Exclusive interview with Benjamin Köhnsen, Founder & CEO of LAMPUGA jet-powered surfboards (Sashay GmbH based in Hamburg).
Exclusive Interview with Benjamin KÖHNSEN - Founder of LAMPUGA
MSN: HOW DID IT ALL START?
Benjamin: I had always been wondering if there was a way to combine the speed of jetskiing with the agility of surfing. One day, I decided to find out myself: I simply started by cutting open an old surfboard. My love for model making helped a lot. In 2008 the first prototype was ready. I was still working as corporate consultant, but all of my free time was consumed by the development of an improved version. In 2011 I quit my job as investment banker and founded Lampuga together with Marc and Olaf. Marc is a former colleague who had been involved in the whole process right from the start. With Olaf, a naval engineer, the founding team was completed.
MSN: ARE YOU A SURF AND SEA LOVER?
Benjamin: Definitely! Living in Hamburg, I spend most weekends at the North or Baltic sea – no matter the weather. We boost the wetsuit industry.
MSN: DO YOU AND YOUR TEAM PRACTICE MOTOSURFING YOURSELVES?
Benjamin: We at Lampuga believe that it is fundamental to know what you are talking about. Everyone at the company, even those working in production, has at least tried our boards. Me and some colleagues constantly ride the boards ourselves to get a feeling for the product, develop new ideas for improvement and check the quality. By the way, we call it jetboarding and our boards jetboards – with reference to the pump jet.
MSN: ORIGINALLY, HOW DID YOU MAKE YOUR CHOICE BETWEEN AN ELECTRICAL AND A GAS-POWERED SYSTEM?
Benjamin: To be honest, this was never really a decision I had to make.
Right from the start it was clear to me that I do not want to pollute the environment while I am enjoying it.
At the same time, petrol engines require very high maintenance efforts and in my opinion, handling them is not really customer-friendly. Our jetboards hardly require any maintenance, have a low noise profile and run emission-free.
MSN: HOW DID YOU SOLVE THE CHALLENGES OF THE BATTERY, BATTERY HEAT MANAGEMENT WHEN RIDING, AND LOGISTICAL LIMITATIONS WHEN TRAVELING?
Benjamin: We have a great team of developers. They have a profound understanding of how the components need to function in order to fulfill the high demands. I cannot go much into detail because the development work is at the core of our products. But regarding limitations when travelling, we found a great solution: We have combined the technical elements that are also included in the Lampuga Boost and Lampuga Boost Carbon (both have full carbon bodies) with an inflatable body: the Lampuga Air. Due to this modular concept, the Lampuga Air fits into any boot. The Powerbox with the power unit and battery can also be combined with different inflatable bodies, e.g. the Lampuga Rescue body for rescue services in coastal areas. Due to the battery, jetboards are classified as hazardous goods – like any battery powered or petrol driven vehicle – when shipped or sent by air.
MSN: MANY BRANDS HAVE BEEN EXPERIENCING ISSUES WITH MANUFACTURING, QUALITY AND OVERALL SUPPLY CHAIN, WHAT DO YOU DO BETTER?
Benjamin: I guess part of it is what I would call the Made in Germany-factor: We want to deliver the highest level of quality – and to ensure this, we decided to keep the whole production process in our hands. We have been producing the boards from setup of the carbon body to the assembly of the electrical parts ever since north of Hamburg, Germany. We have been in the market for about three years. In this period, we were able to develop our staff and processes and at the same time establish trustful relationships with suppliers, most of them are also located in Germany. This great relationship helped to solve problems and to develop customized products for us.
MSN: WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT DIFFICULTIES TO OVERCOME FOR LAMPUGA
Benjamin: Germany still is not really a founding paradise. It can be quite time consuming and frustrating to cope with German bureaucracy.
MSN: COULD YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT HOW THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION IS A MAIN CONCERN IN YOUR DECISION-MAKING PROCESS?
Benjamin: As I have already stated, it would have been an absolute no-go for me to produce a watersports toy that pollutes the water it is used in. People sometimes argue that we do not use solar power for our production or use materials that are not biodegradable – but I think the consequence cannot be to do nothing at all. We wanted to at least start somewhere. And we are constantly developing new ideas to become more environmentally aware as a company.
MSN: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR TYPICAL CUSTOMER?
Benjamin: We experience that our boards have different customers: The Lampuga Boost and Lampuga Boost Carbon are typically bought by people who own a yacht or have a house near the sea. The Lampuga Air is bought by people who appreciate the flexibility.
MSN: WHERE DO YOU WANT TO TAKE YOUR BRAND?
Benjamin: With our Lampuga boards we want to become the leader for eco-friendly, sportive, and stylish jetboards - we want to establish jetboarding as a new trend sport.
MSN: THE FIDSM HOMOLOGATION REQUIREMENTS FOR BOARDS TO BE ELIGIBLE AT THE MSWC ARE RESTRICTED TO MOTORIZED SURFBOARDS. IF THE CHAMPIONSHIP WAS OPEN TO JET-POWERED SURFBOARDS COULD WE EXPECT TO SEE YOUR BOARDS IN THE WORLDCUP RACES IN A CLOSE FUTURE?
Benjamin: The concept is definitely very attractive to us, but right now we are rather focusing on the expansion of our international network. At the moment we have distribution partners in 45 countries. And we work according to the principle: If we start something, we follow through with it.
MSN: WHERE DO YOU SEE THE INDUSTRY IN 5 YEARS AND WHAT COULD BE THE MOST IMPACTFUL THING WE CAN DO AS A COMMUNITY TO GET THERE?
Benjamin: In five years, jetboards will be a common sight at beaches, lakes and rivers around the world. We receive so much positive feedback that it is hard to imagine any other scenario. I think the industry is already quite well-positioned as it covers different niches and price ranges. I am sure, there is so much buzz in the industry that there will be quite some surprises in the future.
MSN: WHAT IS THE DELAY TO BE EXPECTED ONCE CUSTOMERS ORDER THROUGH YOUR WEBSITE?
Benjamin: Currently our delivery times are approx. 2 - 3 weeks for the Lampuga Air and 3 - 4 weeks for the Lampuga Boost.
MSN: LAST BUT NOT LEAST; WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON MOTOSURFNATION.COM AND HOW COULD WE FURTHER HELP YOU?
Benjamin: I think Motosurf Nation is a great tool providing customers and people who are interested in the industry information about the different players and boards. For us it is an excellent platform to present our products. Keep up the great work!
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