Former hockey player Hartwick ’07 creates surfing simulator
By Taylor Malmsheimer
Published on Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Combining a love of sports with Dartmouth-nurtured creativity, former Big Green men’s hockey player Mike Hartwick ’07 recently created Rip Surfer X, a fitness apparatus designed to simulate surfing movements in a gym setting. The product, which was slated to go on sale Tuesday night, simulates the actions of carving turns on waves and paddling out to sea with a piece of sedentary fitness equipment.
Hartwick, a native of Bedford, N.H., who always maintained a sunny disposition while playing ice hockey for the Big Green, said he was inspired to create the Rip Surfer X simulator while surfing with his sister in Pebble Beach, Calif.
“I realized a connection between fitness and surfing at that point,” he said. “I just saw a great opportunity for a fun workout that could kind of cross a functional activity.”
Hartwick recruited two partners to help him create and market his product. Sarah Ponn, who Hartwick met at a gym in Boston, became the company’s director of fitness and marketing expert. Bill Ninteau, a long-time friend who Hartwick said “was ready to try anything,” became the chief financial officer.
Hartwick said the company has already received “hundreds of orders” through an inquiry button that has been on the Rip Surfer X website for the past several weeks.
“We’re anticipating a large initial push,” Hartwick said.
Hartwick, Ponn and Ninteau will tour the country next year to promote the product, which is currently being marketed to gyms as a group fitness product. Another version of Rip Surfer X created for home use will include a place to put an iPad and will offer podcasts and daily workouts on a subscription basis.
“Right now we feel it’s important to maintain the brand,” Hartwick said. “There is a lot you can do with this equipment, so we want to make sure people are exposed to it in the right way.”
As a former Big Green defenseman, Hartwick recorded one goal and 16 assists in his four-year career. Even while playing on ice and in snowy Hanover, Hartwick maintained a passion for surfing that he fostered as a child, he said.
“It was always something I did, but never got to do as frequently as I wanted to because of sports,” Hartwick said, adding that he played baseball and hockey in high school before beginning his collegiate hockey career. “I would only get away for a week or two on family vacations to surf.”
In his first year after graduating from Dartmouth, Hartwick played for four different minor league hockey teams. Hartwick signed with the Hartford Wolfpack immediately following graduation and went on to play for teams in Charlotte, N.C., Elmira, N.Y., and Biloxi, Miss.
Hartwick, who majored in history while at the College, attributed his broad range of interests to his Big Green hockey career.
“Obviously doing hockey and school at the same time was balancing and juggling two different schedules,” Hartwick said. “I was constantly switching on and off the left and right side of my brain.”
The creation of his surfing apparatus was influenced by his minor league days, Hartwick said. The time Hartwick spent playing for minor league teams allowed him to conceptualize products and dream of starting his own business, he said.
“I was only working an hour and half a day for six months,” he said. “I had lots of down time to think about what it was I wanted to be doing.”
After playing hockey in the United States for a year, Hartwick traveled to Wales, where he spent two years playing hockey and earning his MBA in international finance at Cardiff University. Hartwick was again forced to balance school with athletics — an aspect of his life that he said he missed.
After graduating from Cardiff in June, Hartwick returned to the United States and decided to put his degree to use.
“I was planning on playing [hockey] this year,” he said. “But when I got back to the States I decided I was ready to do something else.”
Hartwick worked at Morgan Stanley for approximately eight months, but soon decided he did not want to spend his career in the financial services industry.
“Instead of getting caught up in the corporate world, I bailed,” Hartwick said. “I had surf stuff on my brain since my last trip to California in May of last year.”
Hartwick said he has high hopes for the company’s future.
“It was scary at first to kind of get started,” he said. “But once you get ball rolling and a little momentum behind it, it starts to really become fun.”