My fellow partner Hans Mertens said farewell to EP&C last week. When asked what he would like as a farewell gift, he said he wanted a so-called Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP), and preferably one that he could stand on together with his grandchildren. Quite a sporty gift for someone who is about to retire, but then again that is not going to be a problem for Hans. In addition to being a patent attorney, he is an Aikido master and therefore great at keeping his balance. High time, therefore, for me to start exploring the world of stand-up paddleboards. Believe it or not, I actually managed to find the Rolls Royce of SUPs. Absolutely full of patented gadgets.
Voyage of discovery
So the hunt for a good board actually turned into a voyage of discovery into a world that was completely new to me. It above all confirmed what I already knew and that is that the best inventions are indeed the result of a problem. When stand-up paddleboarding, you stand on a long board and move through the water by paddling. The story goes that it originated in Hawaii, because surfers were looking for an easier way to take pictures of tourists in the water and to give instructions during surf lessons. Now stand-up paddleboarding has also become a popular sport in the Netherlands and all kinds of improvements have been made to the basic idea of just a board and paddles.
Thousands of threads
A stand-up paddleboard is inflatable. To be able to stand on it properly and to glide through the water at top speed, it is all about the stiffness and strength in an optimally curved hydrodynamic shape. To achieve this, the board must be fully inflated. This is where we come across the first important European patent EP-2.852.525. The top and bottom of the board are connected to each other with thousands of tiny threads using a double-layer drop stitch technique. Removable strengthening strips have been added in a number of places. The threads ensure that when you fully inflate the board, it does not expand any further in those places. On the outside, you can see thousands of tiny dimples.
To fully inflate the board you need a special double-cylinder hand inflater, as per the Chinese Utility patent CN-212130704-U, to keep pumping when the going gets tough. And then there are the special three-part telescopic paddles which are carbon fibre reinforced, as per Chinese Utility patent CN-210653601-U. One innovation after another.
Mobility on the board
Back to my colleague Hans. Although he is not a Hawaiian surfer, this Aikido master has perfect balance. Clever inventors with foresight have nevertheless come up with some adjustments to aid mobility. How about the German patent DE-10.2018.004.396 for a standing and balancing aid that can be mounted on the board, or the international patent application WO-2017/008916 for a securing arrangement that means you can take along a folding bike, for example.
The most bizarre thing I found was a French patent publication for a system with side floats to attach a wheelchair to a SUP board, FR-3.078.523.
What a great gift
The great thing about this patent search is that I now know for sure that I can present Hans with an excellent gift by way of a thank you at the end of a wonderful career in the patent protection of inventions and as co-director/owner of EP&C. I very much enjoyed the search. And I hope that my colleague Hans will enjoy using this gift just as much. May he enjoy his board full of patented innovations for a long time to come.