharing their income if they are currently making easy money without you ?

As for the inventions themselves Ive recognised that any hand made goods are poor profit unless theyre extremely high priced. Staff can be a joy or a miserable curse and thats just because of all the government paperwork, so the less man-hours it takes to make something , the better and cheaper. Thus anything that is injection moulded or similar method, is likely to be the best money spinner because its so quick. Get a mould made and then you can pop out 10 000 widgets. But the moulds can cost $5 000- $30 000 for each part  before you even start production, so something smaller is better. Cheaper overseas too but more chance of misunderstandings/ inaccuracies.

 Both entity and mule have identified plastic as the most profitable material and I too agree that a million bits of inert plastic have more profit attached to them than a hundred boards made with love and soul. Its a great pity but its business reality.

So it seems the bottom line to making a profit is to make it plastic, small and make it overseas. Fins, fin systems, grip pads, eyewear, CD's, accessories, that sort of thing.

 My questions to Matt are,

  Does an inventor need an agreement with a contract manufacturer regarding IP ?

 Knowing that without a patent theres no protection for the product but what sort of other legal steps should be taken to protect a business? eg business name registration ?

 What sort of business type has the lowest liability ?

Should the inventor get liability insurance or is it the actual overseas manufacturers responsibility ?

 Any help is most grateful.



Surfoils -

A quick answer:

Obtaining utility patent protection can be relatively expensive (usually anywhere between $6k if you’re lucky and $20k on the higher end for inventions of the type that might be discussed on this board - this would include fees to the patent office and attorney fees). Design patent protection is significantly cheaper and definitely easier to obtain. Vessel design protection should be quite inexpensive relative to patents - somewhat in line with design patents. Whatever you do, NEVER use an invention submission corporation. They will rip you off (and it may be years before you realize it). Check the USPTO website - it usually has a list of the crooked companies (that said, they change their names relatively frequently because of this).

Contracts are generally inexpensive to put in place, but - true - some companies will/do outright refuse to sign them (others, of course, will sign).Enforcing patents is typically very expensive, but if you have a strong patent and there is a high volume of infringement, a firm might actually litigate your case on a contingency fee basis (if the prospect of a decent monetary return is there). Enforcing contracts is inexpensive relative to enforcing patents, but still not what most would consider cheap.

Enforcement costs/amounts aside, the fact remains that the only way to legally protect yourself is either use of contracts or use of intellectual property. Will you possibly have to pay to enforce? Yes, but that’s true of any property right. For example, if someone refuses to leave your rental after an eviction (for not paying rent, for example), you might have to go to court. That’s just the reality of the American legal system. Conversely, if you have no legal rights, competitors can and will copy you if it makes business sense to do so (even if they are intially working for you) - and, they will (likely) be doing so legally. This leads to contract manufacturers - yes, they can and do rip people off. Therefore, it is typically recommended to have appropriate contracts in place both to protect your intellectual property and any improvements that might be developed as a result of their contract work for “you” as well as to put in place - if possible - some sort of non-compete and/or non-disclosure agreement, as appropriate. I can’t emphasize enough that if you don’t do this, you run a high risk of being ripped off. I see people rely on trust in these scenarios all the time, and - probably more often than not - use of trust is met with regret (people unlawfully apply for patents for customers’ inventions, or simply start producing your product for their own sales on the side).

In terms of business names and the like, one way to go is a federal trademark registration for protection - fairly cheap to get, and definitely worth it in the long run (if you ever expect consumer confusion or passing off to be an issue in your business).

In short - there are companies which will respect your rights (contract, IP, or otherwise) without requiring you to sue them - these are the companies that might actually pay you on a per unit basis for a license to your IP (or, at least just not outright copy you without legal authority). And, then of course there are others which will not. A lot more can be said/explained about this, but I’m short on time at the moment.

 As to liability issues - can’t help you there - not my field.

Hope that helps at least a little.




