Surf’s up in Minden | nnbw.com
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Surf’s up in Minden

Rob Sabo

Increased orders for surfboards, and a new line of lightweight paddleboards, has the owner of Aviso surfboards in Minden eyeing profits for the first time in 2010.

Aviso manufactures 100-percent carbon-fiber surf and paddleboards at its 16,000-square-foot facility on Airport Road in Minden. The six-year-old company recently added racing and touring stand-up paddleboards to its line of custom surfboards, and a flood of new orders comes as a relief to owner John Omohundro.

“2010 has just been a rough ride for us,” Omohundro says. “As of three weeks ago my backlog quadrupled, and now I have a couple hundred grand of boards I need to deliver which is quite a bit for me. And I am looking at another couple hundred grand in potential orders.

“The last three weeks I have gotten a breath of air and taken in quite a bit of money. This could be a profitable month, but it would be the first one in 2010.”

Aviso has been profitable in the past in 2009 the company was in the black for about half the year. Projections are the same for this year based on the recent increase in orders and expanded product line, Omohundro says.

Omohundro has two other businesses housed at the Airport Road facility: One makes lightweight carbon tubes to roll up the large front sails on cruising yachts; the other makes carbon-fiber medical instruments, such as retractors used in joint surgeries. Profits from those two product lines far outweigh losses from surfboard production.

Omohundro, 36, began making surfboards in 2004. He had shaped his own boards as a kid growing up in Newport Beach, Calif. His father owned the company that made the sailing tubes, and he segued into surfboard production in 2004 after making a carbon-fiber surfboard for a professional surfer from California.

Aviso, which means “Warning” in Spanish, employs 14, down from its peak of 25 employees.

Custom surfboards are a fairly saturated market but not for boards made from carbon fiber, and especially not in Minden. Despite being hundreds of miles from the ocean, Omohundro says he’s glad his business is located in Douglas County because he doesn’t have to worry about competitors siphoning his technology.

“Delivery is the one downside, but the upside is there is no one here who surfs who cares about what I am doing to come in here and steal my technology,” he says. “I am way off the beaten path. My technology is not just leaking out of here like it would if I was 10 miles from the beach.”

Omohundro says carbon-fiber surfboards are lighter and more durable than standard foam and fiberglass surfboards but they also are double the price of standard surfboards. That means recreational surfers usually don’t purchase them.

Currently the boards are made in molds, but Aviso is expanding its product line by using carbon-wrapped foam cores so that it can offer a wider range of shapes and designs.

Omohundro is racing to build the Aviso brand of surf and paddleboards before other surfboard manufacturers take interest in the technology (Most production surfboards are manufactured overseas).

He’s overcome a lack of big marketing budget by partnering with distributors who push Aviso surfboards.

“I am competing against China,” he says. “I have a competitive advantage; no one can build boards this light.”

Aviso began making paddleboards this year, and Omohundro think his company can make significant inroads into that market due to the lower weight of carbon-fiber boards versus foam-core technologies. Aviso’s 12-foot, 6-inch paddleboard weighs just 14 pounds.