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To become the only aftermarket hardware company that offers an upgrade for every skateboard discipline, you have to do your research. In the case of RipTide Sports, that's exactly what Tracey and Brad Miller have been doing since the brand's inception. What's more, the pair have transformed their small business from a fictitious homework assignment into an iconic skateboard brand with international appeal.

The beginnings of RipTide Sports

are in Santa Barbara in 2010. After a job change that prompted Brad Miller to travel the world, Tracey Miller took on the task of homeschooling her son Jeremy, hoping to follow his father's work for a year. Although that vision didn't materialize, the Millers took advantage of their new flexible schedule after an assignment to create a sample business plan gave them the idea to start a skateboard company. With an idea on paper and the time to put it into action, the family set up a wholesale skateboard business as soon as Brad returned from a trip to New Zealand, and really took off from there.

Although originally focused on reselling, Brad was able to apply his background in industrial design to the skate world when he started longboarding at the ripe old age of 48. Focused on learning to skate and minimizing potential risks, Brad didn't feel safe on the mounts of his drop through board at the time. It wasn't long before he developed a new frame that absorbed the shocks around the mounting hole and became the company's first unique product. Then, while trying to make a wheel on the side, Brad came to the realization while experimenting with different urethanes that he had stumbled upon the perfect blend for making skateboard bushings. In 2012, RipTide Sports launched as its own brand with a range of APS and WFB skateboard bushings.

The magic

behind RipTide's bushings is not hidden in some kind of secret recipe. Instead, it's a widely available industrial urethane blend that has proven to be the right ingredient for skateboard bushings. The hard part, however, was refining this urethane in a low tech environment and taking the time and effort to figure out which steering rubber manufacturing processes worked and which didn't. Beginning a rigorous research and development process, the Millers decided to focus on the standard barrel bushing to create a foundation for what would evolve into an extensive line of different shapes and sizes.

Since the beginning of its development, the RipTide family has been known to work well with other brands. One of the first examples of this came with their early interactions with Surfrodz trucks. Determined to solve the problem of these trucks' irregular bushing seats, they proposed a tapered bushing that had angled sidewalls rather than vertical ones. The result, RipTide's Fat Cone, soon became one of their best-selling bushings as riders everywhere came to appreciate the progressive rather than linear resistance of the shape. The Fat Cone, in addition to the standard Cone, Barrel and Chubby bushings, rounded out RipTide's original lineup for longboarding applications.

In terms of progression in product development, RipTide has always made sure to thoroughly research and listen to what customers want. Whether through an active presence in online enthusiast forums or through community-designed products, the RipTide family has been able to curate an impressive depth to their product offerings through their unwavering commitment to providing an option for skaters of every discipline. One specific example is the latest Tunnel Risers, which are the result of a dedicated e-skate forum and dedicated community support. By routing the wiring of electric skateboards under the trucks, RipTide was able to help educate the more casual demographic of electric skateboarders who might never have considered such improvements to their boards. Brad Miller reminded us that "the smallest parts make the biggest change".

Everything under one roof

While this case is a great example of RipTide's responsiveness to the community, it's a bit of an outlier in terms of how most of their products are designed. Instead, the family prides themselves on making their bushings in the style of a microbrewery. Tracey and Brad are headquartered in their Santa Barbara home and enjoy the pleasure of having their office and research and development lab under one roof. Although production takes place elsewhere, the hill just 25 feet from their front door serves as an optimal proving ground when it comes to testing their formulas. And although having the desks in the same room has been a huge relief for the family business, Brad Miller breathed a sigh of relief, adding, "Thank God we all skate." "And our marriage survived!" Tracey quickly added.

By running such a tight-knit business, the Millers have been able to stay true to their mission statement in a way that countless other companies have not: to be a company they would both love to do business with. In the B2B space, RipTide has been able to accomplish this by positioning itself as an ally to its wholesale partners. By refusing to discount and avoiding promotions that do not serve to build brand awareness, they have been able to meet the expectations of their retail peers to work well with others. On the B2C side, the team has diligently supported initiatives such as sending out demo bushings for larger groups to sample and taking the time to create customized recommendations for any callers looking to replace their gear.

As for the future, RipTide has every intention of finally tackling the wheel project that started their foray into urethane. With the intention of doing so, however, the team has been adamant in the need to develop something radically different for the wheel market before they would ever put their idea into action. Likewise, they are working on ideas for a possible truck version that would cater more to the downhill/luge community. Still, the Millers aren't willing to release anything unless it pushes innovation in a way that allows them to enter the market and not directly interfere with existing collaborations.

Tracey Miller, who has always supported other players in the industry and the skaters who make it up, summed things up by saying. "We have something for everyone. It sounds simple, but whether it's quad roller skates for derby, the e-skate market, little kids or grandparents who want to have a blast on a board, there's something for everyone." (via stoked)

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