Board maker riding wave of success

What started as a board designed to teach Peter Hamborg's children how to surf on land has turned into a hefty business for the Huntington Beach man after an appearance on the TV show "Shark Tank."

The 53-year-old Orange County Fire Authority firefighter created the surfboard-shaped object more than a dozen years ago using skateboard trucks — metal axles that hold the wheels, allowing the rider to turn the board when weight is applied to one side — and eventually called it the Hamboard.

What started as a bonding experience with his five sons has flourished into an international business. Things really took off after Hamborg and family members appeared in October on the ABC reality show — during which aspiring entrepreneurs seek investments from well-known business people.

"We were happy if we were selling one to two boards a day consistently. That would turn into a $200,000-a-year company for us," said Hamborg, who has been hand-crafting his product for the masses since 2006. "Now after 'Shark Tank,' we're selling 20 to 30 boards a day. We're blowing through our inventory that we had just built up."

The taping of the episode took place in July, allowing Hamborg, his family and staff to brace themselves for a bump in sales with the airing three months later.

"We burned the midnight oil and made our boards," Hamborg said. "Our boards are hand-crafted. Each one is signed and numbered, so a lot goes into them. That was our focus all through the summer."

Looking for a way to grow Hamboards, Hamborg, joined by his cousin Donny Sandusky and oldest son, Gus, 25, asked the show's "sharks," or investors, for $100,000 in exchange for a 15% share of the company.

After negotiating with investor Robert Herjavec, Hamborg ended up leaving the show with $300,000 and a new business partner for 30% of the company.

"It was a great win because we knew we actually needed more money than what we were asking for," Hamborg said. "One of the rules on 'Shark Tank' is you can never get less money than what you were asking for. You can only get more…. We would have actually been happy at $100,000 for 15%, but to get $300,000 for a graduated percentage that actually valued our company more was really gratifying."

The company comes from humble beginnings.

In the late 1990s, Hamborg started fiddling around with a prototype that had the looks but didn't quite live up to what he was aiming for.

He said it didn't turn very well and didn't offer a true surfing experience. A fluke accident — his wife, Kathy, ran over the board in the family car — yielded surprisingly positive results.

"We think it's wrecked, but one the kids hops on it and goes, 'Whoa, dad! This one really feels amazing now!'" Hamborg said.

Upon further inspection, the family found that the trucks had been pushed past the board's limiter system, giving it a greater turning radius.

Hamborg eventually mastered reproducing the trucks and began constructing the boards for his sons. But as neighbors, friends and others in the Huntington Beach community discovered what he had created, the family invention evolved from a surfboard on training wheels for his groms into a business opportunity.

"I remember him saying, 'Kathy, it's coming to a point where either I have to start telling people that I can't make this for them or I have to start a little business,'" Kathy Hamborg said.

In 2010, he moved the business from his garage to a building in an industrial park behind the AES power plant.

Kathy said the product was just an extension of her husband. She said Peter is someone who wants to have fun and connect with people, and the Hamboard reflects that.

"How could you say, 'No, you can't have one. I can't make you one?'" Kathy said. "It had to happen and we had to share the love and fun."

The Hamborgs' 19-year-old son, Jachin, has appreciated the positive attention the company has received over the past few weeks.

"There were people that I'd never seen before go up to us and be like, 'Dude, we saw you guys on TV! We're so stoked!'" he said.

"It's cool that people can relate with us, especially in this community. They've seen us as this small company trying to make it, and this is a big step."

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