Simon Sivertsen wasn’t like other teenagers while on holiday with his parents. The creative youngster, who loved spending time in the nature, was sailing in the Mediterranean Sea when he came up with an invention that would change his life. While many teens flirt with waves of creativity, Sivertsen followed up on his and began crafting a new water sport device from materials he bought at local supermarkets. He created a unique underwater gadget that propeled him through the water while being pulled by his family’s boat. It was like gliding on air, but in the waters of the Mediterranean.
Following their sailing adventure, Sivertsen’s father encouraged him to push the boundaries of the device and find a manufacturer. He did, and soon the Subwing was born. Now, eight years later, Sivertsen has seen his company grow far beyond the gadget he built on holiday. The Subwing is being used all over the world by watersports enthusiasts. Sivertsen is still working just as hard as ever to continue Subwing’s growth. The company has changed the way people explore underwater and enjoy the wonders of marine life.
Sivertsen recently took time away from Subwing and his newly born son to speak with Totalprestige Magazine about the creative idea he turned into a company.
Simon, you invented the Subwing at the age 18. How did you come up with the idea?
The idea first came to mind when I was sailing in the Mediterranean. The water was unbelievably clear, so it felt almost like flying when swimming underwater. However, swimming underwater were lacking any sensation of thrill. Also, I wanted to be able to glide through the water effortlessly and at a higher speed than I was able to achieve with my diving fins.
I started to think of ways to make this happen, using some sort of a wing towed behind a boat quickly became an idea I wanted to try out. I gathered some driftwood, screwed it together, attached some ropes and the first ever Subwing was born. I tested it out behind our dinghy and it worked remarkably well for such a primitive and simple solution.
However, I wasn’t entirely happy with it as it were difficult to perform rolls and other acrobatics underwater. My idea to improve it was to have two wings connected in a rotatable center joint. I found all the parts I needed for realizing my idea at a local supermarket. Two cutting boards acted as the wings and some garden hose fittings held the two wings together to enable a rotatable joint.
The underwater performance of this version was truly amazing, and my father proposed that we should make it into a product and a company. After coming home from the sailing trip, work began on making numerous prototypes. This was essentially how it all started.
Can you explain to readers just how the Subwing works and how it can enhance the diving experience?
The Subwing consists of two wings that you hold on to while being towed behind a boat at a slow and steady pace. To maneuver, you simply tilt the wings in the direction you want to go. Tilt both wings downwards to dive down and upwards to resurface. The rider is always in full control of the maneuvering themselves and it’s incredibly intuitive and easy to learn.
I’ve read that the Subwing is like being Superman underwater. How would you explain the experience? Is it a 21st century version of waterskiing?
I will say the feeling you get underwater when flying on the Subwing is the closest thing you get to flying like Superman, unless you’re jumping off a cliff in a wingsuit. The neat thing about the Subwing is that you can adopt different riding styles for different kind of experiences. You can, for example, enjoy a thrilling underwater session with rolls and other underwater acrobatics, or you can glide along in a peaceful sensation while marveling on the beauty of the surrounding marine environment. It’s all up to you what you make out of it.
As a young entrepreneur, what was it like building your own product and brand from scratch?
It was challenging and much to learn throughout the process, though I had a great time while doing it, which is probably the most important thing for staying motivated.
Were there any setbacks in the development of Subwing such as difficulty finding investors or manufacturers to create your idea?
Finding manufacturers was not a great challenge, but the main headache was to refine the manufacturing process and remove defects so all the Subwings we produce would turn out perfect.
The Subwing website states the carbon and fiberglass Subwings are no longer being manufactured. What was the reason to move away from these materials, and what materials are Subwings manufactured from now?
The main goal has always been to produce a simple and fun water toy that any boat owner can enjoy without digging deep in their pockets. The Carbon fiber and fiberglass version were both handmade which made them prone to manufacturing inconsistencies and also made it impossible for us to produce them at a high rate or to sell them for a reasonable price.
The new Subwing is manufactured of ABS plastic which is a recyclable and very durable and easy-to-work-with material. The production process is much simpler and effective, and we are guaranteed that each Subwing is coming out of production with no hidden defects or anomalies. For the customer, this means that they get a more affordable Subwing with the same (and possibly better) features as the original versions.
Although we have moved away from producing the fiber versions it was always our intent to launch our brand as a high-end luxury product and then move to a consumer version.
Subwing has added other branded merchandise to its list of products. What are your plans for the future? Will we see more innovative water gadgets?
Right now, we are focusing on conquering the world of watersports with our Subwing, but we are very keen on developing new exciting watersport products in the future.
Subwing is a type of watersport, but do you foresee competitions being developed based on tricks riders can do?
For me, the Subwing is so much more than a sport. It’s a tool for exploring and interacting with the marine environment and simply enjoying life. However, ways to use the Subwing are endless and it’s great fun to invent new tricks and attempt new riding styles so seeing Subwing competitions would be awesome! The main obstacle I believe would be the fact that all the action is happening underwater, so it may not be the most spectator-friendly sport out there.
Simon, what’s next for Subwing?
The next thing for us is to make everyone aware of the sport and make the Subwing a common sight at all watersport destinations. All of our feedback from customers has been amazing, so I hope every water enthusiast will have the chance to try or own a Subwing.
You are a firm believer in Marine Life Protection. Why are the ocean and waterways so important to you and how did that connection begin?
Having grown up by the ocean, I have a personal connection to the sea. Our oceans are our planets most precious resource and yet we are polluting, overfishing and causing serious harm to marine ecosystems. Seeing that not enough is being made to change our ways, I hope that I can contribute a little by providing a tool to let people experience the beauty of the marine world in a new way. We also donate 1% of our sales to marine life preservation programs.
You are now 26 and have turned your idea into a company. What advice do you have for other teenage entrepreneurs who want to turn their ideas into a business?
Do something you have a passion for and stick to it, listen to yourself and work hard. There are no shortcuts in creating a business, so passion and drive for your idea are absolutely essential for you to achieve your goal.
Simon, what is a day in your life like?
At the moment it is pretty regular. I just had the pleasure of having a son, so other than work, I mostly spend my time with my little family.
What makes you smile?
Easy question, my son. It sounds like a cliché, but regardless of how hard my day has been, he always brings a smile to my face.
What scares you?
The fact that the leader of the most powerful country in the world is an unstable maniac.
Simon, any hobbies?
My main hobby would be exploring the wild nature of Norway. I feel truly blessed to have grown up in this beautiful country and I try to get out and do as much skiing and hiking in the mountains as possible. I also love photographing and to challenge myself by trying out new sports. I do surfing, SUP boarding, snowkiting, longboarding and recently I purchased myself a surf hydrofoil and I’m now learning to foil. Basically, I love to try out everything new and different.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Hmm, maybe Nikola Tesla. Probably the most underrated inventor/scientist in history.
Can you share two of your favourite quotes with us?
“Skills are cheap, passion is priceless.”
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
End poverty. Less poverty means better education, better educations means more ideas, more ideas means more innovation. If there was no poverty, instead of having some hotspots of innovation in the developed world, we would have had many hot spots all over the world. The research output of humanity would have been many times greater of what it is now, and we might even have found a cure for cancer. So, ending poverty doesn’t only help the individuals that were poor, but also help humanity as a whole.
For more information on Simon Sivertsen and the Subwing, please visit www.Subwing.com.