PHOTOGRAPHY: SEAN MURPHY
Nope. We haven’t opened a photography lab. We’ve simply borrowed the nomenclature for BOTE’s latest endeavor, The DarkRoom. The DarkRoom isn’t just a space; it’s a project with a purpose. From inception to completion, the DarkRoom will allow for BOTE to have complete control over projects.
Physically, the DarkRoom occupies close to 15,000sqft of space in our Ft. Walton Beach corporate campus. Spread throughout the space are some of the latest and greatest computer-controlled machinery, highlighted by an 18’ 4-axis CNC mill and 3-D Plastic Printers. Conceptually, the DarkRoom is a multi-layered program that involves sharing the machine time and space between R&D and Custom Shop stand up paddle board production. The principle of the DarkRoom program is to develop, hone and refine our products at a much quicker pace.
“We choose the name 'DarkRoom' as an ode to the photographers of the past who had to physically ‘develop’ their work. We felt it to be an apt title in the sense that we are doing exactly the same development, only our craft is Stand Up Paddling.” says Corey Cooper, CEO and Lead Designer at BOTE. “The program is going to expand beyond our walls and into the customers hands through 'Competition Rewards' programs, special collaborations and small batch developmental boards. We will be connecting the dots between the end user and product development to speed up time to market with a killer new design. We can run through 3 design iterations or changes in less than a week and have actual data to support our reasoning.”
The star of the DarkRoom is undoubtedly the shaping machine. The machine is a 4-Axis CNC Mill with a 17' capacity. Built in collaboration with Mike Ewaliko from Precision Shapers, the custom machine is equipped to handle all of our radical deck cutouts, nose shapes, and bottom contours. With an accuracy of 1mm, there are really no limits to the complexity of our designs.
“We wanted to take our product refinement and development to the next level. You can only learn so much in production, the real learning and developing is achieved through working with the people who use these boards every day. The custom board market is only a fraction of the size of the production market, but the knowledge of those customers is exponential compared to the first time buyer. As a brand, we can gain so much knowledge from feedback via custom boards and the consumers.” explains Cooper. Progression is the key. “The DarkRoom will serve as the beta test for all the products we integrate into production. We will continually be fine-tuning our most popular models in the DarkRoom in the attempts to stay on the cutting edge of the industry.”
Selected to Direct and manage the Program is Pete Buzzelli. Pete comes to BOTE after 40 years in the boat building industry and has been in SUP racing for the last 7 years. “The day Pete left his job to come to us, he texted me and said ‘After 40 years of working on boats I’m done!' I replied, ‘Nope, now you are working on BOTES!’” said Cooper. “Pete is a bad-ass dude with a never stop attitude. He’s a great addition to our crew.”
The DarkRoom will also serve as an educational training facility for wholesale accounts and sales reps. “The more they can learn about how we make our boards, the better they can educate their customers which in turn will lead to a better experience with their boards.”, says Buzzelli. He adds, “I’m here to take it all to the next level, but most importantly to make bad-ass boards!”