Current Drives startup brings power to paddleboarders

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by RENAY SAN MIGUEL / KING5 News

KING5.com

Posted on February 27, 2014 at 1:19 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 27 at 1:19 PM

For standup paddleboarders, it's all about the exercise and the feel of gliding over the waves of a nearby body of water. Yet sometimes those paddleboarders need an extra push to truly enjoy this fast-growing outdoor activity.

That's what Current Drives, a Seattle-based tech startup, is offering with its technology: the ElectraFin, a waterproof electric drive system for paddleboards, longboards and kayaks that works in both fresh and salt water.

"It's more about going farther, it's more about getting out on the days that your normally wouldn't want to, said Current Drives CEO/co-founder Mike Radenbaugh. "It's also about introducing paddleboarding to people who aren't physically capable."

Current Drives also makes an inflatable paddleboard, and the company hopes to use it and the ElectraFin as a way to launch itself to profitability via partnerships with outdoor-based retail chains. Radenbaugh said the company has heard from "5 to 10" such retailers who are interested, but want to know that Current Drives can ramp up production.

That's why Radenbaugh and his co-founder/vice president of operations Marimar White-Espin have started an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to pay for marketing and production. As of this writing, the company has raised $12,000 of its $15,000 goal only 20 days into a 60-day fundraising period. If all goes well, Current Drives hopes to start shipping products to Indiegogo buyers in the summer.

"It's just been a generally positive response from anybody who sees us out on the water, who sees our website," Radenbaugh said. "There's just a lot of excitement for new products that incorporate technology into movement-type activities like this."

Paddleboarding has grown to become a $15.6 million industry, according to the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association. The Outdoor Industry Assoc. says 1.26 million people participated in the activity in 2012, an 18 percent increase from 2010.

That's a rapidly growing market that Current Drives thinks it can attract with competitive pricing. Those who go to the Indiegogo site now can pay $850 for the ElectraFin kit and $850 for the inflatable board. The SIMA lists the average price of a paddleboard at $1,000.

"That makes us different from other competitors," said Marimar White-Espin, Current Drives' co-founder and vice president of operations. "The ElectraFin just goes onto your existing paddleboard, your existing kayak, so you're avoiding all modification to your board. More people are interested in keeping the integrity of their board."

There's also the green aspect of the ElectraFin. "It's all electric, so it's zero emissions," she added. "You don't feel bad about going on this board." Users turn the ElectraFin on and off with a wireless wristband controller.

Whtie-Espin, a Seattle native and outdoor enthusiast, says the sporting community has been enthusiastic since she and Radenbaugh posted a YouTube video in 2011 touting an early version of the product. "It was kind of like they were waiting for the ElectraFin to take their paddleboarding and kayak fishing to the next level."

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