Okabena Firm Makes Motors to Power Speedy Surfboards

OKABENA (1968 News Special) – It’s more than a thousand miles to the closet ocean but surfboards are here by the gross.     

A. F. Scheppmann and Son Manufacturing Company of Okabena is hard at work this summer making and assembling electric motors to be used in powering a new breed of surfboard.  The boards, designed by Fleischer Manufacturing Company of Salt Lake City, Utah, are the first to be placed on the market equipped with tiny motors and propellers to move them through the water.  Most surfboards run strictly by gravity as their operators guide them down the front slopes of large waves. Scheppmann became involved in the surfing business in a round-about way.  The Utah firm was seeking a  super efficient type of electric motor to be powered by a new type of 12-volt battery designed originally for the nation’s space program. 

The answer was provided by George Wasko of Lakefield who, in former years, has devised a number of improvements in the electric motor and generator field.  He came up with a motor which met the specifications of the Fleischer firm.  Scheppmann has worked with Wasko in the past on electrical production matters and bid on a contract for production of the surfing motors. 

He was awarded a contract for a thousand of them and began work earlier this summer.  The production crew has grown to more than a dozen and production has risen to over 40 per day.  Assembly of the boards and motors is being conducted at Windom Manufacturing Company, a firm owned by Robert Soleta and Lloyd Johnson of Windom.

Speeds of up to 10 miles an hour are possible with the surfboards.  As much as three hours of running time is obtained on a single battery charge. With

the new boards, it is not necessary to wait for the call, “Surf’s Up!” Even on inland lakes, thrills of surfing are easily obtained.  On the ocean, the motors, ease the problem of battling towering waves outbound so as to ride them back towards shore.   It would be difficult to picture a more unlikely place for production of such exotic items than a small farming community in the middle of the Middle West.   (Surfer is Ray Teeter, Okabena – 1968)

(Story from Worthington Daily Globe, August 1968)