Yearly Archives: 2015

Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Right

“Anything worth doing, it’s worth doing right!”  -Hunter S. Thompson

It was about 7 years ago when some friends and I were sanding away at insulation foam with whatever tools were laying around when I dropped my sanding block and muttered those words in ambitious frustration.  You see, we wanted to build our own wake surfboards, but we were lacking the tools and materials to do it properly.  Fortunately, I had budgeted about $1,200 to buy myself two new surfboards for an upcoming surf trip to Central America.  I had been researching what it takes to build surfboards, and realized I had enough money to either buy two new top-of-the-line shortboards or purchase the tools and materials to build about 6 boards.  So there I was, a recent college grad with a bachelors degree in economics doing some cost/benefit analysis.  You have $1,200 in your pocket.  What is better:  2 surfboards or 6 surfboards?  The choice was easy, so I started purchasing tools, foam, fiberglass, epoxy, and fin boxes.


Me and the first two idol ocean surfboards in Dominical, Costa Rica.

I don’t think I really knew what I was getting myself into, but at the same time I knew exactly what I was doing – I had a dream, and it was one worth pursuing.  I had an office job doing Business Development for The Brost Clinic, my family’s chiropractic clinic, right out of university.  I tied my tie neatly every morning, arrived at my desk each day with coffee in hand, spent most my time in front of a computer, liked the people I worked with, and did good for the clinic.   During my time there, the patient base doubled, and in order to accommodate the increased patient load, I led the project of building out a new facility that was double the square footage of the clinic I first clocked into – one of my mother’s dreams which I was proud to help make a reality.  It was new and exciting.  I was learning and accomplishing.  It was fulfilling for some time.   However, it was not my dream nor my passion to work at The Brost Clinic.  If it was, I would have likely gone to chiropractic school like my mom, dad, sister, step-dad, and brother-in-law all did.

The original garage workshop (click to enlarge)

The original garage workshop (click to enlarge)

My passions happened outside of work – If I wasn’t wake surfing with my friends, I was in the garage working on boards or spending my evenings searching websites like for my next surf travel destination.

If you want to be successful, find something you love and get really good at it.”

If you have followed this blog at all, you have probably noticed I love quotes.  I think the title of this blog may be my favorite quote to which I do my best to abide, but there is another quote I hold closer to my heart.  It’s something my mother said to me during my adolescent years, “If you want to be successful, find something you love and get really good at it.”  Surfboard design is something I love.  I don’t mean to gloat, but over the years I have gotten really good at it (feedback and performance from riders tells me this is true).  I can spend hours going through the relationship of rocker, rail shape, bottom contour, and fin placement in my head, the shaping bay, or on shaping software.  Wake surfing lends itself perfectly to the mad-scientist/surfboard shaper in me – it is effectively the most controlled environment in which to experiment with different surfboard design concepts.  I can put the board under my feet and feel subtle changes I put into the boards as the wave remains the same, and I can watch closely for hours from the back of the boat while my friends/lab rats test a design, analyzing how water flows and refracts around the board and fins.

Where was I going with this?  There was a point to all this… Oh yeah

“Anything worth doing, its worth doing right.” 

shapingRemember that $1,200 that I spent building my first 6 boards?   It didn’t take long before that turned into about $20,000 of debt building a couple hundred boards over the next several years.  By that time, idol surfboards was functioning as a business, just not a profitable one.  And there was a big problem: as demand and production quantity increased, quality suffered, and so did my free time.  It got to the point where I spend most my summers sanding away in the workshop, and I was forced to sacrifice nearly all of my surf time for the time-consuming build process.  In the summers the company would do ok, but my personal life would suffer.  In the winter/off-season things would slow to a crawl and idol would sink deeper in debt (but hey I got to go surfing!).  Something had to change about business operations.

I made the decision to take production to another factory in hopes that the surfboard company could continue to operate in a financially sustainable manner.  I went to Surf Expo, the world’s largest surf trade-show, in September 2013 with a specific mission in mind – find the highest quality surfboards and find out where they were made.  I would then find the best factory that fit my build criteria, and begin production on a 2014 line of surfboards.  The criteria fit the motto which founded idol – “Anything worth doing, its worth doing right.”:

  • Quality:  First and foremost I want to be building boards of the highest quality construction and shapes.  I want to do it right.
  • Integrity:  Fair and safe labor practices were prerequisite:  Since I first learned what child labor was, I have forever opposed this practice – Children are meant to play and learn, not work in factories.  There would be zero tolerance for child labor, unsafe, or unfair labor practice.
  • Profitability:  The price had to be right – It was time to turn this passion of mine into a legitimate business venture.

