Hello from Bri Chmel! This profile is a great explanation of why I live and love in Santa Cruz. There are some incredibly bright, outdoor-oriented individuals who have found this town and call it their home. Coleman Buckley is one of them! Coleman lives in Davenport and his company Ride Engine is heaquartered on the west side. Please contact me for your home buying/selling needs if you are, or plan on, living and loving in Santa Cruz!
Bri: Coleman, you are well known in the Santa Cruz area as a creative inventor and a dedicated ocean sports athlete. Tell us about your company Ride Engine, your story, and what makes you tick.
Coleman: I like making things. I enjoy envisioning something and then turning it from an idea into a tangible object or something that I can share with other people. Ride Engine was born during the time when I was planning on going to medical school. I was into kitesurfing as a hobby, and started building my own kitesurfing gear- mostly harnesses. Eventually I started making more and more items for friends, and my business grew organically from there. Initially, I was manufacturing all of the items myself here in my garage in Santa Cruz. It started to become a little bit stressful because it seemed to become a self-imposed sweatshop. Some of my designs were starting to get ripped off by other companies. Trying to compete with the large companies by suing them over intellectual property didn’t seem like a good long-term value proposition. I felt like the best move was to start working with one of the largest kiteboard companies in the world, Slingshot Kiteboarding. They were very supportive, and through their worldwide distributors Ride Engine was brought into 68 countries around the world. Now I have a partnership with Slingshot, and they helped Ride Engine get big enough to compete with the other large companies. Ride Engine is now a company that makes kitesurfing gear, wetsuits, wakeboarding gear, bags, and we are coming out with a line of hydrofoils. Ride Engine was basically a passion project that expanded into something larger.
Bri: Now that Ride Engine is partnered with Slingshot, what's next for you?
Coleman: Slingshot enabled me to focus on inventing new products full time. I am always experimenting with new pieces of equipment. Right now a large passion of mine is hydrofoils, which is going to become quite a large niche market in the next couple of years. I have been building a lot of these, and trying to imagine all of the things that can be done with them in the watersports industry. Aside from that, I have also been working in Sausalito at a hardware incubator. They have all of these really neat high-tech machines. People that work there are using them for start-ups that have a social good, or applications where you wouldn’t think of using them. For example, using a 3D printer for fine arts sculpture. One project that I am excited about is an art show that I am putting together with a bunch of Bay Area graffiti artists. We are taking their drawings and converting them into paths with this big machine called a “water jet”. A water jet is a machine that can cut steel with a really small jet of water. We are taking their graffiti drawings and using it to make large standing wall sculptures. And we are also taking multiple sculptures and stacking them on a motor so they spin- like a kaleidoscope sculpture. Our goal is to try to use modern tools for traditional art forms. We also teach kids to use the machines at the shop, which is fun because they learn so fast.
Bri: What do you do when you want to dream up something new, and when do you feel most creative?
Coleman: I am terrible at coming up with ideas on the spot. I feel like things just present themselves. I really don’t know where it comes from. Maybe when I am older I will have an answer to that? So far, I just feel like it is at totally random times of the day, and something will click. A lot of times that happens when I am falling asleep. I always keep a notepad by my bed because if I don’t write it down before I pass out, I’ll forget. I think that the nice part of not knowing how the world works is not knowing when inspiration will strike. It keeps it exciting.
Bri: Who has been your biggest mentor, and why?
Coleman: From a technical standpoint, my mentor at Slingshot. His name is Tony Logosz, and he knows how to make everything. Whatever the thing is that you are trying to invent, he has already tried it. Talking with him is super interesting. He is like an encyclopedia of every topic that involves going fast. Motorcycles, surfboards, kites, you name it.
Bri: What part of Santa Cruz do you live in, and why do you love living here?
Coleman: I live in “Last Chance” which is a neighborhood that is north of Davenport that nobody has ever heard of. I live in Santa Cruz for many reasons. I love the diversity of people that live here. Everybody that lives here seems very “intentional” to me. By this I mean, they are all trying to do something neat. I love the nature, the ocean, and the proximity to metropolitan areas of San Francisco.
Bri: Describe your typical day.
Coleman: I wake up around 6am. Check the surf. Either go surf, or go build some things at my office here in Santa Cruz. I have some shipping containers I built into workshops, which is where I make things. Ideally I would then go test something that I built out on the water. Then usually go back and work some more, and fine-tune whatever it was that needs to be modified. I usually try to hit up a farmers market most days, and spend some time making a nice dinner. Hang out with a friend. Repeat.
Bri: Rumor has it you have a pretty sweet van. Let's hear about it.
Coleman: It is! Vans are so trendy right now. The inspiration came when I was in Mexico. I was driving in my friends van, and was looking out the window. It was super gorgeous outside, and I started imagining being able to live or work someplace that had a view like that. I decided that I could get a van, and then that thought would become a reality! I am now in the process of building it out. It has solar, internet, hot water, and all of the creature comforts. It has a big desk and window so that I can park somewhere along Highway 1 and look out at the ocean while I am being a productive citizen, without having to go into an office.
Bri: If you couldn't live in Santa Cruz, and you had to live somewhere else, where would you live? Without giving away your secret spots!
Coleman: If I tell you, then everybody is going to go there! I like British Columbia. But I feel like I am getting more and more fond of warm places. Costa Rica or Kauai. The reason that I live around here, aside from the fact that Santa Cruz is wonderful, is family. I think that it would be hard for me to live any place where I had to get on a plane to see them. They are in the North Bay area. But, the world is full of so many wonderful places. I would hate it if I couldn’t live here, but at the same time there are so many other wonderful options. My one must is that I have to live by the ocean!