Longtime PWC freeride champion Ross Champion has leveraged his unique knowledge of PWC traction products to start a new business aimed at the mainstream boating market. The recently launched company, dubbed Soft Deck, offers traction and padding materials in a variety of configurations. Those include full sheets for custom installations, molded full sheets for higher traffic areas and generic pre-cut shapes for use as helm station pads or step pads.
The durable traction material, made from closed-cell EVA foam, offers numerous advantages for boaters, as it allows for a soft cushion underfoot, provides traction in slippery areas, stays relatively coo and also helps muffle noise. It also resists mildew, won’t fade out and unlike typical cockpit carpets, it doesn’t absorb water.
According to Champion, his longtime relationship with Hydro-Turf traction mats started the wheels turning for the new business venture. In fact, Hydro-Turf’s parent company, Pacific Creations, is Soft Deck’s manufacturing partner.
“I think that most of us who are long time PWC enthusiasts have been introduced to Hydro-Turf and have used it for lots of other things besides just PWC traction mats,” Champion said. “I have used it all over several of my boats, and have always thought that there is a huge untapped market out there that would really benefit from discovering just how great this material is for the general boating market.
“I met with the Hydro-Turf’s parent company, Pacific Creations, and began discussions about how best to help them expand their business by getting more product in the hands of boaters. The end result of that has been a collaborative effort with Hydro-Turf and Pacific Creations to produce the Soft Deck line of products.”
As Champion explains, his own sailing and boating experience has led to the discovery of some unique uses for the product. While replacing cockpit carpeting, cushioning a hard deck, or enhancing non-skid boarding areas are obvious uses, other uses include lining cabinets to keep dishes from sliding, lining the anchor locker to prevent damage from the anchor and chain, even covering areas of glare-prone gelcoat with a matte finish.
The material also is handy for lining a ski locker, as it will prevent damage to pricey wakeboards and skis. As Champion reports, he has even seen the product used to completely line an aluminum jon boat, floor, seats and inwales.
All products are available with 3M pressure-sensitive adhesive backing for the simplest installation, in formulations for general-purpose use as well as one for plastic-specific applications. Non-adhesive materials are also available to keep materials removable. Non-adhesive product can also be secured with contact cement.
Champion has initially launched the company via the Internet, and already has an active Facebook and Twitter presence. One of the more unique aspects to the website is the video tutorials link, which Champion promises to be building out in the near future. The company is also offering free samples to consumers who want to actually touch and feel the product, view a traction pattern, or simply want to select an appropriate color.
Champion contends the company’s focus on sheet goods, as well as the expert installation tutorials, will set the company apart from the competition.
Champion said the company plans “to teach people how to do great custom installations using our sheet goods. Second, we hope to be able to work with manufacturers to produce soft non-skid to suit their needs. Our manufacturing process makes the end product far less expensive than our competitors. And third, we will be have a range of non-boat-specific, pre-cut products that will afford boaters most of the benefits of doing a custom installation without the need to actually cut the product themselves.”