Friday, 26 September 2014

Kickstarter Watch: AirBlade

I'm not one to support every idea out there on the market when it comes to campaigns on sites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and the likes. I'll be honest: there's a lot of crap on the support-me-please market. While there are some legitimately good ideas, there are dozens not worth their weight in salt. In saying that, I'm taking the opposite approach this morning. The blade to the upper-left presents a very interesting concept in its design. While hockey players rarely complain about wind resistance as they're shooting, the idea of cutting that small amount of drag as a shot is being fired could actually increase the speed of shots even further than what we see today! With that, I'd like to introduce you to the AirBlade!

I want to be upfront with everyone on this: I have received no endorsements, products, or payment of any kind for this review. I am writing this review having not touched a stick, seen it in use personally, or any other personal experience with the AirBlade outside of the testimonial videos. I am writing this because the science behind the stick seems valid and plausible, and I happen to appreciate science. Because I have not used the AirBlade in any way, I can neither endorse nor discourage any one from getting an AirBlade if one is interested in purchasing an AirBlade. This is simply a look at the science and claims behind a stick that has the potential to change the game for some players. Ok? Ok.

Carbon Sports LLC's COO Richard Fucillo "explained that the AirBlade stick was designed with a perforated cross-beam pattern, rather than a foam core, with a carbon fiber composite material used in the aerospace and military industries". Interesting, but we're talking about a blade that has holes in it, right? I get that carbon fiber is stronger than most materials, but the idea of using a hockey stick with a blade that has holes in it seems counter-productive, right?

Well, according to Carbon Sports' website, "[t]he competition uses a foam core for the majority of their blade. This makes the blade more sensitive to wear and chipping, as there is only a thin layer of carbon fiber protecting the core". There's a good chance that the wearing and chipping has happened to most of us who play the game. As you're aware, as soon as this chip becomes prominent, the stick is basically finished. By using AirBlade's solid carbon fiber design, there is less chances of chipping or wearing, meaning that your stick will last much longer than current conventional sticks. That is probably the biggest selling feature that I can find at this point in terms of why players would want an AirBlade.

The warranty that Carbon Sports offers on the AirBlade is actually very impressive. They offer a 300% longer warranty on their sticks compared to conventional carbon fiber sticks, and they "have not had a single return or issue with any AirBlade stick to date". In other words, they stand by their claims of the AirBlade outlasting their traditional competitors!

In addition to the warranty, Carbon Sports is confident enough to offer something else no one has: "We are so confident that you will love your customized AirBlade that we are offering a 60-day money back guarantee to backers through Kickstarter. As long as you use your stick within our warranty policy guidelines, you can return it up to 60 days after date of shipment for a full refund." Test before you buy? That's now possible!

Now you might be asking about the claim for faster shots due to less drag on the stick. As a defenceman, I've never really considered wind resistance to be a major player in the shot department because every player deals with it. However, as you can see on the right, the AirBlade does show an increase in shot velocity as per Carbon Sports. According to their studies, players can experience "a 13% increase in average shot speed as documented by internal wind tunnel and on-the-ice testing". In some cases, that's the difference between a goal and a save due to a goalie's reaction time.

There are additional features that make the AirBlade a little more player-friendly as well. The blade has micro-grip nubs, allowing for better puck control and shot accuracy. The AirBlade can also be ordered "in 25,000 different combinations of lie, curve, curve depth, contour, rake, shaft flex, and shaft coat" so that you get your stick exactly how you like it. In other words, AirBlade literally has a stick for all players of all sizes and ages!

Carbon Sports has a few testimonials from some well-regarded players. I'll post a couple of these, and you can decide on whether these reputable hockey players' testimonials are enough for you to consider an AirBlade.

Carbon Sports is going to be launching a Kickstarter on Monday, September 29, 2014 to try and get the AirBlade off the ground. They're looking to raise $45,000 in their campaign. If you want to help out, there are a number of different incentive levels that can be met including one that offers an AirBlade. I admit that the Kickstarter amounts seem expensive in some cases, but there's usually a product coming back your way at each level.

Now you might be asking why they chose Kickstarter as their means of raising capitals. They write,
We currently have the technology, the team, and the infrastructure in place, ready and waiting to produce custom-made AirBlade sticks for our customers. Your support will allow us to purchase the molding tools necessary to begin production of the AirBlade directly from our facility in Massachusetts. Without these molding tools, we would not be able to tailor the AirBlade to each player's individual specifications, and we would not be able to keep production right here in the USA!
The science seems sound on all accounts in the AirBlade's case. While the testimonials may leave a little doubt in your mind, the names supporting the AirBlade are pretty recognizable and I doubt they'd stake their reputations on a product that was inferior. Overall, it seems like this product has legs as long as they reach their Kickstarter amount.

Until next time, keep your AirBlade sticks on the ice!

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