Behind the Brand: RipTide Sports

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Founded  2010
Founders Tracey & Brad Miller
Based Santa Barbara, CA
Disciplines All
Website riptidesports.com

To become the only aftermarket hardware company with an available upgrade for every discipline in skateboarding, odds are, you have to do your research. In the case of RipTide sports, this is precisely what Tracey and Brad Miller have been doing since the brand’s inception. In addition, the pair have transformed their small business from a fictitious home school assignment into an iconic skateboarding brand with international footprint.

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The origins of RipTide Sports begin in Santa Barbara in 2010. With a new job change that prompted Brad Miller to begin traveling the world, Tracey Miller assumed the role of homeschooling their son, Jeremy, in hopes of getting to trail the father’s work for a year. Though this vision failed to come to life, the Millers made good use of their new flexible schedule after an assignment to create a model business plan prompted to the idea of forming a skateboarding company. With an idea on paper and the time to make it work, the family established themselves as a skateboarding retailer as soon as Brad returned from a stay in New Zealand and hit the ground running from there.

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Though originally focused on reselling, Brad was able to apply his background in industrial design to the skate world at the same time he began longboarding at the ripe age of 48. Concentrated on learning how to skate and minimizing potential risks, Brad felt unstable on the mounting brackets of his drop through board at the time. Before long, he would go on to craft a new frame that would absorb the impacts sustained around the mounting hole and become the  company’s first unique product. Then, in the process of attempting to manufacture a wheel on the side, Brad’s experimentation with different urethanes moved him towards the realization that he’d stumbled on the perfect compound to create skateboard bushings with. By 2012, RipTide Sports launched as their own brand with a lineup of APS and WFB skateboard bushings.

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Essentially, the magic behind RipTide’s bushings is not hidden in some sort of a secret formula. Instead, it’s rather a broadly used industrial urethane compound that proved to be the right ingredient for skateboard bushings. The hard part, however, was the process of refining this urethane in low tech environment and taking the time and effort to test out which procedures worked to make bushings and which failed. At the beginning of a rigorous R&D process, the Millers decided to focus on the standard barrel bushing to establish a baseline for what would become an expansive lineup of different shape and sizes.

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From the beginning of their development the RipTide family has been know to play well with other brands. One of the first examples of this came with their early interactions with Surfrodz Trucks. Determined to compact an ongoing issues with the irregular bushing seats of these trucks, they proposed a conical bushing that featured angled, rather than vertical side walls. The result, RipTide’s Fat Cone, soon went on to be one of their best selling bushings as riders everywhere learned to appreciate the progressive, rather than linear, resistance of the shape. The Fat Cone, in addition to the standard Cone, Barrel and Chubby bushings rounded out RipTide’s original lineup for longboarding applications.

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As for their progression in product development, RipTide has remained keen on doing proper research and listening to consumer requests. Whether by maintaining an active presence in online enthusiast forums or bringing community designed products, the RipTide family has been able to curate an impressive depth to their product offering through their steadfast commitment to providing an option for skaters of any discipline. In specific example, their newest Tunnel Risers, are the product of a particular e-skate forum and dedicated community support to match. By routing the wiring of electric skateboards underneath the trucks, RipTide has been able to help educate the more casual demographic of electric skateboarders who may never have thought twice about such improvements to their boards. To that end, Brad Miller reminded, “the tiniest parts make the biggest change.”

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Though this case is a great example of RipTide’s responsiveness to the community, it is a bit of an outlier in terms of how most of their products are conceived. Instead, the family prides themselves of manufacturing their bushings in a microbrewery style. Headquartered out of their home in Santa Barbara, Tracey and Brad are able to enjoy the pleasure of having their office and R&D lab under the same roof. Though their manufacturing takes place at a separate location, the hill situated a mere 25 feet from their front door serves as the optimal testing ground when the time comes to put their formulas to the test. And while the separation of having their desks in the same room has been enough of a saving grace for the family-owned business, Brad Miller breathed a sigh of relief by adding “Thank goodness all of us skate.” “And our marriage is surviving!” Tracey quickly added in.  

Running such a tight knit operation, the Millers have been able to stay true to their mission statement in a way that countless other companies have not: to be a company that they both would choose to do business with. On the B2B end of things, RipTide has been able to accomplish this by positioning themselves as allies to their wholesaling partners. In refusing to discount on price avoiding promotions for purposes other than to create brand awareness they have been able to provide live up to the expectations of playing well with others to all of their retailing counterparts. On the B2C end of things, the team has remained diligent in supporting initiatives like sending out demo bushings for larger groups for sampling and making time to curate tailored recommendations to anyone who call in looking to change out their setup.

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As for the future, RipTide has intentions of finally acting upon the wheel project that began their foray into urethane in the first place. With intentions of In order to do so however, the team has remained adamant in needing to develop something radically different for the wheel market before they’d ever put their idea into action. Likewise, they have be working on ideas for a possible truck release that would serve more of the downhill/luge oriented community. Still, the Millers are not willing to release anything unless it drives innovation in a way that would allow them to enter the market and not directly interfere with existing collaborations.

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Ever the supporters of other players within the industry and the skaters that make it tick, Tracey miller summed things up by saying. “We have something for everyone. It sounds basic but whether it’s quad rollerskates for derby, the e-skate market, little kids or grandparents looking to fool around on a board, there is something that will fit the bill for everyone.”

To have a look at our full lineup of RipTide Bushings, check out our shop here. In addition, we also have a variety of resources on RipTide Bushings specifically and skateboard bushings in general to steer you in the right direction. Otherwise, feel free to shoot RipTide Sports a message or hit us up here with any comments, questions or concerns.

Photos shot by: Ben Solano, Matt Boozer, Brad Miller, Bodhi Keen and Toni Conte and authorized to use by RipTide Sports.

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