Years from now, as you’re watching the Summer Olympic Games and see the stand up paddleboarding competition, know that an Oakland County man played big role in developing, promoting and expanding the burgeoning sport. Matt Campbell, a former professional snowboarder and veteran of the coatings industry, isn’t just riding the waves — he’s making them in the surfboard and stand up paddleboard industries with his innovative products and designs.
Although stand up paddleboarding isn’t currently an Olympic sport, it almost certainly will be someday, according to Campbell. He spends much of his time these days promoting the sport and making custom boards for clients. At the same time, he’s a leader in research and design for international manufacturers, conducts product testing, and formulates several products that are not only used by Campbell himself, but also by mass producers both in and outside the water board industry.
Campbell began his journey to becoming a trailblazer in the surfing, stand up paddleboard and coatings industries as a preteen. His introduction into the coatings industry came at the age of 11.
“I guess it started because my parents were teachers at the school of hard knocks,” he said with a chuckle. “I come from a middle-class family. As a kid I started to wonder ‘How am I ever going to get a car? A paper route won’t cut it.’ I saw some guys in the area painting different things, and I asked if I could work for them. They said I was way too young. So I started to bring them sandwiches and cookies so I could hang around and learn. After a lot of coaxing, I got a job in the painting industry and worked through the summer.”
Similarly, Campbell said he was attracted to action sports at a young age. He grew up skateboarding and eventually got into snowboarding and mountain biking. But it was snowboarding that really excited him.
“I was one of the first five people ever to go down Alpine Valley when it opened,” he said, adding that he became a professional snowboarder in the early 1990s at the age of 18, an endeavor that prompted him to leave Michigan for Colorado. His snowboarding career shifted from competing to conducting research and coming up with his own board designs for industry pioneer Burton. His taste for shaping and designing boards then surpassed his passion for competition, ushering in a new chapter in his career. By the time he turned 25, he missed the water of his native Oakland County and the Great Lakes region as a whole, which brought him back home.
Campbell began studying composites while in college and started to generate his own product and application ideas. He soon decided to start his own business, and developing and patenting resins.
“I was working in the coatings industry for a long time,” he said. “I was surfing the Great Lakes, and came up with these ideas. When the economy went down here in the Midwest, I saw all the outsourcing and overseas manufacturing, and what it did to the community. I decided I wanted to give the small builders some help and technology they couldn’t get otherwise on their own.”
So Campbell established c3d Industries due to the growing need in the composites industry to develop a new resin completely different than epoxy, vinyl ester, and polyester. The company’s products have a slew of applications, including automotive, aerospace, enhanced carbon fiber properties, composite products, marine uses, motorcycles, sporting goods, structures, wind energy, and industrial flooring.
The c3d products, including the non-yellowing Resin-X, provide fast production times, dynamic flex, vibration dampening qualities, and superior chemical resistance over epoxies — all crucial to surfboards and now stand up paddleboards. Resin-X is non-corrosive and produced from products such as potatoes, corn, and wheat, making it more environmentally-friendly and safer than previous coatings.
According to Campbell, his trademarked Resin-X formula has many uses in both the composites and industrial markets as both a structural resin and a long-lasting topcoat. In addition to Resin-X, c3d has a complete line of finishing products, along with different types of epoxies.
It hasn’t taken international manufacturers long to realize Resin-X is a superior, innovative product that can improve their own products, and many — including some industry leaders in the mass-production market — are using Campbell’s formulations.
“One of those companies was able to bring production from China to America where its headquarters is located, along with their graphics department, which was doing their work in Europe,” he said. “This is creating more jobs in America and purchasing raw materials from Michigan.
“Resin-X is a made-in-Michigan product that is going to be featured in some of the top-of-the-line wakeboard and kiteboard markets,” Campbell said.
It’s not just big, multi-national firms and board makers that are benefiting by incorporating Resin-X into their products. Resin-X is even being used on the world stand up tour by Hawaii North Shore shaper Robin Johnston, according to Campbell.
Resin-X has many other practical uses — boat repairs and dock coatings being just a couple of them. And Campbell has developed and produced a line of Resin-X support products that are more environmentally-responsible. They also aide in the finishing of fiberglass and wood products.
