Triangles, wheels, cylinder = funSkateboarders have long held a place of honor, of sorts, when it comes to disturbing the peace of public places. The railings and ledges found in many public spaces are perfect for stunts. Just the other week, I passed a building superintendent chasing off two skateboarders who were getting their kicks at the expense of the COEX Mall.
But if Kang Sin-gi has his say, EssBoards, his redesign of the traditional skateboard, might soon draw the ire of building supers everywhere. Mr. Kang started redesigning existing products when he was 35. His first creation was an improved radish grater. Since then he has gone on to design other household items and novelty mattresses.
About a year ago, skateboards piqued his curiosity. After a lot of experimentation he came up with something radically different: it looks sort of like two triangles, each resting on a spherical wheel, connected by a cylinder.
The board is made of ABS alloy, a plastic derivative, for a very futuristic look. Two models are available, short and long, in three colors each. The short board is popular for tricks. The long board is faster. A third model is due out next spring.
Mr. Kang applied for a patent with the Korean patent office in May; his application was fasttracked and he got the patent in August. “They liked the design,” he says.
A partnership with the company Decolee has allowed Mr. Kang to start mass-producing boards and safety gear, which EssBoard started selling in September through four retail stores in Korea. Eventually, he hopes to sell the boards abroad.
Shape aside, the board focuses on fitness. Most of the employees at EssBoard say they have whittled inches off their waists testing the boards. Instead of pushing off and going straight, you place a foot on one of the sections. While balancing, push down with the toes of one foot and the heel of the other. A torsion spring tries to pull the two triangles back in place, creating momentum. The board slithers like an “S,” hence the name.
All summer, the company tested the boards at parks along the Han River and in Yangjae-dong. Middle school students dressed in their school uniforms slithered from one place to the other. Mr. Kang says it takes just 10 minutes to learn ― balancing between the two triangles being the key to staying on board.
I tried one out with a bunch of uniformed school kids. “I could lose two kilograms doing this!” one of them said, as he takes off. Ten minutes later, I was still falling off the board. “Who told you it takes 10 minutes? It takes much longer,” another kid said. Eventually I got the hang of it.
An EssBoard club formed on the Internet portal, Daum, almost as soon as the boards hit store shelves. Now there are more than a dozen such clubs.
EssBoard riders range from elementary school students to middle-aged adults. Yoo Hyung-ok, 10, was able to get his hands on a board before they appeared in stores; his mother works for EssBoard. Good thing he got one free; at 184,000 won ($153) they are not cheap. On his first try out, Hyung-ok says, he was pulling tricks experimenting with his newfound toy.
EssBoard is still new enough that the repertoire of tricks is evolving almost daily, mostly inspired by skateboarding and snowboarding. These tricks are shared at EssBoard gatherings or through the Internet clubs.
On a recent afternoon, Hyung-ok is out by Shinsegae Department Store in southern Seoul, riding near the store’s main entrance. He pushes down on one end of the board, lifting the nose and says, “My friends are jealous.”
by Joe Yong-hee