Matt, thanks very much for all the info. I'm in Australia so laws are different but the people behave the same. I was hoping there were other avenues like groups that offer venture capital or  maybe something else I hadnt heard of.

People do invest but usually only if you have pending or issued intellectual property rights (such as patents).

Yes its quite hard to avoid the sense behind a good patent, its just the expense and time, none of my patents took less than 3 years before I was allowed to attempt/ continue commercialisation.

 I think the theory behind patents is that people would honour someone elses rights and hard work but countries like Taiwan refuse to and they openly copy products and flood the market. Which all makes patenting appear a bit impotent, especially for very small businesses. Fine if you are a multi-national corp. and have the financial clout to haul companies before court and suffer the financial burden as the cases progress but not really suitable for individuals who just want to get on with their lives.

 I did defend one patent of mine against a local board maker and after initial calls to amicably resolve the issue and then many expensive attorneys letters back and forth, the most I could hope to gain was a clapped out 1974 VW Kombi.

Which in hindsight I would like to own. But the exercise was expensive and came to nought.

 Certainly if I can grow a business to a position where IP protection is financially palateable I would.

I work and live in china, the land of copywrite infringments,

I would suggest whatever you make to mainly patent the name and promote the name. (of your item)

Have it clearly marked on every part of it and make the name itself the thing your selling …


I figure this is the best way to make moeny for as long as you can ,

My reasons are, Nearly every patent is usless if you can change the item by 10%

which is very easy to do, Very very easy if you ask me.

And it will happen, everyone does it, in every country, in every industry, they just change it a little, or add somthing … and its theirs
(no offence, but chances are your changing or adding something to an existing product)


But a name, is more difficult to rip off

  Anyone can make a Chicken Hamburger and sell it , But you cannot write KFC on the wrapper.

or grab a plant of wood and a piece of pipe and make a juggelers balance board thingy,
But shape it like a shortboard, spray some hexagons on it and call it the Quick-Slater-Surf-trainer and you may have something.

its the name that sells , not the product,  Especially in the surfing industry.

Just as an example, I saw these balance boards that come in lots of different shapes but none of them actually replicate the movements of surfing.









I think they really are a great idea because time spent surfing on each real wave usually lasts about 3-8 secs leaving very little time to work on co-ordination or muscle memory. So anything that increases the time to develop balance and co-ordination is great.

 Skateboarding is about as close to the surfing technique but these balance boards are good for indoor practice at any time, you could use them for serious training or while watching a surf vid or just sitting at a desk, so they are something that has a surfing market.

 However after having done some Googling, none I can find are specifically designed for surfing, and only surfing.

 Some of the most popular ones also appear downright dangerous with some of their own promotional videos showing kids getting flogged when they fall off and other riders doing kick-flips and copping the end of the board in the testicles. Prices vary up to $349 US with most over $100.

So theres enough balance products already out there to suggest that there is a sizeable market for this style of product, but a new product might need to address a different set of criteria-

 a/.specifically designed for surfing
 b/. safe

c/. affordable.

So is this a suitable opportunity to turn surfing and construction knowledge into an income ? 


Inspired by this thread, I went to the beach after work yesterday and tried selling what I knew to the crowd roasting away. Few takers at first, but then a large women (not that she was tall) offered me half of a baloney sandwich and a hand full of Cheetos for my knowledge.

About two minutes into my lecture, she offered me the other half (which she had already taken few bites of) to stop. I declined the offering, and went on my way. I believe she finished the sandwich.

Not a bad deal. That was a weekday, and after 5 PM too!

This weekend looks promising... we may even get waves...visual aids always add value.



There is a surf specific balance trainer out there - the name escapes me, but I have definitely seen it. It looks a bit like the Indo boards but has a more surfing specifc focus.

Mattp, if you remember the name please post it here. Ive been looking for something that would replicate the independent up/down movement of a surfers feet and knees when riding to promote the unique muscle memory. But if someone else already has a really good product....

 Ive got a prototype in the wings but I have to customise it so it can be made in plastic either by injection moulding, thermo forming or vacuum forming.