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Spreading the Stoke: Behind the Business with Slyde Handboards

There’s something about the ocean. People are drawn to it, and when they’re by its side, often vow to never leave. The ocean lifestyle has given rise to a culture devoted to playing within its waves, and though surfing has been around for centuries, there are those still striving to progress the sport and innovate.

In the sport of bodysurfing, which replaces the board with…well, nothing…users ride the waves lying flat. But innovation is possible, and for a young Steve Watts growing up in South Africa, it was plastic fast food trays that fostered the progress. Steve and his friends used the trays as handheld mini-boards, allowing greater control over their riding.

Steve Watts eventually got a degree in Product Design, moved to California, and created Slyde Handboards, a high-tech, faster and more beautiful version of the food tray.

Today, Slyde is a growing company with fans – including a certain big-wave rider – all over the world. As part of our series on companies using cloud-based accounting software, we interviewed co-owner of Slyde (and newlywed) Angela Watts about the company and its success.

Slyde Team Ryders Willy Cole and Chris Glevy

Slyde Team Ryders Willy Cole and Chris Glevy

So what exactly is Slyde?

Slyde Handboards is the premier bodysurfing handboard company. We specialize in making the best quality and most performance driven handboards on the market to give bodysurfers the longest and fastest rides possible. Our customers are young and old, men and women, who love having fun in the ocean.

How did you decide to make handboards?

I always wanted to have my own business and work for myself doing something I love. My father and grandfather, both owned their own small businesses so that always inspired me to do it. My husband and I both did not go to school for business, so we do a lot of learning as we go, but we always ask for help if we don’t know something or look for advice from professionals. We were accepted into a Springboard with San Diego Sports Innovators, which was a big boost in helping us learn about business.

They say that to be successful you have to be passionate. Why do you love what you do?

Being passionate definitely drives what I do everyday.  I believe in what we do and that the business will be successful because of our customers. Every picture or video that gets sent to us with people using our handboards with huge smiles on their faces or the emails telling us that they haven’t had so much fun in the ocean before Slyde is what drives me. And of course the people who don’t want you to succeed, always gives you that extra push to work harder to prove them wrong.

Steve and Angela Watts of Slyde Handboards

Steve and Angela Watts, owners of Slyde Handboards

Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get where you are?

Owning your own business is never smooth sailing. When you overcome one battle, you are just on to the next. The more successful you are the more work there is to do. That’s when you have to think about that saying, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.”

We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?

One morning before I even had my coffee, I was standing around and got a call from an LA number. I picked it up and instantly recognized the voice, Laird Hamilton, and he just talked about how cool our boards where and how great Slyde was, and I nearly choked on my coffee, it was so wild and cool!

Wow! That’s amazing. I would lose it! So what do you do with time off? Are you familiar with the concept?

Hahaha, funny!  Since I work with my husband, most of our “time off” includes discussing work. Our honeymoon to Hawaii, turned into a work trip between meetings with our surf shops and promotions at beach events. But when we do truly get time off, I really just love to veg on the couch and watch some movies.

The Wedge by Slyde Handboards

The Wedge by Slyde Handboards

How important is social media to your business?

Social media is extremely important in building a brand. It’s your space to let people know who you are and reach out to people all over the world. There are so many social platforms that we hired a specialist to run all our social media for us. She understands Slyde’s “tone of voice” and is able to communicate the brand for us.  

How are you involved in your community? What does supporting local mean to you?

We strongly believe it is important to be involved in the community so we volunteer for Beach Cleanups with Surfrider Foundation, we host beach meetups all along the coast of California, and sponsor kids and adults who are leaders that are passionate about the ocean and handboarding.

What does the future look like for you and your business?

The future for Slyde is bright. We look forward to year after year growth, with distribution in other countries like Australia, Brazil and South Africa. We want Slyde to be a global brand in the surf industry.

Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?

You have to be willing to put in the the hard work and put yourself out there. One of my favorite sayings is, “if you’re not working, someone else is.”