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Teen Entrepreneurs Turn Out to Be a Couple of Smooth Operators : Recreation: Oregon brothers, 14 and 16 years old, concoct sports wax that suits sellers of surfboards, snowboards and skateboards.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Whether it’s snowboards, surfboards or skateboards, wax makes the ride much better.

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Salem brothers Michael and Matthew Middlestetter are building a business on that premise, designing waxes for even smoother rides.

Michael, 16, and Matthew, 14, own Westcoast Extreme Boardworks, a Salem company that manufactures sport waxes.

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The WEB Products line includes snowboard wax for three temperatures, two types of surfboard wax and their top-selling Kurb Wax for skateboarding.

“It’s our most popular product right now,” said Michael, a high school junior.

Since July, they have sold about 200 bars to two Salem stores, Exit Real World and Zero Gravity, and a handful of snowboard, skateboard and surf shops in Northern California and Washington. Prices range from $1.50 to $4 a bar.

A national distributor, Smoothill Sports of San Rafael, Calif., contacted the company this summer and so far has sold about 100 bars.

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“It’s great. There’s only one other competitor that I know of, and the WEB price point is equal to that,” said Carol Colgate of Smoothill.

The Middlestetter brothers formed WEB Products in April. Avid snowboarders, skateboarders and surfers, they wanted to start a business that revolved around their favorite sports.

The snowboarding industry especially has been booming during the past seven years, much of it on the heels of young entrepreneurs such as the WEB founders.

Their first idea, designing snow clothes, had problems from the start. The market was saturated, dominated by such names as Wave Rave, Jaro and West Beach. Plus, neither one of them sewed.

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They looked for a product with less competition and one in which they could improve on what’s already available.

Wax fit the bill.

Their low-tech manufacturing operation uses a gas grill and secondhand cookware in a storage shed in their back yard. They melt and formulate the wax, a mixture of paraffin, STP motor oil, Vaseline, microcrystalline and sometimes graphite, and then add watermelon, mango, apple or coconut scents. The wax hardens in muffin tins and mini loaf pans.

The process has been one of trial and error. The waxes needed to be tested on the mountain, on the sidewalk and in the water, necessitating trips to Mount Hood’s Palmer Glacier and the Oregon and Santa Cruz coasts.

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If snowboard wax is too stiff, it won’t flex with the board and instead will crumble.

“That’s unacceptable,” said Matthew, an eighth-grader at Livingstone Junior Academy in Salem.

Surf wax, on the other hand, needs to be sticky.

The Middlestetters design their labels on their home computer, print them late at night at Kinko’s and package them in bags purchased locally.

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If pressed with a big order, they can process 1,000 bars a week. But they have several cases of inventory ready to go and more WEB waxes in the works.

In the testing stage is a snowboard wax that will take the place of the $14 stomp pads that sit between the two bindings. WEB’s wax works better, at about the tenth of the cost.

“It’s a real exciting product,” Matthew said.

Also coming is a new wax for skateboarding, Black Widow, which fully suspends the graphite to create a smoother surface.

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