By Sherri Cruz
Orange County Business Journal
It’s called a casterboard.
It looks like a skateboard except it has two caster wheels that provide a ride that’s more like surfing.
A South Korean inventor came up with the Wave casterboard. A Laguna Beach-based father-and-son team—Mark and Jasun Weiner—took the board to market. Their company is based in Newport Beach.
In the early 2000s, the Weiners attended a convention for inventors in Pennsylvania. At the time, Mark Weiner had a small patent company that matched inventors with manufacturers.
Jasun Weiner said his father saw a girl who looked like she was floating across the floor.
“He turned around and said: ‘That’s what we came here for,’” he recalled.
They visited the booth and found a South Korean inventor looking for a partner. The selling point: the Wave’s two-piece plastic deck, which helps riders maintain momentum on land while twisting and maneuvering the way a surfer does on water.
The Weiners acquired the patent for the U.S. and in Europe and founded Street Surfing LLC in Newport Beach in 2005.
Jasun Weiner is president and handles daily operations. His father is chief executive and has a hand in a bit of everything, with a focus on product development.
Brother Jeremy Weiner and sister Dawne Yusi also work at the company, which employs another 20 or so people.
Among Street Surfing’s rivals: Cerritos-based Razor USA LLC, which is known for scooters and also makes the RipStik casterboard. Britain’s Adventure Concepts Ltd. makes the similar Exboard.
Casterboards don’t compete with skateboards because casterboarding is a different activity, according to sporting goods store managers.
Riders can do some of the same tricks as skateboarders but also have their own.
Street Surfing’s boards sell at most sporting goods stores, including Big Five Sporting Goods and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
They’re also sold by Amazon.com Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Sears Holdings Corp.’s Kmart, Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. and Target Corp.
An original Wave board goes for about $80. The company sells a scooter called the Whiplash, which goes for about $50.
Street Surfing doesn’t disclose sales. It will double sales this year, according to Jasun Weiner. The Business Journal estimates Street Surfing has $15 million to $20 million in yearly sales.
The bulk of sales come from Europe, according to Jasun Weiner.
Street Surfing started selling in Europe two years after the Wave debuted in the U.S. The board has a higher profit in Europe thanks to exclusive rights. The company pays a licensing fee in the U.S. because it shares rights here, Jasun Weiner said.
Also helping in Europe is the Southern California cachet the Wave carries.
“People in Europe love the California lifestyle,” he said.
Street Surfing’s tagline capitalizes on the attitude: “Born in California, ridden everywhere.”
The company’s European office is in Portugal near a popular surfing spot called Coxos. Australia’s Billabong International Ltd., which has its U.S. headquarters in Irvine, is Street Surfing’s neighbor in Portugal.
Street Surfing tweaks its products to sell in 35 different countries.
Jasun Weiner speaks French, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish and spends a lot of his time traveling and learning how to adjust the boards to appeal to various markets.
He said his ability to speak local languages is an advantage when doing business.
“If I go to Spain and start out speaking Spanish, they really respect that,” he said.
In Europe, Street Surfing has come out with a line of clothing, shoes, backpacks, belts, wallets and other items.
“The buyers are willing to buy other categories of our brand,” Jasun Weiner said.
If clothes and shoes do well in Europe, Street Surfing plans to bring the line to the U.S.
The company makes its boards in China and its clothing and other gear are made in Asia and Europe.
In the U.S., Street Surfing distributes its own products to stores. In Europe, it uses a contractor.
To promote the brand and casterboarding, the company recently built an S-shaped ramp that it takes to large events such as concerts or festivals in Europe.
The ramp is shaped like the company logo, which is also shaved on the side of Jasun Weiner’s head.
“I don’t usually have a shaved head,” he said.
Jasun Weiner got the close cut to promote the traveling ramp, which squeezes into a 53-foot trailer. The ramp is 10 feet high and takes about 16 hours to assemble.
Unlike the skateboarding industry, Street Surfing’s marketing tack is more kid and mom friendly.
In all of its TV spots and marketing brochures, children are pictured wearing helmets.
The company is coming out with a more traditional skateboard, the Wave Pro, which has four wheels and a wooden deck instead of a plastic one.
It’s working with an Australian company on a variation of a skateboard truck.
“It’s almost like giving a skateboarder a suspension,” Jasun Weiner said. “It’s a really fluid experience.”
A new scooter also is in the works.
“Kids don’t want the same scooter year after year,” Jasun Weiner said. “They want something new and creative.”
The company intends to grow by developing new products, he said.