Black Project – 10 Years of Innovation and Performance
Black Project was born out of a shared love for improving the on-water experience for paddlers of all skill levels.
10 years later, our passion for designing high-performance paddles and fins has only gotten stronger. And while we love seeing our athletes set world records and win world titles––BP athletes won 14 titles in 2019––what truly inspires us is YOU.
We want YOU to experience that same stoke and love for watersports that inspired us to make our first fin over a decade ago. This is our story and we welcome you to join our ohana.
Black Project originated from humble beginnings as a backyard project for co-founders Chris Freeman and Tom Hammerton. The goal was simple: Design a better windsurfing fin that would elevate their performance and speed. While these custom fins were originally made for their own personal enjoyment, it wasn’t long before fellow windsurfers took notice and started asking for their own set of custom fins.
Realizing they had a shared dream for building better equipment, the two friends joined forces and officially created Black Project in 2010.
At the time, the focus was strictly on windsurfing. But with standup paddling beginning to take off, they began designing high-performance SUP fins. But with an outsider mindset, Tom and Chris were free to innovate and breaks norms. They wasted little time and soon attracted the interest of Bart de Zwart who was seeking an advantage in the SUP 11 Cities Race.
It wasn’t long before several top standup paddlers caught wind of Black Project and soon began using our fins. In 2019, Black Project athletes scored an unprecedented 14 World Titles and broke multiple World Records. The secret is in the technology.
Better Technology, Better Performance
At Black Project, we don’t subscribe to guesswork or gut-feeling when it comes to building high-performance equipment. To build something effective, it needs to be done right.
For that reason, Black Project has invested in a combination of cutting-edge technology and pro paddler feedback to help design the fins and paddles that power you.
Our design process begins with sophisticated computer software that allows us to develop new prototypes through careful CFD analysis (computational fluid dynamics). Once we have our initial prototype, we fine-tune our paddles and fins with extensive real-world testing.
To improve our testing capabilities, we purchased a 3D printer to do all of our prototyping for both fins and paddles. Our newest fin––the Condor––was the first fin to have been fully designed and tested using a 3D printer from start to finish.
The process proved to be a game-changer.
“Without 3D printing we were always limited with the number of molded prototypes we could make,” said Freeman. “Now we are able to test a lot more ideas and variables in each design and push the limits quickly.”
Collaborating with Elite Athletes to Make Elite Paddles and Fins
Cutting-edge technology may be one big part of the equation, but our success would not be possible without an incredible team of world-class athletes. Over the years, we have collaborated with some of the sport’s greatest paddlers including Connor Baxter, Seychelle Webster, Bernd Roediger, Zane Schweitzer, Olivia Piana, Fiona Wylde, Sonni Hönscheid, Martin Vitry and many more.
These elite athletes have put our paddles and fins to the test at the sport’s highest level of competition––and come away with gold.
“One of the parts of my original marketing plan read, ‘Develop fins which enable athletes to set world records and win world titles,” said Freeman. “I wanted to be a small part of an athlete’s success and help them achieve their dreams. For Black Project athletes to have now amassed a total of 19 World Titles is extremely rewarding and gets me fired up.”
When our athletes aren’t standing atop the podium, they are working behind-the-scenes with our team to test and provide feedback about new prototypes. And as a perk of being located in on Maui’s north shore, our backyard is our testing grounds and our debriefing room is the beach.
“Hawaii has been a great base for us, with so many good water days in a range of craft and conditions, it is the ideal proving grounds,” said Freeman. “There is no wonder why so much windsurfing, standup paddling, big-wave surfing, and foiling development has happened on Maui’s 8-mile north shore stretch from Peahi to Kahului Harbor.”
The Brand for Every Standup Paddler
Standup paddling isn’t just about performance and power, at the end of the day, it’s about getting people on the water and enjoying themselves. When we started out a decade ago, we decided we wanted to build more than paddles and fins, we wanted to build a community.
“What I think stands Black Project apart, is our community,” said Freeman. “We all need a place to call home and Black Project has become a common thread connecting paddlers of all abilities across the world.”
At Black Project, we believe every paddler––regardless of skill-level––deserves high-quality equipment. To ensure this happens, we subsidize our entry-level paddles so new paddlers can experience the feel of a high-end paddle at a reasonable price point.
“Thanks to our innovation and support of full-time athletes, our paddles and fins have become popular with enthusiasts and more experienced paddlers,” said Freeman. “However, we feed everything we learn into our complete line of paddles and fins.”
Everyone benefits from lighter, stronger and more efficient paddles and fins. The work we do with elite athletes is crucial to making exceptional products for those new to the sport and we also support a number of initiatives to get more young people into the sport.
We understand the future of standup paddling is dependent upon the next generation of paddlers––both young and old. We are ready to meet that challenge and provide top-of-the-line equipment to all paddlers.
“I am incredibly proud and thankful for the opportunities which we have had as we near the end of our tenth year. As with many businesses in our position, we have had some growing pains and are working diligently to secure our long-term success.” Freeman
Covid-19 has provided challenges – which we have faced head on, while providing many more opportunities – which we have embraced. We are committed to helping all water enthusiasts reach their health, wellness and paddling goals.” Freeman
Soon we will be unveiling some very special new products for the 2021 season as we continue to push the innovation envelope. At the same time, we are working to reduce our impact on the environment and operate in a socially conscious way.” Freeman
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Images: Fish Bowl Diaries
Text: Jack Haworth, Black Project