NEW BERLIN – As the team at Gilson Snow strive to fill record orders for custom snowboards and skis, the Snyder County manufacturing company is moving closer to a whole new market: wakeboards.
Gilson continues to partner with mechanical engineering professors Craig Beal and Nate Siegel and students Matt Rulon, Ben Snook, and Matt Sennett of Bucknell University through the school’s Small Business Development Center.
Professors and students work with Gilson staff to design, build, and test prototypes. The work takes them from the campus labs and the Gilson store to the waters of the Susquehanna River.
âI had never wakeboarded before. I did a wakeboard that I didn’t do to compare. I picked it up faster than I expected, âsaid Rulon. âDriving our first prototypes versus our prototypes now is a huge difference. “
Gilson makes its snowboards and skis from Pennsylvania poplar. The company turned to the same wood for the wakeboards. An all-wood wakeboard was too heavy, Rulon said, explaining that they spent six months looking for alternatives to make it lighter without compromising strength.
Nick Gilson, who co-founded the company with Austin Royer, said they started with wood to define fluid dynamics.
Wood retains shape memory after being pressed into 3D form and stores âincredible energyâ when flexed, he said.
They switched to a high performance bond of surf foam and poplar, Gilson said, adding that they were exploring organic alternatives such as mushroom-based foams.
âWe came up with a fluid dynamic shape and profile as well as material composition and product engineering.
We believe we can offer an ultra-light, high-quality, USA-made wakeboard, âsaid Gilson.
Beal said the students involved in the project learned what design elements can make a board both light and stiff and where to place certain materials, hiding small features that are barely visible to the user but that significantly contribute to the results. board performance. Finding the right sequence of fiberglass, wood and foam layering was key.
âSince water is liquid, it doesn’t provide as much support to fight against as snow. Our features must have been more exaggerated than on a snowboard. The addition of fins was a big thing that affected the board. Even if you take the fins off, even the flat board is maneuverable because of the features we gave it, âsaid Beal.
The snowboard business at Gilson Snow doubled while the custom ski business quadrupled, Gilson said. This has caused a significant backlog to be managed, he said, and they are appropriately focusing on processing those orders. This is the priority.
But as they go with the product quality and design of a wakeboard, Gilson said they would look to create tools within the workshop to manufacture them at higher volumes.
He anticipates online sales and a retail partnership.
Gilson Snow’s success in snowboards and skis shouldn’t give them the pride that success is guaranteed with wakeboards, Gilson said.
âWe recognize that this is a really different market,â he said. âThe reason we are entering this space is that we have built a phenomenal high quality production line on American soil. The engineering and construction processes are similar. What motivates this is in fact our job.