A boy on the North Shore invents a carrier that makes it easier to tote bulky body boards
Gerrit DeWeese has gotten a crash course in entrepreneurship over the last few months -- from public relations and marketing, to retail and wholesale pricing, to invoicing and more.
That might not sound so unusual, but Gerrit is 13, and the lessons weren't for a school project or to prepare him for the future. Gerrit invented a body board carrier that is being sold in Haleiwa surf shops.
It all began with the question of safety, after he witnessed accidents involving bicyclists trying to juggle a board with one hand while steering with the other. "That obviously wasn't safe because they weren't able to give their full attention to the road," Gerrit said. "I've seen a few kids and adults crash into trees or other bicyclists as they struggle with their board and fins."
First he tried an expensive store-bought carrier. "It dragged on the back wheel of my bike, so it didn't work. So, I came up with the idea of using straps."
In 2004 -- when he was just 10 -- Gerrit made a personal carrier using durable, flexible straps, webbing and buckles. The three straps enabled him to wear his body board on his back or attach it to a backpack that holds fins and a towel.
He had no intention of selling it. Living a bike ride away from popular North Shore surf spots, his parents had insisted that he find a safe way to tote his board. When he and his brother used the carrier, his parents were reassured, he said. "We still use the original carrier I made four years ago because they last forever."
A couple of kids in the neighborhood requested carriers for themselves, so Gerrit decided to make and sell them. "I decided it really was the only safe way for people to transport their boards. I wanted to keep people from hurting themselves."
The $20 G-Mans Hawaiian Body Board Carrier has been selling in Haleiwa surf shops since just before Christmas. Gerrit is working to expand his market to surf shops downtown and in Southern California.
Kalua Burtch, owner of Aikane Kai in Haleiwa, said Gerrit's product is unique. "I haven't seen anything like it on the market. I've seen body board bags, but they are heavier and bulky," she said. "His idea makes sense ... it's simple, light and easy to use.
Burtch put big yellow stickers on the carriers she sells in her store, stating "Invented by a sixth-grader from Sunset Beach Elementary School." Tourists and locals alike admire them, she said. "We call it conversational merchandise."