Contrary to celluloid legend, Marty McFly did not invent the skateboard in 1955. Street surfing actually originated a little later and has gone from a few home brewers mounting some roller skate wheels onto the underside of a plywood board to an international sport which challenges both the creative ingenuity and physical capabilities of its participants. The design and structure of board and components have improved greatly over the years, but there appears to have been little headway in feeding back vital performance data to riders. Designer and manufacturer of military grade tracking technologies Edgetrak and performance board producer wefunk have now joined forces to fill the void. The newly-formed Stealth Division has just put the finishing touches to a new operational prototype longboard called the Mach1, the first deck in the world to feature built-in telemetrics.
The engineering team of Canada's Edgetrak has built missile guidance systems for the military, aircraft telemetry systems for the Swedish air force, night vision systems for the United States armed forces, parcel tracking for the UK postal service and vehicle based navigation for BMW. The personal and business focus of the company's founder - Leslie A Huszti - changed somewhat after a serious car accident early in 2011 put him and his family out of action for a while. Looking for a way to supplement his fitness program, he was introduced to longboarding by a friend and thus found the perfect vehicle for his new technology.
He approached renowned German board designer Alex Luxat of wefunk with the idea of fitting out a board with technology to capture and transmit real time performance metrics to riders. Huszti then flew out to Cologne, Germany and the pair started work on the Mach1 prototype.
The longboard's deck is made from seven layers of Formula One grade carbon fiber with an Airex and Ash core, and is said to offer unmatched rigidity thanks to a center channel with carbon fiber inlay. The top is home to two different grades of grip - board tape at the front and more coarse race corumdum behind, a tough synthetic sapphire crystal said to be nearly as hard as diamond. The 37.5 x 10-inch (95.25 x 25.4 cm) board is flat along the middle and tapers out and flares towards the edges for a more stable and tactile foot braking experience.
"When footbraking (with the rear foot) the cart tire rubber we attach to the shoe actually melts and is so hot that also the glue of the griptape melts and you end up tearing large chunks of the griptape from the board," Luxat told Gizmag. "That's why I use the extremely coarse clear corundum and permanently epoxy it to the deck. It doesn't melt or come off and really offers the best grip possible."
The nose and tail sections have been reinforced with Makrolon for high velocity impact resistance and also feature cutouts to cater for additional wheel clearance during tight turns. It has a fully gripped weight of 1,295 grams (45.6 oz) and features Gang of Germany 180 mm CNC-machined aluminum composite alloy trucks with reversible hangers for adjustable ride height and rake. Four white Venom Cannibal wheels finish off the cutting edge board's striking look.
Built into the area of the deck above the rear truck mounting - so positioned for optimum GPS reception and sitting behind a clear acrylic casing - is something Stealth Division is calling the Gnarvigator. The tiny device brings together GPS technology, solid state data logging functionality, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and a 3-axis accelerometer. The kind of performance information offered to riders includes GPS positioning with proprietary RDGPS error correction, speed, start/stop run time, altitude, vertical drop, velocity, and G-force (when entering and exiting turns).
The company plans to make the Gnarvigator technology available as a separate unit towards the end of 2012 that can be installed onto existing longboard decks.
"There are plenty of possibilities how the Gnarvigator can be useful," explains Luxat. "With the accelerometer it is possible for board and wheel manufacturers to really test their material and get data about vibration, g-loads etc. Of course this is also interesting for racers to choose their setup on varying road surfaces. The GPS tracking can also be very interesting for fitness oriented long distance skaters to set up and control training plans."
Huszti says that initially the Mach1's Bluetooth connectivity will be limited to real time audio feedback from the Gnarvigator, but the company is looking to develop the technology to integrate into a Heads-Up-Display to act as a virtual co-pilot, announcing the rider's speed, turns, break points or even augmenting an ideal line onto the display.
The developers are currently working on some proprietary smartphone apps for iOS and Android devices that will further expand the capabilities of the technology, including placing an emergency call to the emergency services via a linked smartphone in the event of a crash, for example. There are also plans to connect with third party developers through a shortly-to-be-launched initiative named Area 65.
Stealth Division will also set up its own social media back-end, which will allow community members to create profiles to show off setups and quivers, share session details, performance data, training information and invite other users to meet up and race. A rider rank table and loyalty programs will also feature.
Luxat told us that Stealth Division is currently considering producing a very limited number of the original cutting edge, hand-crafted prototype boards for sale, but that all efforts are currently concentrated on bringing a more affordable version to market. He is currently looking into the use of different composites such as glass/carbon hybrid laminates as well as using poplar wood, and will also offer a choice of different trucks to best meet the racer's needs. These new Mach1 competition race boards will be available for pre-order during Q1 of this year at an as yet unspecified price.
Huszti informed us that the company also plans to introduce a whole Stealth Division ecosystem of boarding equipment, including decks, wheels, trucks, accessories and clothing - with a deliberate focus on the customer experience.
Stealth Division has promised to keep us updated and we'll bring you more on this interesting development closer to launch time. In the meantime, more information on the board and integrated rider information system will shortly appear on wefunk's U.S. portal.