The SoulArc is much taller relative to other wheeled boards, allowing the electronics componentry to be affixed underneath the board and still clear the ground.Courtesy SoulArc Boards
A local company is aiming to make campus and neighborhood commutes fun, easy and “cutting edge” with the debut of a new motorized longboard.
Salvatore “Sam” Vilardi, CEO and co-founder of Hudsonville-based SoulArc Boards, and Mitch Mulder, creative director and co-owner, quietly have been retooling their company founded in 2008 over the past 18 months to debut the “right” longboard that will give users “the perfect ride.”
As a student many years ago at Kendall College of Art & Design, Mulder designed a singular class project: a draft version of a wheeled board that could emulate the feeling of carving in deep powder and catching perfect waves without ever having to leave the pavement.
Years later, Mulder still was dreaming of the board and hoping to produce it. He consulted Vilardi — who was then a mechanical engineer and Mulder’s co-worker at Curious-id, a design firm in Fruitport — and the pair devised the SoulArc Board as a skateboard (of sorts) that mimics the feeling of surfing or snowboarding due to its hard maple deck perched atop a performance spring.
The deck provides stability, while the spring absorbs and transfers energy “to recreate the feeling of a perfect run down the slopes.”
They formed their company in 2008 and began shipping its first product, the standard performance SoulArc Board, in 2009.
SoulArc Boards operates out of a 1,500-square-foot corporate office and production facility at 4254 Central Parkway in Hudsonville. The company’s six business partners/co-owners and two part-time employees source the standard performance board’s components from U.S.-based suppliers and do the assembly in Hudsonville.
“Our composite fiberglass spring is done by a company in LeRoy, Michigan, we get our wooden deck from a group that’s over in Illinois, and then we get our trucks and wheels out of California,” Vilardi said.
When they first debuted their performance board, Vilardi and Mulder got national media attention from outlets such as Popular Science, Men’s Health Magazine, Women’s Fitness, Maxim and GQ, which brought a flood of sales opportunities.
The duo were unprepared for their instant popularity, not yet having had a chance to create the infrastructure needed to run a manufacturing company.
Over the past six years, they kept their day jobs and worked on setting up a sustainable business model for SoulArc.
Now, after a decade of refinement for their company and its “product roadmap” and engineering, SoulArc Boards said it has perfected the spring mechanism and paired the original performance board concept with a battery and motor system capable of hitting 25 mph, running a 15-mile radius and climbing inclines of up to 20 degrees “to complete that true surfing feel.”
“We didn’t know it then, but looking back now, this board was meant to be electric,” Vilardi said, noting that its height is much taller relative to other wheeled boards, allowing the electronics componentry to be affixed underneath the board and still clear the ground.
Vilardi said the team at SoulArc was very intentional about avoiding the term “skateboard” in marketing the longboard, as they think of their company as a member of the “micro-mobility” market.
“Our intent is that it is a form of a vehicle. … When you initially think of skateboard, you think of a little board that you take into (an empty pool and skate in). Our board is not that,” Vilardi said.
“The way that we view our product is, if I want to go out on a Sunday cruise in my Porsche, that’s kind of what the SoulArc Performance Board is. It’s not your only board that you’re going to have. You’re going to own a couple of them — but ours is when you want to go out for a relaxing and enjoyable carving ride; that’s when you’d take out the SoulArc.”
The new SoulArc Electric Board Beta Edition is available for purchase at soularcboards.com for $799, and the SoulArc Performance Board is available for $280.
By mid-2020, the company plans to release an updated version of the original performance board.
It also is working on releasing a new version of the ElRod, a basic commuter board ($145) that the company originally rolled out four or five years ago. The ultimate goal is to sell motorized and nonmotorized versions of that at a more affordable price point than the performance and electric models.
In addition to its online sales, SoulArc’s management team is working on building a wholesale presence in outdoor retailer stores as well as high-end bicycle and motorized bike shops.
Also in 2020, SoulArc Boards is working on adding IoT components to the electric board, including an augmented reality projector that would create a virtual terrain course that users can take to enhance their experience. Riders also could record themselves and go back and redo the course to improve their performance, and a central CPU on the board would allow users to interface with other riders to let them “race” as well as learn new techniques from each other despite being in different locations.
“We have a lot of different ideas,” Vilardi said. “We’re a local company that’s really starting to push technology in unique ways. What we’re trying to do with this AR side of the longboard has just not been done. It’s fairly cutting edge.”