Campbell now has 25 years of practical, real-world coatings experience as both an applicator and formulator. He also continues to do research and design work, and process engineering for both the public and private sectors. But he still makes the most of his opportunities to get outside and hop onto any number of different action sports boards, whether it’s snowboarding, surfing the Great Lakes or plying the waters of Michigan’s inland lakes. His continued interest in boarding sports, coupled with this experience in coatings and even graphic arts, have merged under Campbell’s board shaping and manufacturing efforts. He also glasses boards for other companies such as the classic label Dewey Weber.
“For years now I have been surfing the Great Lakes,” he said. “When I started surfing here I also started making my own surfboards and stand up paddleboards.”
Campbell says he still makes more surfboards than anything else these days, but his passion has really turned to stand up paddleboards, which allow people to stay fit and have fun even on flat water. The sport has been endorsed by celebrities as an excellent core workout and cross-training activity for many sports, or even to maintain general fitness. Former Detroit Red Wing Chris Chelios is big proponent of stand up paddleboarding, according to Campbell.
Jeff Weinert, a competitive cyclist and fellow action sports aficionado, helps Campbell with ideas culled from his own experiences and provides an extra set of hands to help create custom boards. Through working with Campbell, he’s become sold on the paddleboard phenomenon and says he expects the sport to explode.
“It gets bigger year by year,” Weinert said. “It should get big around here. People think about surfing and they think about the ocean. But with the Great Lakes, we have more coastline than the east and west coasts combined. And you can find waves just as big as the coasts’ on the Great Lakes. Then you consider all the inland lakes — and rivers, too.”
While it’s still common to find Campbell’s surfboards for sale or praised on the Internet, he’s promoting stand up paddleboarding and making more and more stand up boards. He said his paddleboard production has increased three-fold in each of the last few years. And like his surfboards, each of Campbell’s paddleboards is custom shaped, manufactured and even decorated with his own graphics.
“There’s no soul in the China boards,” Campbell said. “As far as the custom nature of paddleboards vs. China pop-out mass-produced boards, there is no substitute for a hand-laminated board when waters are bumpy and wavy. That’s when the paddleboarding is the most fun. While my primary focus is surfing Great Lakes waves, stand up paddleboarding has become a way for me to stay in shape on flat water.”
Now with vast experience shaping various kinds of boards, Campbell takes pride in shaping boards around each client and their ability.
“Stand up paddleboarding is our big focus locally,” he said. “My customers can form a relationship with the shaper, which allows me to manufacture a custom-tailored board fitting their size, weight, performance requirements and custom graphics.
“I like working here in Oakland County because the customer can come to me and get a better sense of what they want and need,” he said.
Campbell gets his board commissions from private customers and shops alike. He takes clients out on the water to try various boards and feel the differences between them. The clients tell him their preferences, and Campbell begins to craft a custom board suited to those preferences and the client’s physical characteristics.
And Campbell practices what he preaches when it comes to stand up paddleboarding. He gets out on the water to do some stand up paddleboarding about two to three times a week. As soon as the ice topping the area lakes melts, he heads out to the newly opened waters. Thanks to stand up paddleboarding, he lost about 20 pounds between February and early May this year.
Promoting stand up paddleboarding requires exposing more people to the sport, so Campbell’s c3d company — and his BlkBox Surf surfboard company — sponsor racing teams in the Midwest and Hawaii. While c3d sponsors a team based at Hawaii’s famous North Shore, the BlkBox Surf label is sponsoring riders in Michigan and across the Great Lakes.
“BlkBox Surf is homegrown, and I plan to keep it that way,” he said. “I’m more dead set on helping people in this area go to national levels and support kids from here, rather than find people outside of the area.”
Campbell himself is part of one of the BlkBox Surf sponsored competitive teams. He placed second in the WPA Men’s Midwest Point Series this year and earned a silver medal in the USCA National 500 Meter and Marathon.
“I’m one of the guys on the team, and have the most to lose when I’m out on a paddle. I’m out to prove something with making the products and the boards. We’re trying to sell a lifestyle here, not just boards, right here in our own backyard. The sport of stand up paddling offers so much to our area with its inland lakes.”
To learn more about c3d industries, visit c3dindustries.com.