The Initial Scope

After logging more than his fair share of hours on the water and wanting to take this love for it everywhere he went, Luke Tipple (Founder and CEO of Whipr) challenged us to design a portable Stand-Up-Paddle (SUP) boarding trainer that could fit inside a standard carry-on luggage. On top of being extremely compact, the design would need to boast performance figures comparable to brand name full sized trainers.

Designing a Fitness Product

When designing highly complex products that depend on performance and size requirements being met to be successful, it’s important to determine if the core requirements of the project are feasible and how we plan on meeting those requirements once feasibility was proven. With existing trainers on the market that work well, we didn’t want to end up with an overpriced alternative riddled with compromises.

The core element we needed to hypothesize early in the design process was how the product would replicate the sensations and resistance felt when paddling on water. This involved exploring multiple mechanisms that could meet the size and performance requirements of the design, including mechanisms that functioned on the principles of elastic tension, liquid resistance, inertia, potential energy, and air pressure. Considering variables like paddle length, user height, and user strength, we tested several solutions with mock-ups and test rigs. 

We eventually landed on a system that uses a flywheel to create the feel and resistance of paddling in water. Additional rounds of prototypes helped us develop the mechanism further by combined a new proprietary planetary geared flywheel with an adjustable magnetic induction tensioning system. This allowed for the mechanism to be miniaturized while also providing adjustability to account for different user strengths and skill levels.

Product design early prototype of whipr SUP trainer
Product design early prototype of whipr SUP trainer

From Single Product to Product Ecosystem

Although a SUP trainer was the initial objective, its was obvious to Luke and Shape Products that there was much more potential beyond making Whipr for only one sport. While it can seem daunting to plan the future from the start, it’s vital to carefully think through the long-term product ecosystem when the slate is still blank. Future-proofing the design helps keep doors open, eliminates headaches down the road, and ensures that the product consumers invest in early will still be relevant for years to come.

Prior to fully resolving the core element of the system which houses the main resistance mechanism and interface (which we refer to as the “Main Unit”), we started developing a line of accessories that made Whipr much more versatile. Users now have the option to paddle, row, kayak, dragon, ski and swim with one system that can fit inside a luggage. Whipr went from being a SUP trainer to the world’s smallest ERG training system.

Crowdfunded Development

A big part of the development of Whipr was the use of Kickstarter, not only to fund development but as a way to improve and innovate the design further. With Kickstarter, we benefit from thousands of consumers being able to offer feedback and insight very early on in the life of a product. Being open-minded and having an adaptable design was important as it allowed us to be more agile and deliver a product that better suit consumer needs.

Campaign Results

Of course, we’re biased when we proclaim that everything revolves around the product and we recognize that a number of important elements need to come together for a successful Kickstarter campaign. We were fortunate to get a front-row seat as whipr’s founder generated pre-campaign hype and laid the groundwork for a campaign that would reach its funding goal in the first hour. From the initial product inspiration to the Kickstarter video and customer communication, passion, authenticity, and meaning are reflected in everything the company puts out. This spirit can’t be faked and is what we believe is at the core of every great story.

Executing What We Promised

A successful campaign is nothing without delivering the product we promised. We were not only responsible for the initial design, but also establishing and liasoning a relationship with manufacturers that would produce the Whipr system. We worked with engineers, suppliers, and software developers to refine the design and overcome the challenges associated with turning a conceptual design into a manufacturable product.