Kaj Gyr of Nelson, British Columbia has always impressed us with his inventions, and his latest handiwork is no exception. Called the Slopedeck, it’s a cross between a skateboard and a snowboard and it’s about to change the way we look at snowy backyards.
You know how when you’re a kid you come up with all these different inventions. You’ll be playing with Lego or a cardboard box or something and suddenly you’re like, “I know! I’ll build a portable marshmallow toaster!” Hardly any of us actually follow through so it’s refreshing to know there are those out there whose childhood daydreams do come to life. Take Kaj Gyr for example – he’s been living as an inventor for the past 24 years. The Michigan native has always liked designing things but fell into a career path as a registered nurse until 1993 when he created a plastic bag dryer as a unique Christmas gift for his friends. They were so popular he started selling them in markets and sales exploded – he still sells about 10,000 a year.
Since his transition from nurse to full-time inventor Kaj moved his family to Nelson 14 years ago and has been responsible for a lot of different things that we’ve covered in the pages of Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine such as clipless skins and a pod that affixes to a stand up paddleboard and allows you to sit on it easily. His latest creation is the Slopedeck, which looks like a skateboard but is specially designed to carve snow slopes. We sat down with Kaj to chat about his newest invention and what it’s like being a full-time inventor.
Hey Kaj. Good talking to you. You’ve invented quite a few things eh? Can you list them for us.
Since KMC did the blurb on Clipskins years ago I’ve invented high performance toboggans, a number of paddleboard accessories, and something that most closely resembles a paddleboard but is propelled by the feet while you’re in a standing position. Also, a tandem multi-day touring paddleboard that allows for sit/stand/kneel positions.
Did you always want to be an inventor?
I always liked tinkering with things, but I never really took it seriously or thought I could make a living at it until I met someone who was an inventor. That emboldened me to further some of the ideas I had been tinkering with. Coming up with concepts is no problem – bringing them to market is the challenging part.
Does living uphill in Nelson help with your creative process?
I’ve always lived on Mt. Station, and yes, it does lend itself to the invention process because the outdoors are so accessible.
Tell us about your latest invention, the Slopedeck?
I was watching my kids (who were between the ages of five and eight at the time) standing on a toboggan and sliding down a small hill. I thought, “There’s got to be a better way.” I had checked out snowskates and bidecks before but wasn’t impressed. I wanted to make something that was really nimble and “turny,” even on packed snow. The ride on a Slopedeck is more akin to skateboarding than snowboarding. Small hills suddenly become more challenging and fun.
How exactly does it differ from a snowskate?
It’s essentially a hybrid between a single deck (a skateboard style deck with P-tex base) and bi-deck snowskate (skate deck with a ski about 3 inches below it). Single decks are fine for flip tricks but offer minimal control, and bi-decks are fine for high speed carving but they’re heavy and expensive. The Slopedeck’s offset base and radial grooves allow it to carve turns in most snow conditions, all for the same price as a single deck. And it’s made in Nelson!
Where are you selling them?
On Amazon, shops throughout B.C., sports shops and distributors throughout the U.S.
A lot of your inventions involve decks, whether for water or snow. Would you say that’s your passion?
I wouldn’t say decks are my passion per se. I would say my passion is finding what makes whatever sport I am doing even more fluid or glitch-free. Decks can allow for freedom of movement, so that’s a good starting point.
What are you working on next?
A total re-design of the canoe as we know it, new paddleboard accessories, and a more biomechanically efficient ski/trekking pole handgrip.