My first Surf Expo was a fun Surf Expo… in fact, every surf expo is fun!  It was my first one, so I had a bit of a honeymoon while I was there.  I partied hard and worked harder.  I made a lot of friends, but I also got a lot of flack as I went to every surfboard booth on site and dug my thumb into boards and scratched at pin lines to check construction quality (After building boards long enough, I am able to apply pressure to the fiberglass of a surfboard and safely estimate the amount and quality of fiberglass and foam density used for construction).  I would strike up conversations with manufacturer reps and eventually drop the question:  “Do you feel like sharing which factory you use with a young wake surfboard builder looking for a new manufacturer?”  Most of them would laugh and give me a polite version of “hell no.”  However, most of them would go on bragging about how their factory was superior to the competition, and then go on to list the factories their competition used.  I took notes and cross-analyzed everyone’s responses, and in doing so I was able to figure out which factories most major suppliers used (most people use multiple factories for various reasons).

My initial thought was that I would use a domestic factory – Factories in the US have the advantage of knowing the material quality is high and labor laws are strict and fair.  However, I quickly realized by checking prices that a domestic factory was out of the question, as the prices were too high to allow manufacturer AND dealer distribution profit margins.  After the first day I knew I would need to source boards abroad where cost of materials and labor are cheaper (you may be thinking the idea of cheap and fair labor is contradictory, but there here is a link to a previous post titled “Fair Labor Practices From my Surfboard Factory in China” which touches on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) and its effect on material and labor costs).

Like I said, I looked at every board at surf expo.  Surprisingly, the brand that I found to have the best traditional foam/fiberglass construction quality was a small SUP company from the East Coast of the US with a very simple 10×10 display, the smallest booth space available for vendors at Surf Expo.  On the first day, I complimented the owner on the incredibly quality of his boards.  Then I asked the golden question, “Which factory do you use?”

carbon bamboo sup

carbon bamboo construction (click to enlarge)

He laughed at me, “Sorry I’m not going to share that information.”  I understood and carried about my business.

On the second day of Surf Expo I returned and told him, “I’ve looked at every surfboard here, and congratulations, I think you have the highest quality product at Surf Expo.  You sure you don’t want to tell me where these things are made?”

“Sorry bud, not happening.”

On the third and final day of Surf Expo I stopped by his booth again near the end of the day, well into happy hour when the kegs come out and people begin to drink.   “Seriously, I’ve checked every board twice, and you have the highest quality construction of any board here…”

Before I could ask the golden question he interrupted me with a, “You know what, I like you.”  I could tell that his happy hour had started well before most.  He was drunk.  ‘This is good’ I thought.   “I really shouldn’t do this, but I like you.” he reinforced as he picked up one of his brochures and began to write something on one of the inside pages.   I wasn’t about to interrupt him as he handed me the brochure and said, “Do not share this information with anyone, and don’t tell anyone you got it from me.”  I opened the brochure, and saw a word I didn’t recognize and an email address.  “That’s the contact info for the factory I use.  Like I said, don’t share it with anyone, and don’t tell anyone you got it from me.”

I had my golden ticket.

I was in shock.  I did not know how to respond.  All I could do was smile and say, “thank you,” as I scurried away before he could change his mind and take my golden ticket from me.

Mr. T and I (click to enlarge)

Mr. T and I (click to enlarge)

The next day I was emailing the factory, getting price quotes, and asking if they would be OK with me visiting the factory to check labor and production quality.  The prices were a bit higher than most in China, but the quality was worth it.  The person with whom I was communicating, we’ll call him Mr. T, ensured me that I would be welcome at the factory any time I wanted to come.  “Sweet!”  I didn’t know it, but it turns out Mr. T was the owner of the factory, and better yet I would come to find he is the same age as me (28 at the time) and would eventually become a good friend of mine… but that’s a whole story on its own.

