Meet Patrick; a superstar industrial engineer, professional kiteboarder, and general action sports maniac. Pat “Reb-Stoke” Rebstock perfectly embodies the flow that is Inboard’s heart and soul. We stole Patrick’s lunch break and made him tell us these stories, giving you a peek into one of the most important minds behind the design.
Q: How early did your mechanical interests come to exist? We know you got into action sports at a young age, so did that impact your interest in learning how things worked?
A: Well, I think the first sentence that I spoke when I was little was directed to my Mom: “My break it!”, after thoroughly taking apart a TV remote to see what was inside. My favorite book as a kid was the “The Way Things Work”, a book filled with technical cross sections of machines, so I think I was always interested in making things, especially working with wood at the workbench, since it was very accessible.
Skateboarding really gave me a way to finance bigger and better woodworking projects, starting with my own halfpipe in my front yard, that later became a business building private skate ramps for friends and through word of mouth. The design of the ramp and the actual construction involved a lot of grunt work, but was so rewarding, especially with the added bonus of having a new ramp to skate.
I was lucky enough at a young age to have my Dad introduce me to kitesurfing, back when it was still a nascent sport. This meant that the gear was still relatively simple and rudimentary, and as I came to live and breathe the sport, I had a very good understanding of what I would want from more advanced gear. I remember tinkering with control bar designs in my closet for hours, making prototypes that I would go out and test the next day. Some of them actually worked alright for being made in a kids closet, but luckily the industry caught up quickly and made some improvements. For my senior project in college, I was able to partner with one of my sponsors to help them develop their new control system. That design is still on the market today, and I think I knew then that designing products that got people stoked would be something I would always want to do.
Q: Where did you go to school and what did you study?
A: I went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which is in a laid-back town on California’s central coast. I studied Industrial Technology (with a minor in Packaging), and the ethos of the college was “Learn By Doing”, which fit me perfectly. My favorite class was one where you were assigned a group in the first session, and that group would become your “company”. We would do the market research to find out what to make, do the financing, design the prototypes, and document how to mass manufacture the product. Then actually manufacture, market, and sell the product throughout the semester. That was pretty hands on learning!
Q: What jobs did you have before coming to Inboard?
A: I did everything in my power to avoid having a... normal job. I mainly worked for myself, designing and building skate ramps and being a freelance videographer, all while being a professional athlete. Kitesurfing needed to be my main focus, as it paid the bills and allowed me to travel the world and see amazing places. I wasn’t even looking for a job when I met Theo, but his ideas inspired me with the opportunities to learn new things and be a part of a rad company. I still don’t think of working at Inboard as a job, but really as an opportunity to build awesome lightweight electric transportation that might make commuting more sustainable and fun!
Q: When you first started, what was Inboard like?
A: I joined Inboard as the 4th employee, when the Kickstarter was just coming to a close and the reality of the situation was starting to kick in. Our HQ was a bare garage in Burlingame that had two rooms, one for an office and one for the lab. We had our personal computers, a borrowed makerbot 3D printer from a college friend (thanks Scott!), a borrowed sticker plotter from Ryan's other job, and a electrical bench with solder station, digital measuring tools, and some calipers that I had bought in college. We had nothing... but we did have stickers.
The original “M1” was a prototype board that... kind of worked, but we couldn’t risk riding it for fun and breaking the 3D printed components because we needed it to show investors. Theo and Ryan were living in San Francisco and it seemed like every day somebody’s car windows would be smashed and stuff would be stolen. We had so much to do in order to bring a product to market, that I just lived out of my car from the office parking lot.
We would work all day and most of the night with a sunset bike ride along the boardwalk just to stay sane. We were all athletes that loved the ocean, so this was really an unsustainable lifestyle. Once we all realized this and could afford to move, we set up shop in Santa Cruz where we still are today. As the engineers, we still work hard, but at least we have the ocean at hand for a morning surf and saltwater therapy.
Q: When you first came aboard, what was the biggest issue with the M1? How did you and the team resolve it?
A: The biggest issue with the M1 when I joined Inboard was that it didn’t exist, yet. There was a prototype board that Theo had built, which whipped around the block like nothing and looked cool, but was in no way a commercially viable product. Everything was hand-built; from the hand-wound motors, to the soldered-together drone battery packs. Every single aspect of the M1 needed to be designed for production and built from scratch, but at least we knew what we wanted it to look like and how we wanted the ride to feel.
One of our challenges was to design the M1 to be able to withstand the rigors of shredding and daily commuting. Creating a rugged product that was modular was something that required a lot of teamwork and some creative, out-of-the-box thinking. We practice continuous improvement at inboard and are always finding ways to make the product better.
Q: What is your personal favorite feature of the M1, and what went into making it a reality?
A: I love the combination of the in-wheel motor and the swappable battery; it glides and feels like a regular skateboard, and if you carry a backup battery or two, you can ride for ages. You have limitless range because you can just swap in another pack and keep going, while keeping it light like any professional power tool or pro camera.
It's not easy to make a battery swappable! It takes a lot of engineering and a lot of innovation to have an openable cavity, with a latching lid and environmental seals, while maintaining a sturdy and good looking product. There’s a reason that we’re the only ones to have created a truly swappable battery, and I'm incredibly proud of it.