With the mountains of British Columbia as their testing grounds, Hightide Mfg founders Akasha Weisgarber, Gabe Langlois and Tyeson Carmody are riding the wave of the “buy local” movement by designing and building boards in Pemberton, B.C. Like many good ideas, the decision to start a snowboard brand was first conceived over a few drinks at a bar.
Long-time friends Akasha and Gabe have been snowboarding for over 20 years, with plenty of experience riding boards in deep snow. Akasha has a degree in Architectural Technology and has been designing boards for a few different brands for the past five years.
“Working for those other brands, I was just a contractor, so I didn’t have a lot of free reign to build the boards I wanted,” he explains. “I had all of the these different shapes in my head and wanted boards to ride a certain way. The only means to achieve that was to build our own press.
“After some drunk talk with Gabe one night at the bar, he ended up calling me on the idea. And that was the beginning.” While Akasha had plenty of experience designing boards on CAD software, building a snowboard press was an entirely different beast. Gabe was able to provide a good location, but sourcing the materials and knowledge to build a press proved somewhat challenging.
“I had all of the these different shapes in my head and wanted boards to ride a certain way. The only means to achieve that was to build our own press.” —Akasha Weisgarber
“I had visited a few snowboard factories, but at the end of the day, a snowboard press is a fairly simple machine: it’s essentially pressure and heat,” says Akasha. “You need to build a steel structure, provide pressure that’s either hydraulic or pneumatic, and have heat. After lots of online research, I got the press up and running, and it worked perfectly the first time I used it.” Like many start-up businesses, the cost of getting up and running proved to be a lot higher than expected. This is where Tyeson steps into the picture. Having been shipped one of the early prototypes, the former pro rider and long-time friend was immediately sold on the product.
“They sent me the prototype of the Hippy Slasher to test, and I told them I loved the board and was keeping it,” he says. “Last spring, they approached me for some capital to invest into their first production run for this winter. I told them I’d be stoked to help out, but I wanted to be involved in the company.”
Hightide Mfg is treating this winter as a soft launch, with their production run just getting up and going this fall. Tyeson realizes the key to being successful is to get people riding the boards, to experience them first-hand.
“That’s our goal for this year: to get our name out there, show people our boards and be a part of the industry.” —Tyeson Carmody
“I want to get a demo fleet going this winter, and tour around to the local hills in B.C. and into Alberta as much as we can. There are a few events throughout the industry on our radar we’d like to have a presence at as well. That’s our goal for this year: to get our name out there, show people our boards and be a part of the industry.”
Starting a snowboard brand in a relatively flat industry wasn’t something Hightide Mfg was very worried about. And competing against the big brands didn’t sway their decision either. They see themselves fitting in right alongside their competitors, filling a niche the corporate brands aren’t able to provide.
“Our customers are snowboarders who want a well-made board for more than just one season,” says Akasha. “They’re the riders who might want to develop a quiver and have a few different boards to ride for different conditions. They would also be the type of snowboarder who has ridden for a number years, knows what a good snowboard is, and is willing to spend at a higher price point than an OEM board made overseas.”