Union Leader | J. Koziol
FRANKLIN - While developed in California, the Onewheel, a self-balancing electric skateboard that some see as the next big thing in personal transportation, is gaining traction on this side of the country thanks to two New Hampshire companies.
Outdoor New England, located on Central Street in downtown Franklin, has been selling Onewheels since 2016 and is the exclusive dealer in the Granite State and eastern Massachusetts. And Waterville Valley Resort recently became one of three resorts in the U.S., and the only one on the East Coast, to partner with Santa Cruz-based Future Motion Inc., in opening a Onewheel Experience Center.
The Onewheel is the brainchild of Kyle Doerksen, a Canadian who grew up snowboarding in the Canadian Rockies and who went on to earn multiple engineering degrees at Stanford University. Convinced that there had to be a better way than walking for him to travel the mile from his home to his job, Doerksen devised the Onewheel, according to the Future Motion website.
In January 2014, Future Motion launched, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign. The startup sought $100,000 to manufacture the Onewheel and raised $630,000.
Two years later, Marty Parichand had Onewheels available for sale at Outdoor New England. With the exception of the rubber tire at its center, Onewheels are made entirely in the U.S. They sell from between $1,000 to $1,800.
A former electrical engineer who lives in Epsom, Parichand worked several years for a defense contractor before reconsidering and then re-ordering his life priorities. When he completed his internal review, he placed family, not work, first on his list of most important things, followed by "being outside and white-water paddling."
While watching a YouTube video featuring Dane Jackson, a freestyle white-water kayak champion, Parichand observed that Jackson was riding a Onewheel as he carried his kayak on a dirt trail to a river.
Parichand was struck by two thoughts: how easily the Onewheel moved and how successful it could be among outdoor enthusiasts.
"It looked smooth, it looked intuitive, it looked almost effortless," Parichand recalled. "White-water paddlers are outdoors-lifestyle people, and we're always looking for new products and this is a truly innovative one. You can go on pavement and on trails and you can use it to experience the outdoors or you can commute to work on it."
Over the past 2 1/2 years, Parichand has sold about 30 Onewheels. He recently took delivery of six of the vehicles, all pre-ordered, with some of the new owners coming from as far as Portland, Maine, to pick them up.
Outdoor New England has shipped Onewheels to customers throughout the region as well as across the country. A pair of exchange students studying in Boston bought two that they then took home to Brazil on a commercial flight once Parichand had removed the batteries.
"It's a high-ticket item," Parichand acknowledges, which means that "ownership is not for everybody."
That said, rental traffic speaks to the Onewheel's popularity, Parichand said. He's rented 60 this summer.
At Waterville Valley, the Onewheels completed a nearly one-year test during which staff tried, unsuccessfully, to break them.
The Onewheel is the second electric vehicle to be offered for rent at the Waterville Valley Adventure Center at Town Square. The first, the ResortBoard, which debuted last year, as has a handle bar that allows riders to lean into corners, engaging the core muscles they use in skiing and snowboarding.
The Onewheels "fit in really well with our culture" at Waterville Valley, said Taylor Stout, the resort's terrain-park manager who is also overseeing the Onewheel and ResortBoard programs.
"There is a learning curve" to operate a Onewheel, Stout said, but it's not an excessively steep one.
"The younger you are, the quicker you get it," said Parichand.