By Glenda McCarthy
‘Magine what you could do with just an idea and a little hard work.
For Marcel Savidon, Steve Wheeler and Mike Maddock, their passion and dedication has been funneled into creating their business, Magine Snowboards.
The growing company, which is based in Port au Port on the province’s west coast, manufactures snowboards using local materials and local artists’ graphic designs.
“Five years ago we started with the idea to make snowboards and skis, we just wanted to start with one and see if we could do it,” Mike says.
They wanted to establish the business in the first year and stake their claim on the Atlantic side of Canada. “East coast snowboarders are passionate, and brave some harsh conditions to get out and enjoy the sport. From day one we started getting the word out there and have been plugging away ever since. We’re trying to refine our process so we make our boards faster and make everything more efficient.”
“From the beginning we knew we wanted to establish the business. It definitely took a few prototypes, and we had a couple of hiccups with our first board, but it held together and is still rideable to this day. We didn’t know what would happen with during our first test ride, would it fall apart? Would it ride poorly? It wasn’t perfect, but it was a great start. We’ve been going at it ever since and trying to refine it so it’s lighter and faster.”
Magine is experimenting with eco-friendly fibre composites to be used as a possible replacement for fibreglass composites. The company wanted a full mechanical data package of their Fiberglass, Green Lite, Basalt, and BioTex line of snowboards in order to better understand the characteristics of each type.
And that is where CNA comes in.
So Magine Snowboards, in collaboration with CNA, with funding by the National Research Council of Canada – Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), has been performing laboratory and computational studies to better understand each of their snowboards.
In the study, bending and torsional tests were performed on the four different types of snowboards and a detailed report of the results was provided. The study showed the characteristics of each snowboard and recommendations were made as to which style of riding each type of construction was best suited for.
“We’ve had a couple of great projects with the students at CNA. We’ve done some value stream mapping and just mapping our process, some testing on the boards and they made a testing machine for that.”
Students of the Mechanical Engineering program at Ridge Road campus performed static load tests and were able to test various parts of their snowboards and produce qualitative data. This, in turn, was passed on to the potential customers for Magine Snowboards.
“Snowboarding is a pretty tech-heavy sport,” Mike says. “(Our customers) want to know what the board is going to do, what technology is in it, how it’s going to perform, and it’s kind of evolved to the point where they have become pretty specific. Pretty much any snowboard can do, but when you get to the next level of performance those things start to amplify and become more important in the board because they respond more towards the riders efforts.
“We were looking to get those things so we could dial in all of our flex profiles to have those numbers to pass on to our customers. It was to reaffirm what we already knew and also dabble in some finer R&D projects.”
Hussien Zughaer, an instructor at the Engineering Technology Centre at Ridge Road campus, says this type of project is a win-win for both the company and the students at CNA.
“I should give my sincere thanks to Magine Snowboards for giving us this opportunity to collaborate with real industrial research and development projects,” Hussien says. “This enhances the role of the college for community support and industrial outreach. Special thanks to the company as their passion in R&D is evident.”
Students brought the boards to Burin campus for tensile testing, and used a laser cutter at Prince Philip Drive campus to test various sections of the board for a breakage.
“We have good insight regarding break testing on the boards,” Mike says. “It’s to see where the strengths are, and how much abuse it will take when pushed to its limits.”
Mike explains that if a board isn’t competent, isn’t tested, doesn’t meet the industry performance requirements, or if the board doesn’t perform well or breaks, then it is automatic scrutiny for the product and their brand. That’s why the testing completed by the students at CNA is so vital to their business.
“These tests are invaluable. We are so fortunate to be able to work with CNA. We wouldn’t be able to afford to do any of that testing without them. It would be thousands and thousands of dollars. To have a lab in our facility it would be an insane amount of money, so to have the knowledge and skillset of the students working on this project, under the direction of a college instructor, is priceless.”
Mike says they’ve been going in one direction and one direction only – and that’s up! So when asked where he sees the business in five years he has a pretty straightforward response.
“Hopefully with lots of CNA students working for us,” he says with a chuckle. “The big thing is to keep it sustainable, turn a profit, bring money into the island, hire people and create a lifestyle we’re happy with. We aren’t looking for millions of dollars. It’s a pretty modest lifestyle we all live and we just want to be able to get out and enjoy the snow. We just want to have something that people around here feel proud of.”