Wurf: Behind the Scenes of Innovation
We've gone behind the scenes of innovation to learn more about how the Wurf board came to be and what makes it better than other anti-fatigue mats on the market today.
Q: How did you come up with the prototype for the Wurf Board? How long did it take?
A: JumpSport offered standing desks to everyone about two years ago. Some complained they could not stand long on the hard floor so we offered anti-fatigue mats. Many said they didn’t help, actually made their legs feel stiffer, and in a few cases bothered their backs.We tried at least 20 different anti-fatigue mats, while some of the firmer ones were better, nothing really worked well.
As I began thinking about these problems, while experiencing some of the same issues, I noticed my heels were sinking into the mat, causing my knees to lock, which quickly made my legs feel stiffer and negatively impacted my posture. I wondered why anti-fatigue mats didn’t bother me when I was washing dishes or working in my shop and it dawned on me that anti-fatigue mats are always used where people are constantly moving around and not standing still like we do now at standing desks. That was the moment that set me on the path to creating the Wurf.
Q: What was your biggest challenge with this invention?
A: The goal was to create a platform that was lightweight, easy to slide in and out with your feet (especially helpful for people that find it difficult to bend over), yet would grip the floor when any significant weight was placed on it. Like our fitness trampolines, I also wanted something that was fully adjustable from very firm to more conforming and bouncy. It’s thrilling for us to have created a product that exceeds all of our design goals.
Q: How did you decide what materials to use? Who calculated the science behind this?
A: The industry name for this material is drop stitched PVC. The material and technology to build it has been around for at least 50 years, however, improvements in technology and coatings over the last twenty years have allowed it to be used in a wide variety of applications. For example, this material is used to construct inflatable standup paddle boards, but we had to re engineer the material in order to improve its strength and durability for the many years of use and abuse we expect it will receive as a standing mat in an office setting and as an at-desk exercise platform.
In fact, the material and fabrication process is more than four times the cost of a high end pair of running shoes, but it’s worth it. Road runners burn through shoes in six months, but our boards need to hold up for years. The cool thing about this material is that it uses high strength strands of fibers that span the distance between the top and bottom surfaces and this allows the material to be inflated while keeping the top and bottom surfaces flat.
A key goal for this product was to make the surface feel trampoline-like. We designed and built numerous prototypes which utilized a number of different technologies to achieve a surface that performed with a high coefficient of restitution and a linear compression modulus — to provide a uniform, smooth, springy feeling under your feet.We designed decks with wave and coiled springs, different elastomeric combinations of rubber and foam, and various inflatable solutions before Mark had an epiphany when surfing in Santa Cruz and seeing an inflatable standup paddle board.
Q: What was your testing process like? Did you have any redesign phases?
A: The first thing I did was cut the legs down on one of my fitness trampolines — that felt much better! But it wasn’t ideal and was bulky, hard to switch between sitting and standing.
I went on to design more than 14 platforms and our team prototyped and tested many of those.Because I love to surf, skateboard, and wakeboard, I really wanted to create a platform that I could manipulate with my feet, so I included curved edges to allow you to rock back-and-forth and “hang-ten”.
We experimented with different heights and found two-inches wasn’t too tall, but tall enough to permit you to hang your heels off and stretch your calves, or when barefoot to massage the arches of your feet. We tried many different materials and combinations.
Q: Where did the term Wurf come from?
A: It is a portmanteau of “Work” and “Surf.”
Q: How do you think Wurf will fit into the future?
A: Nothing similar is on the market. The closest would be a traditional foam-based or rubber anti-fatigue mat, which feels dead under your feet and not lively and reactive like the Wurf — its lively surface stimulates the body’s balance mechanisms, causing the core to engage, which improves posture.
The Wurf board gives great support; its air-spring technology feels lively, like you’re standing on air; and it’s fun to stand, exercise, and play on. Its trampoline-like surface encourages you to continuously make small micro-movements without distracting you from work. You can customize your stance unlike our competitors who have a one-firmness suits all approach.
Q: Any new inventions on the horizon?
A: This fall, we’ll be introducing a new rocking-balance board we’re calling “Wurfie”. We’re the first to combine a flat upper deck with an innovative 360° gently curving bottom that provides easy, smooth rocking in all directions. The 360° rocking permits for full ankle rotation which stimulates all the muscle groups in your feet and lower legs. This is important for standing desk users because it improves blood flow in their lower extremities, permitting them to stand comfortably longer. Wurfie also engages the stabilizing muscles in your back and core, improving posture and balance. We have two more innovative stand-on platforms that we will be rolling out next year.
Q: If you were speaking to a new inventor. What advice would you give them about the process?
A: Innovators are at their best when they are creatingsomething that they would love to use, and to be successful, it needs to solve a problem for millions of people or help them.