In May 2008, Glen Duff and Tim Zeckser regularly took friends from their church’s student ministry program out on Glen’s boat for some fun and fellowship on the James River in Virginia. “Fellows-in-a-ship”, they called it. Although their goal was to unify the small groups through water sports, they found instead that many friends struggled to get up on water skis and wakeboards. This left some in the group feeling left out and discouraged.
Glen and Tim began dreaming about ways they could get everybody up on the water and actively enjoying water sports. “We flipped over our paper placemats one day at lunch and started sketching,” Glen said. Desperation led to inspiration and inspiration led to a trip to the garage, where they got to work. They used plywood to construct their first prototype, which they concede didn’t work very well and was actually quite dangerous.
Tim was a student ministry leader from the College of William & Mary. Glen enjoyed designing products as a career and saw this adventure as a way to inspire the team he was fortunate enough to support and encourage.
The two had a fun dream and didn’t give up. They bought an old kneeboard at a garage sale and reconfigured it several times. It wasn’t great, so they created their our own novel shapes out of plywood, adding makeshift foot straps and cutting up and attaching an old collectible Cyprus Gardens water ski to it! When we rode it from our marina at Kingsmill, others on the water saw crazy fools…but we felt like crazy inventors! (eye of the beholder, and all that..)
With small glimmers of success on each trip, they went back to the drawing board dozens of times to create several prototypes, inviting other friends to work alongside them on the project. The mission was clear: create a safe board that allows riders from any age group and skill level to get up easily, and have fun skimming along on the water.
After many years of changes to the boards, thousands of test rides, the invention of a safer ergonomic tow rope, a utility patent and some patents pending, the assembly of a solid management team (Scott Parks and Brock Hughes) and a Godly investor team, ZUP™ was ready to be introduced to the water sports industry. And introduce, we did.
Glen and his wife, Diane, showed the ZUP Board™ concept to a few key leaders in the water sports industry at the 2012 Surf Expo in Orlando. That is where they met Jim Emmons, the President of the Water Sports Industry Association.
After viewing their ZUP™ video, Jim immediately encouraged Glen’s team to take their product to market, because Jim had seen on numerous occasions the frustration that develops when one or more members of a boating party are not able to successfully stand up riding a board or ski behind a boat. For him, the ZUP™ board immediately solved that problem. Plus, when you combined this feature with the knowledge that he had of the boating industry, that there are over 70 million American recreational boater participants, he knew that there would be a tremendous market potential. From this chance meeting, he encouraged Scott, Brock and Glen to share their idea with Overton’s, the largest recreational water sports mail order catalog in the world. Jim also introduced Glen to Chris Durham, who he had known for more than 25 years. Jim knew that Chris had the experience, skills and more importantly the expertise to help the team create a safe and reliable product for the industry.
The patented ZUP Board™ and DoubleZUP™ Tow Handle & Rope are currently being sold by Overton’s, the world’s largest online water sports catalog, who has reported ZUP to have the best sales of any new product in many years. Since the second SurfExpo trade show, the prayerful team are thankful for a miracle list of new retailers all around the world in just their first few years on the market!