Monday, November 20, 2017

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Riptide Electric Skateboard Riptide Electric Skateboard
 


Aztec Made: Riptide

SDSU student Eric Birkemeier is making waves as an entrepreneur in the skating world.
By Ryan Schuler
 

“After I graduate, I want to stick around and help SDSU students like so many people have helped me.”

Widely considered the action sports epicenter of the world, San Diego is home to some of the best athletes in the field, including skateboarder Tony Hawk, snowboarder Shaun White and surfer Rob Machado. The action sports llifestyle continues to attract young enthusiasts to San Diego, even from as far away as Minnesota, where Eric Birkemeier grew up.

An avid skateboarder and snowboarder since his youth, Birkemeier looked for a way to move to Southern California. So when it came time for college, he applied only to San Diego-area universities—without his parents’ knowledge. After the initial shock, Birkemeier’s parents gave him their blessing to follow his dream.

“To me, Southern California was always the mecca of action sports,” said Birkemeier, currently a senior at San Diego State University. “My parents saw that it was my dream to be here, and they supported it. I always knew I wanted to go to SDSU. I put a photo of the SDSU campus on my phone wallpaper, on my computer screen, and I even hung a poster in my room. Every day, I had constant reminders that I needed to do whatever it took to go to SDSU.”

As a freshman, Birkemeier joined the Entrepreneur Society, participating in a pitchfest at his first meeting. With an entrepreneurial mindset and a passion for skating, he noticed a poster for ShredLights on the wall and immediately contacted founder Drew Page to get involved. ShredLights, a company that produces headlights and taillights from skateboards, was one of the first successful companies to come out of the Zahn Center, now SDSU’s Zahn Innovation Platform (ZIP) Launchpad.

Four years later, Birkemeier now co-owns ShredLights with Kyle Kitzmiller, who leads the product design and manufacturing side of the company. Kitzmiller is currently the H.G. Fenton Company Idea Lab Manager in the ZIP Launchpad.

Through his participation with the ZIP Launchpad, Birkemeier was tapped to apply for the Lavin Entrepreneurship Program, one of many initiatives directed by SDSU’s award-winning Lavin Entrepreneurship Center.

“The Lavin program is one of the best things I’ve done at SDSU,” Birkemeier said. “I had a great mentor, Mark Schmid, and met some amazing people who have been very influential with ShredLights. I still keep in touch and bounce ideas off classmates who were in the program with me and also have profitable businesses.”

Changing direction

ShredLights proved to be a popular accessory for electric skateboarders. Having never used an electric skateboard, Birkemeier decided to give it a try earlier this year and a whole new world opened up.

While he enjoyed riding electric skateboards, he also saw the opportunity to improve current boards on the market.

“Electric skateboards are very large, so it’s hard to carry them around campus and changing direction is nearly impossible,” Birkemeier said. “I wanted to make something cheaper with a smaller deck and a kicktail.”

Thus Riptide was born.
Riptide Electric Skateboard
Riptide Electric Skateboard


Challenges and triumphs

Instead of redesigning a custom electric skateboard from scratch, Birkemeier utilized proven parts used by other brands while adding his own personal touch.

“I was able to find some middle ground,” Birkemeier said. “I needed to find quality parts that had a good track record and are able to be mass produced right now with an added custom touch.”

Six months after first diving into the world of electric skateboards, he had his final prototype.

Birkemeier launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo with the goal of raising $50,000. The campaign sped past that goal to a current total of more than $170,000 with orders exceeding 260 electric skateboards. Most include ShredLights headlights and taillights.

Currently, Birkemeier is in the process of finalizing packaging to prepare for the product's January 2018 release.

As an entrepreneur, Birkemeier doesn’t forget the support SDSU has offered him. One day, he hopes to give back to the next generation of student entrepreneurs at SDSU.

“I learned so much from the Lavin Center and Zahn Center,” said Birkemeier. “Still today, the professors I’ve had, alumni and all the people I’ve met through Lavin and Zahn check in and want to help me out as much as possible. After I graduate, I want to stick around and help SDSU students the way so many people have helped me.”