I added up the numbers on what it would take to fill a shipping container, necessary to keep the freight price per board down, and quickly realized I would need a bank loan.  I went to my community bank where I had a savings account since the age of 11 and my grandmother served on the board or directors (Remember kids, “it’s not always what you know but who you know”).   They moved things along quickly as I was in a hurry to get into production.  The day they approved my bank loan, I booked a flight to china, and on the day after thanksgiving 2013, I boarded an airplane to China and traveled to Asia for the first time in my life.

I had done my homework, but I couldn’t help but be nervous as I soared across the Pacific Ocean en route to China.  I was risking a lot on this dream, but there was a certain serendipity to it all that helped to calm my nerves.

I was headed directly to my first factory choice, but I had this fear that I would walk into a factory full of child laborers.  If that was the case, I would move production to one of the more well-know backup factories that I had lined up.  Fortunately, that was not the case, and I was able to use this factory which fit and exceeded all my standards.  I arrived to China and caught a connecting flight to the airport nearest the factory.  Mr. T and some new friends greeted me with smiles as I exited the baggage claim area.  They took me to lunch, then we made the 1.5 hour drive to the factory town.

That evening, we stopped by the factory although it was closed for the evening and had tea in the office, like I would countless times thereafter.   I had made it.  I was standing at the threshold of a dream coming true, tired from jet-lag, yet euphoric; there I stood at the threshold of my dream.

surfboard factory

Hello from the factory!

You see, when I was a child, I was often asked, like any child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

lao tzu quote“International businessman,” was always my reply.  I’m not sure I even knew what that meant throughout most my childhood.  I was gutted when I went to college and learned that “International Business” was not a choice of major, and in fact, I don’t think I considered myself an international business person when I walked into that factory for the first time.  I was just a guy chasing a dream of owning a surfboard company, and this smallish factory in China is where that had led me (I think this proves that Lao Tzu quote to be true).  How many kids grow up to be the thing that they said they wanted to be all their life?  And how many of them are able to combine it with a dream they had in their adult life?  I don’t think many, but holy shit I did it!?

I spent the following two months in the factory over-seeing production.  I wanted to make sure that the proper processes wouldn’t be switched out as soon as I left (a common issue in outsourced manufacturing), but I watched my boards get produced alongside several other brands, and the standard processes and materials never changed.  My trust in Mr. T and his factory grew quickly.

I thought I was going there to teach them how to do it the “right way.”  That was a naive thought to say the least.  Their practices, though very similar to those I was used to doing myself, were so dialed there was almost nothing I could say or do to improve them.  I can count on one hand how many times I have taught them something they didn’t already know.  Instead, I became the student, not just in terms of surfboard construction, but in terms of every aspect of being and ‘international business person’ working with china.  Its amazing how much I have learned in the last few years.  I’m not trying to brag – I’m trying to inform you, so that if any of my friends out there have any questions about foreign production, shipping, etc etc, feel free to ask.  Well… except the golden question which is, “what factory do you use?” ;-p  (*Disclaimer – I do offer private label production, but it goes in under my order ticket to increase my volume discount)

Secret Point in Bali (click to enlarge)

Secret Point in Bali (click to enlarge)

Once my work was done at the factory, it was time to fulfill the heart of this dream – go surfing!   For those who are less familiar with ocean surfing, you may not know that Asia is scattered with world-class surf destinations.   The Mecca for many surfers is Bali, Indonesia.   Bali attracts long-fetch southern hemisphere swell.  Waves travel un-interrupted from storm systems that originate anywhere between the tip of South America to Western Australia.  Bali is littered with reef passes and beaches.  The combination of open ocean swell and some of the most exposed coastline in the world make it the ideal location to catch consistent waves year-round.

So this has become my fall and winter routine.   I go to the factory for production, then head off to Bali to score waves in a tropical paradise.  Last year and this year, instead of spending months at a time in the factory, I spend a few weeks initiating the production, head to Bali and surf, then check back in to do some quality control (QC) checks when I need to.

Right now I’m writing this post because I have some free time in the office, as I just finished submitting my final board designs.   The only thing left for me to do this week is approve a few skim board shapes that are being machined as I type.  Then, I’m delighted to say, I ship off to Bali with two brand new surfboards on Monday.  I know in my head and my heart I am doing this right, and I will continue to live by that mantra.  When you buy my surfboards, you can be assured there are no moral concessions in the name of increased profits – I found a way to turn profit but not sacrifice integrity.  It’s a lot more work than I let, but sometimes doing it the right way is a lot of work.

