By Chris Kane
In 1998, when I was 12, I decided I was going to find a way to practice some “gravity defying” tricks on my snowboard and wakeboard during the off-seasons.
Unfortunately, there was nothing available anywhere that would let me safely do this. I noticed that some of my friends would take the wheels off their skateboards so they could practice their moves on a trampoline.
Because this practice was potentially dangerous to the user as well as hazardous to a trampoline, my mom wouldn’t let me even try this.
With this in mind I decided to make something that she would let me practice with. It had to be safe to both the user and the trampoline, could withstand repeated use and would allow me to simulate and train for extreme board sport tricks.
I set out to make my first prototype, fashioned out of carpet, but it just didn’t perform the way that I had envisioned. So I began developing several prototypes until I found one that met all my expectations.
My final design was made from special foam that was firm enough to simulate a snowboard or wakeboard but soft enough that it didn’t damage the trampoline. One embodiment of the invention that I finally came up with is what is now known as the BounceBoard.
Bound by secrecy agreements, I had some friends help me test these prototypes. A neighbor recommended a manufacturer, an inventor friend mentored me, a high school teacher encouraged me and my parents supported and helped me throughout the process.
Even though my padded footboard took several years to fully develop, I discovered that this was only the beginning. In 2002, I formed a company with my parents called Kane Technologies. I then trademarked the BounceBoard name and applied for a patent. While working through the lengthy patent process, I developed a commercial version of the BounceBoard with North Shore Inc. (NSI), a sporting goods company based in Hood River, Ore.
The next hurdle was how to make my product known to other “sport board” enthusiasts. I displayed my product at tradeshows in Boise, appeared on local TV demonstrating and promoting my invention, and answered a casting call for Everyday Editions in Chicago, where my invention made it through round one.
The BounceBoard’s first year (2003) enjoyed sales of $3,100 and since then this figure has grown to six figures. The BounceBoard currently is sold worldwide through retailers including JumpSport, FunSpot, JumpKing, Walmart online and Amazon. It has been used by students in the University of Oregon’s Aerial Maneuvers class and it is currently used at Woodward snowboard training facilities in Colorado, California and Pennsylvania.
Finally in July this year, after many patent attorney meetings and considerable correspondence and submissions to argue my patent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, I was formally awarded a patent for the art and engineering of a flexible footboard for jumping (patent number 7,748,722).
Editor’s note: This article appears in the October 2010 print edition.