Deep in a Brighton garage, five guys are dreaming of winter. Leaves, not snow, cover the ground, and the only slope in sight is the gradual incline of the long driveway back to their concrete bunker. But in an unheated and windowless double-bay space, tucked behind an old house in a quiet residential neighborhood, five entrepreneurs are designing and manufacturing their own brand of East Coast–centric snowboards, and readying that dream to take flight.
Available commercially, for the second year, on a limited basis, Bean Snowboards are the result of a collaboration of friends: three engineers, one designer, and a snowboard-marketing pro who saw an opportunity.
"We were avid snowboarders and it was something we all really loved," says Michael McGraw, one of three Northeastern University–trained mechanical engineers. "And to make snowboards you really just need engineers and artists, and we happened to have that combination living in our apartment, so it made sense."
McGraw, Collin Murray, Brian Callan (the engineering classmates), Scott Petrichko (the designer), and Patrick Leary first came together in 2006. All the roommates were working in different fields (Leary managed the now defunct Underground Snowboards). But something was missing. "Medical devices are essential and righteous and all that good stuff," says Murray of his day job. "But I wanted to work on something that the end product was fun and I felt passionate about."
Plus, notes Murray, the local snowboard culture needed something homegrown. "If you look out west there are a lot more little brands and things for people to choose from, and it definitely drives the culture," says Murray, citing such boutique brands as California's Humanity and Signal snowboards. "On the East Coast there really aren't too many little brands that people can identify with."
His buddies agreed, and so the planning began.
"There was a ton we had to learn," says Murray, who, along with his Bean cohorts, read books about the physics of ski and board equipment, and surfed sites like skibuilders.com and grafsnowboards.com. "There's a lot of information on the Internet about how to make skis and snowboards, [and] they'll get you most of the way there . . . but there are a lot of gaps to fill in."
Those gaps, he explains, were filled in "by trial and error," not the least of which was working on the snow. ("We all make it out at least 30 days a season," says Murray.) "The plastics part was a little more science-y," he says. "Most of a snowboard is polyethylene, and that stuff is notorious for not wanting to glue to anything. So our first board . . . had a lot of bonding problems. We learned quickly that there are very specific things you have to do to get this stuff to glue together. It includes really consistent abrasion, and hitting it with a flame at just the right temperature and speed to prepare the surface."
The first board was made in the friends' basement apartment, using vacuum technology "ripped out of an old fridge." "Basically, you slide all the board materials into a huge bag and pull a vacuum on it," says Murray. "It worked, but she was a heavy beast since there was not enough pressure to squeeze out all the [excess] epoxy."