South African shredder and reigning Tand Invitational champion, Michael Ostler, has gone and started his own bodyboard brand called HandPicked.
Currently, the company is putting out custom made bodyboards as well as some fashionable threads for the burgeoning crew of Saffa bodyboarders.
We thought we’d catch up with Michael and find out what motivated him to go out and start a brand in today’s testing financial climate.
RT: What is HandPicked?
HandPicked is a bodyboard brand here in South Africa with a focus of growing the local industry from the inside out. We specialise in bodyboard shaping and clothing.
RT: Why did you start the board company?
I started HandPicked because I was frustrated really. I hated watching people in South Africa making money off the sport without giving a cent back. I saw big companies headed by big shots in the surf industry reaping the rewards while us bodyboarders suffered.
Don’t get me wrong, There are companies and stores here that do their part and support the sport because they too are bodyboarders and we have a great relationship with them. However that is not the issue, it is the other guys, the ex-bodyboarders, who are taking advantage of the industry. It’s the guys who were using the biggest names in international bodyboarding to sell the brand worldwide while all he does is import, sell and spit in our faces.
So I got to a point where I was tired of bitching and I wanted to try and make a change. Weather it worked or not, I wanted to act on my thoughts rather than feel sorry for myself and the South African Industry. So I created a business plan with intentions of influencing the country from the inside out, Supporting the local scene and players.
I called up Marc Rossouw, A board shaper based in South Africa and after a few meetings we had the ball rolling. I just wanted bodyboarders to support bodyboarders while bodyboarding as an industry generates income which gets invested into bodyboarders who will grow and support bodyboarding in SA in the process.
It’s hard to explain why I started the company, I guess you can say it was my way of trying to give back to the sport in South Africa. I saw and opportunity of potential to grow the industry and I took it.
RT: What is different about HandPicked to other board brands?
With regards to the boards, HandPicked is hand shaped rather than mass produced. Every board with a HandPicked Logo is shaped for that specific person and that makes a massive difference in the water.
RT: Do you sponsor any riders? Who is on your team?
The current team is based on a lot more detail than just contest results. Every person on this team plays a vital role in the success of the brand. The team includes East Coast bodyboarders Stuart Bradford, Teegan Coulonval and Bevan Wilson along with Cape Town bodyboarder Wilder Shultz and local Cape Town MC and personality Deon Meyer.
We have agreed to take on a ladies rider and we in the process of finalising the details. You may have seen her in the Tand Invitational?
RT: You are collaborating with another South African board company, Rossi Board Co, tell us about that.
The Collaboration Project is purely based on a shared interest in product development in South Africa. We have some amazing quality materials imported to SA however I approached Marc (Rossouw, from Rossi) with an idea I had that he would be interested in, and that was to invest in a higher quality core to really separate the brands from the rest.
I want people to know the difference and understand why its different, etc. So Marc and I researched and found the material what we were after and we decided to take the risk and invest together to bring a quality of cores unique to South Africa. There are a few brands around in South Africa now like Maniac Bodyboards and, from a growth perspective, competition is an amazing tool we can use to grow the sport.
With changes like this, we can really push one another to keep looking for new ideas and gaps in the market. I believe this will grow the industry in SA.
RT: What is the Apex Core? How is it different to regular PP or PE cores?
The APEX CORE is a beaded PolyPropylene core that we have sourced the finest virgin grade raw material PP. Blown with the latest technology which gives the highest compression to density ratio available to us. Each blank is made for one board, which provides an even “flex back” consistency each time. The core is light weight and durable.
RT: You have a design called “Cecil” that features a Lion. Is that in light of recent events?
I had typed this long explanation now on Lions and South Africans but I have decided to delete it because, the truth is, the Lion that was killed was just a symbol of whats going on currently in South Africa. A lot of big changes and its kinda been scary.
So When I was designing the new APEX CORE Logo, I had written down the words, “Time for Change” in my book with the rest of my scribbles and notes. Cecil the Lion was killed and it was everywhere, all news papers, the news stations and radio. It wasn’t just a lion that died, it was a symbol of change, and then it clicked. Let me take the Lion image and work off the “Cecil – symbol of change” and work it into the bodyboard market positively by making his face the logo of the APEX CORE as a symbol of Change in the South African bodyboarding scene.
In the end, nobody really knew or even asked me why I chose the logo I did, but this is how it all came about and it does have some pretty deep meaning behind the design.
RT: What else do you have in the works for the company?
Well to be honest, I currently work in the clothing industry and I really look up to companies like Found and Grand Flavour. So I’ve modelled a rough template using a lot of influence from those brands as well as my own twist on things.
As well as boards I am working hard on the fashion side, which too will positively grow the industry and work hand in hand with my business plan. I work with a lot of local designers and have just agreed on a range designed by tattoo artist Wesley Von Blerk, which I’m super excited on. I’m also looking a lot deeper into some other ideas where I’m going to be growing the label but it’s all under wraps at the moment as their is still a lot to be finalised.
RT: How is the bodyboarding scene in South Africa going?
I think it is going well. There is a lot that could be done but I think the people in the industry are doing their absolute best to grow the sport. I personally believe we have some of the world’s best riders here, however a lot of them remain here and never reach the full extent of their potential. Purely because the industry doesn’t invest within itself and its riders and can at times be very stagnant.
There is no demand and no drive from a lot of the riders and, like I said, the big dicks in the surf industry are reaping all the rewards. So people kinda see the SA scene and give it a go but thats as far as they ever will get because thats all they believe in. I think change is right around the corner with the Cave Rock Invitational and Tand Invitational events attracting the international influence, you can then see how the scene explodes over those two months. I believe it’s definitely on its way up and I think the timing is perfect!
RT: How can the South African bodyboard industry be improved?
More in-house companies supporting the industry from the inside out. Riders supported properly by companies while companies are supported by riders. Companies should be in the bodyboarding business rather than the charity. Then we will see a turn for the better.
RT: You are also competing on the FSB world tour. How is that going?
I love the concept but if I have to be honest, my campaign has not gone that great! Hahaha.
I have taken a gamble with my video and unfortunately mother nature didn’t play its part in the process but its all good, I’ve worked with some great guys along the way, Pixtream South Africa, Clarke Captions and Simon Heale have really got behind me in support of this concept and we have had good times trying to nail the clip we envisioned. It has been great regardless so I can’t complain.
RT: Lastly, where can people get their hands on HandPicked gear? Is it available in Australia?
Right now I’ve kept it online. Currently, the website is being checked and updated so is under construction as I’m installing an online store. Otherwise, we have a Facebook page, Instagram page and email address. If anybody would like to ask questions or place orders, for the time being you can contact us on either of the above platforms and we will follow it up with order forms and any details needed.
RT: Thanks for chatting to us Michael!
Thanks so much for this man. Really Stoked on it all!