Super Natural Splitboardz - We were featured in the Whistler Pique News Magazine, a really great article showcasing what the sea to sky corridor has to offer from artisan ski and snowboard builders. We were included in both parts of his article and would like to thank him for the great writing. Thanks Tobias.
Slicing it up, Supernatural Style
Brad Bethune shares his garage space in Pemberton with ski maker Greg Funk, where the two swap ideas and tools across their plastic-divided double carport. Hailing from Kingston, Ontario, Brad has been doing his thing in Whistler since 1998. Today he splits snowboards into two, making splitboards; as far as he knows, he might be the only commercial board-splitter in Canada.
The procedure is simple enough, at least for the customer. You send him your board; he'll slice it lengthwise, seal the cut edges with spar-urethane, drill-press the thirty-four holes for the uphill and downhill stances, epoxy the inserts and plug the bases, attach the binding plate and the latch kit, and provide pre-cut skins, all for 470 bucks — which is much cheaper than the full retail version, which costs $1,800 (though including a new splitboard). Snowboard touring bindings (such as the Sparks) and upgrades (such as Karakoram clips) are also available at additional cost.
Splitting old boards has proven to be a smart business model. "While working at Evolution, on my lunch, I went on to GoDaddy and bought splitboardz.com for like 15 bucks," says Brad, who says that Jeanine, Evolution's owner, "has been extremely supportive" and "super helpful in understanding the retail side of the business." But as a shop worker, Brad saw, in classic Hegelian style, the writing on the wall before the master capitalists.
"Two to three years ago the splitboard thing began showing up on a retail level," says Brad, "which made me notice it. Without the retail experience I had, I would never have identified the need for splitboarding." So he figured out how to split old boards, set-up accounts with suppliers, and got his gear together. "The need for it now is insane," he says, with emails and calls incoming daily for his splitboard services.
"Right from the very first year, it was popular. I had calls even though I didn't advertise, I didn't have a webpage, I had no social media, but through Evolution and the 'shopkids community', everybody just found out," Brad says, gesturing at a half a dozen completed boards. "Everybody wanted a splitboard, but nobody wanted to pay off-the-shelf (prices). So I've been cutting boards for three years now."
While the income remains supplemental — Brad runs Super Natural Landscapes as his main business — the demand is growing like B.C. weeds. He's looking at upgrading his services to install metal edges on cut boards, "making it closer to off-the-shelf," he says. With the website and the Facebook page, he's now seeing widespread interest from across Canada and the U.S. And his prices are, perhaps, even too reasonable; if you come to Brad with your own kit, he'll split your board for $150.
"If I'm working for an hourly wage," says Brad, "then I'm not doing that well. It probably takes me about 10 hours start to finish, but it has to be over a three-day period, because epoxies and urethanes all need to dry and have several coats."
Like other makers in the Sea to Sky, Brad is now looking at expanding his business, weighing the options of a shared space for smaller makers to stimulate their sales and share associated costs.