Dave, you just returned from a week in Southern California, pretty much launching a new headwear and apparel company called Heart Beat Faster, working to raise money for homeless youth at the Switchfoot Bro Am. You want this brand to reflect on Heart, on the passion to go and to be, and you've shown that this company is active in that ideology. How does this feel to be a for-profit company that has this much of a giving initiative?
It never ceases to amaze me how a few generous and ambitious people can influence an unbelievable amount of people. It blows my mind how hard work, stepping out of your comfort zone, taking risks, giving of yourself, giving of your time, and giving of your money can change the lives of others almost as much as it can change your own in the process. As a tiny new headwear and apparel brand founded with an old school DIY work ethic and a big heart (pun intended...), I've really pushed hard to not only represent the heart physically, but also to be heart — mentally, emotionally and spiritually. After our weekend working at the to raise nearly $6,000 for the Switchfoot Foundation (and yes, that is a lot for this peanut butter and jelly budget), I can tell you I've seen the difference this makes with my own eyes. It is a gift that keeps on giving.
You've created hand made hollow wood surfboards as a representation of the sports history and subtly your brands hats carry a real wood surfboard shaped label. This was even the initial connection with the band that led to donating a board at last years Bro Am. That went well and you got another chance to come back and expand on the opportunity. What was different about the build and donation for this years 10th Annual Switchfoot Bro Am Auction Soiree'?
It was a pleasure to come back for the second year and donate another hand-made hollow wood surfboard for the Switchfoot Bro Am Foundation. Not only did the board turn out better than I could have hoped, in both quality and in money raised, but Switchfoot front man, Jon Foreman, was able to dig in to the build design as well. Jon is mostly known for his humble front man talent and persona, but his talent on a surfboard is also respected. Having hand crafted a number of foam and wood surfboards himself, he knows the intricacies of a quality build in performance and aesthetics. He knows the art of the craft down to the blood, sweat and mess that are part of it. So when I prodded him last April for his preference on this years’ auction donation build, the length, shape, fin box and look came out almost as easily as the lyrics he just sang. The passion for this sport is engrained in the man. He knows the history, techniques and style. And at that particular moment, he even knew who was currently leading at the Bells stop of the ASP tour.
Hand made hollow wood surfboards can take well over 100 hours to build. What is the process like?
To build a hollow wood surfboard is truly a work of art. It’s comparable to a painting or sculpture, except before you can start you have to build your tools, pallet and paint brush. It is a fully committed and involved project from start to finish. You have to know the finished look and shape before you start an order to build the frame and prepare the wood (over 100 individual pieces) for the top, bottom, rails, nose and tail. You have to know exactly what fin box will be used so you can prep the inside of the frame. Unlike foam boards, these boards have air and hollow chambers inside — you have to know how to combat potential moisture, air expansion/contraction and the potential escape. At the end of all of that, the fiberglass coating can bring out and highlight any imperfection. This whole process comes down to your experience, tools, process knowledge and a little luck. If all goes well, you end up with a ridiculous art piece that doubles as a wave catching machine.
And lady luck was on your side?
Fortunately, the 6'10" mirror image knotty redwood board finished beautifully. It was the top seller in the silent auction portion of the evening, raising $3,200, all benefiting organizations that pay it forward. The best part is knowing the money is invested in people and opportunities, and that as these lives are often changed they, in turn, reinvest into more lives. This is really the heart of our giving initiative — knowing that a percentage of proceeds donated can make a huge difference is so awesome! Each person that has purchased something HB became a part of this whether they knew it or not.
Is it strange to be based in Utah and working alongside surfing legends in Southern California?
From a distance, this whole headwear brand based in Utah that donates a hand made hollow wood surfboard to raise money might seem weird, especially since I spend a lot more time on a bike or skis. Fortunately, the few intricate builds a year I do are enough of a rarity that they have made some waves, so to speak. People have started taking notice of this venture born in the mountains but tied to the oceans because, if you look close, there are more ties between the two than one might expect. These classic wood boards represent a direct tie to that innocent joy of adventure — they directly tie to the heart of it all, if you will. They represent where the action sport scene started. Our products represent this, as well. In the end, it really doesn't matter if you're on a bike, skis, surfboard, out for a run or doing what you love, the passion is still the same.
The auction night is a huge part of the fund raising but a small part of the Bro Am event. What is your tie into the surf competition and concert on the beach that particular Saturday in Encinitas, CA?
Action sports and music were a strong influence in the building of this company, so Saturday's Bro Am featuring the Bro Junior Team Surf competition and an afternoon of music on the beach was an absolute blast to be a part of. This year, for the first major team event in our short history, we were an official sponsor and opened a vendor booth on the beach to share our story, hear others’ and sell our completely revamped product to the attendees. It was so great to meet those who had followed us from the beginning and those who had never heard of us before. I'll try to be humble about it, but we had a rad booth! You have to stand out as a new guy, and it was fun to capture attention with the unique wood apparel decor and social media push. The Instagram photo booth was a hit for passer by traffic and even for Chad Butler (Switchfoot's drummer).
You mostly run this operation by yourself but to pull off an event like this it takes a crew. Who were your side kicks for the weekend?
It was a highlight having a team assemble from the corners of the USA to make this happen. Photographers flew in from Seattle, film professionals and coordinators flew from New York City, and I hobbled in from Utah with vehicle issues and blown tires. My brother rallied down from Burbank, CA, and a wonderful relative opened her home for all of us to crash at. Event coordinators Mia and Kip and, of course, the band were all influential and unique pieces to the puzzle. These individuals completely made the trip come together. I feel indebted forever for their help! The efforts made by each person will last far beyond this weekend.
Sounds like other than the travel delays everything was easy and smooth?
I'll be open about the trip as a hindsight evaluation... it was difficult. A disadvantage of traveling 800 miles to the event has its own set of limitations. You have to prepare every last detail of the trip well beforehand: every piece of product, every detail of the vendor booth, week-longs schedules for six people and travel plans for all. Every dollar has to be pre-made, pre-spent. Each of these details might not be that big of a deal individually, but collectively it was a stressful couple months leading up to this. Any mistake or bump in the road was felt and, the Lord knows I made mistakes and hit the bumps.
What was the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge came two months prior with the late news of my leading product material source closing its doors. Two years of development flew out the window unexpectedly. Everything changes when your main product source disappears, like: size, fit, color, quality, pricing, time to produce, time to ship... This really just scratches the surface of the whole dilemma. I had 60 days to recreate the signature products, as well as expand, improve upon the whole product line and prevent this from happening again. Oh yeah, since I don't receive a paycheck from this business yet, I work to pay my bills too. Days were extremely long, sleep and adventure were sacrificed, fellowship postponed; faith and friendships were all tested. Fortunately, things worked out and the HB stands stronger because of it.
It must take a level of faith and commitment to work those hours virtually for free. Now that this event is over and life is back to "normal", what are your thoughts on the young life that is Heart Beat Faster and is the time, effort and money invested worth it?
If you're doing something you love, it doesn't feel like work. The work we accomplished in Southern California is top notch. I'm learning and improving daily and working with a lot of cool people. Someday, this insane adventure venture will pay off in my personal finances. However I'll accept the joy of building something I can believe in as reimbursement for now. If it were not a product of passion, a source of hope and joy for so many, I guarantee I would have already hung it up. I understand it could fail on paper as a business... that is a risk I knew when stepping out in the first place. But I also know the level of regret I would have if I didn't go for it. The good it has done for others is incredible, and that alone isn't a failure. I look forward to giving this brand and life everything I've got and hope to inspire others to take a chance along the way. It should make for a wild ride.