So here I find myself typing away in a surfboard factory office in China thinking about how, when I was a child telling people I wanted to be an ‘international businessman,’ I pictured myself in a suit and tie shaking hands with foreign people and having important business meetings in big glass high-rises in major cities.   That is not my reality.  Instead I’m sitting here in flip-flops and board shorts, and my most important meetings take place over beers or cups of Chinese tea (and a lot of emails).  Somehow, my dream came true, and it is even better than the dream I dreamt as a child.  For this I am ever-grateful to all my family and friends who helped, encouraged or just believed in me along the way.   Thank you to all of you, my noble helpers along the way.

Next post should be less formal and more awesome coming from Bali.  As for now, thank you and see you down the road 🙂


Cruising Bali with good mates.  Photo: Terje Talpsepp

Cruising Bali with good mates. Photo: Terje Talpsepp



Jennifer Concienne Joins Team iDol


image of wake surf teamiDol Surfboards is pleased to announce that Jennifer Concienne has officially joined the Team iDol wake surf team, and we could not be more excited!  Jennifer approached us after an incredible 2014 season, where she put together an impressive string of podium finishes on both the World Series of Wake Surfing and the Endless Wave Tour (where she finished 1st overall in the Women’s Outlaw division).  This year, Jennifer will continue her quest for world wake surf domination on her new custom iDol wake surfboard with iDol support along with the support of Tige Boats and and Wakeboard & Waterski Specialty.

Jennifer recently made a trip to iDol Surf headquarters on Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota, to pick up her new board and do some wake surfing with the team.  She got on her new custom board and immediately put together an impressive run with her big airs, smooth spins, and signature style.


IMG_2071“We are so excited to have Jennifer on-board!” Alex Brost, iDol’s founder and shaper weighs in.  “She is an absolute shredder, and shows incredible potential to be one of the best.  Above that, Jennifer is an incredible personality, and a treat to be around – the caliber of person we seek when taking on a team rider.”


wakesurf-airJennifer shares, “I was drawn to iDol surfboards because of the awesome relationship that the company has with its riders. The boards are high quality and everyone from the shapers to the riders are extremely friendly and awesome to be around. When I began to show interest in riding for iDol, Alex Brost came to Colorado and watched me ride. He then took the time to personally shape a board that ideally fit to my riding level and style. My iDol was perfect for me from the start. The first day riding I was able to comfortably land all my tricks right away and even started working on new tricks. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to ride for iDol surfboards and I can’t wait for all the exciting things to come.”


We are so excited to have you Jennifer!  Welcome ‘on-board’!

Medina Living Features iDol’s Founder Alex Brost

**The following was content created and provided by Medina Living Magazine.  To view a PDF of the actual article, click here.**

Waking Up the American Dream: Alex Brost

By Chris Pederson

MedinaLiving_AlexBrost_April15 1

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“I was a terrible swimmer. I hated swimming, but I realized I needed to become a good swimmer to surf, and I wanted to surf and travel the world doing it.”

Meet Alex Brost, a local entrepreneur, founder of iDol Surfboards, past marketing guru for The Brost Clinic and an avid surfer. But not the conventional kind of surfing (though he does that, too). Alex is a wake surfer. Yes, wake surfer. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t feel bad, many haven’t, including Alex and his friends before they managed to accidentally “discover” it on their own over six years ago.

Creating Waves

His unassuming, calm demeanor began describing the discovery of wake surfing: “So when we put a cooler in the rear corner of a boat and piled everybody back there, we realized we could get a pretty nice little wave off the back of the boat. I also had this friend who had an old surfboard and went to school in Hawaii.  So when he came home with his surfboard in the summer, we started surfing behind the boat with the big wake and realized if we had enough people in the boat, we could actually throw the rope in [for the person to hold onto] and they could start surfing in the boat’s wake.” While chuckling a bit, “So yeah, we started wake surfing, thinking we invented the sport… but it had been around forever – well, since the ‘70s.”


