Steve Watts, founder and creative director of Slyde Hand-boards, accomplished one of his lifelong goals this month: opening a store on the Venice beachfront.

The 400-square-foot store and showroom marks the evolution of his six-year-old company, which has been selling its handboards, known as handplanes in the water sports world, through his website. Handplanes are wooden or epoxy boards that help body surfers glide on waves.

Watts, a 36-year-old South African native, said he has been selling between 100 and 150 boards a month online. A designer by trade, he had wanted to open a shop in Venice catering to the skateboard and extreme sports crowd after watching skateboarding film “Thrashin’” as a child.

Watts, whose products are manufactured both in Southern California and Asia, does not expect to move a huge volume through the small Venice site.

“We’re not going to rely on the store to sell handplanes out of it. It’s essentially a showroom,” Watts said.

The idea for the product first came up when he was a young surfer on the beaches of Durban, South Africa. In addition to traditional surfing, Watts and his friends also bodysurfed on lunch trays for fun.

Watts said the appeal of handplaning comes from its accessibility.

“Having that big surfboard with you is a hindrance,” he said. “What you need to learn in surfing is gauging the wave. For the inexperienced, you ride the wave so much quicker with a handplane. You don’t need to stand up on a board either.”

Handplane sets cost between $80 and $250, while a surfboard can cost many times that. The only other equipment needed is a pair of flippers.

Slyde is not the only Southern Californian store catering to the sport. San Diego companies Enjoy Handplanes and Surf-Grips sell similar equipment.

Still, Watts has ambitions for his company.

“The next step is to get a bigger place,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to have a handplane superstore.”

– Justin Yang

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