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Living in the land of 10,000 lakes makes most of us familiar with wake boarding. But this is not that. In fact wake boarding is on the decline when compared to wake surfing. As Alex describes it, “One major difference between wake boarding and wake surfing is with wake surfing you do it right behind the boat,” he began. “The idea is you create one bigger wave – about waste high – on one side to create an artificial wave. You then start with a rope and ride the wave and once the wave fully sets up and you find what we call the ‘sweet spot’ of the wave, you can throw the rope back in the boat and begin surfing behind it, basically indefinitely.”

Building iDol Surfboards


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“So this is how I got into making surf boards. My friends and I thought we had invented a sport and decided that there were no good boards for it. First we made these pretty crappy plywood boards, which were essentially skim boards. Then we decided to make some foam – more traditional boards. There was a lot of watching YouTube videos and reading forums online,” Alex said. He also had met a surfer named Stefan, while surfing Lake Superior, who became a business partner and provided great guidance and teaching for shaping boards early on. Making the boards comes down to three basic ingredients: foam, fiberglass and epoxy, as well as long hours of sanding and lots of hard work. In fact, after spending much of his summers working with his team of sweat equity enthusiasts, like his best friend, Eric Oppen, building the boards by hand in his family’s garage, the orders started to pile up, and Alex decided he needed a more economical and faster way to manufacture them to fill the demand.

Scaling up Business Economics


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Given Alex didn’t want to sacrifice quality, he decided to go to the Surf Expo in Orlando for some strategic manufacturer scouting. He went prepared, stating, “I can now stick my thumb in a board and tell you how good it is based on how it flexes and what not.” Using this method he was able to find which boards he liked best. “I found my favorite companies and started asking what factories they used. Most people will never give up that information, but there was one small manufacturer there who I happened to catch during happy hour later in the show, and the guy finally gave me the information on the factory I needed.”

When Alex arrived back home in Medina from the expo, he got on the phone with the bank to get some financing for the surfboards. The day they approved his loan, he booked his trip to China. And with an economics degree, international business certificate and no formal engineering background, Alex headed to meet this elusive, high-quality surfboard manufacturer.

Maintaining Business Ethics


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However, Alex had other criteria in mind beyond just price and quality for the manufacturer. You see, back in high school, Alex had developed concerns for child labor laws and although now self-described as a raging Capitalist (a bit tongue-in-cheek), he was able to confirm that this factory had strict standards for labor conditions and safety. “They make about 500 boards a month. Small compared to many factories which may produce 10 times that many and have 25- 45 workers, working 48 hours a week (a normal full-time job in China) with two-weeks holiday for Chinese New Year, one week for Chinese National Day and some other days off.” Alex smiles, “they get more time off than anyone here I know.”

It was in 2013 when he met that manufacturer and sealed the deal. And just in time, too. He was sold out of his paddleboards a mere six weeks after his container arrived later that year.

Minnesota Surf Scene and Beyond


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Alex explained that Minnesota is slowly developing a bit of a surf culture on the foundations of stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) and wake surfing. He suspects there are about 12 events in Minnesota per year focused on those two sports.

There are two bigger wake surf events, the Minnesota Wake Surf Championship on Lake Minnetonka, which began in 2014 and the 10,000 Lakes Wake Surf Open held on the Mississippi River for the fifth year this summer – part of the World Series of Wake Surfing circuit. In 2014, Alex qualified for the World Championships at an Arizona event.

wakesurfingarticle8“I tried surfing when I was 12 in San Diego. They say you never forget your first wave, and although I took some lessons, I don’t really remember it. I knew I wanted to surf, but I really didn’t touch a surfboard again until I bought a surfboard in Lima, Peru, in 2008 and surfed up the coast into Ecuador.” When asked if he picked it up right away, he quipped back laughing, “No, I didn’t catch any waves for two weeks.”  Clearly he has come a long way in the past six years.  Although Alex believes he will always call Minnesota home, he currently spends about half of his year abroad, recently traveling to Nicaragua, El Salvador and Indonesia, among other places, this past winter to surf. So, yes, when he is not working, he is traveling to exotic locales looking for the next best break… And, doing real-world product testing for his next board design breakthrough.

One of Alex’s favorite sayings is, “If there is anything worth doing, it is worth doing right.” It seems Alex Brost is living that motto in both his personal and professional life. There are few out there who could be accused of creating their own American dream. However, I find Alex guilty as charged, and the wake he is creating in the process should carry him far in this life.

**Story by Chris Pederson of Medina Living magazine.  Learn more about Medina Living at their facebook page: