History of Pentas Moulding 1975-1980
Looking back at the origins of Pentas Moulding B.V., we find ourselves in the 1970s. Surfing is popular, but the widespread windsurfing craze of the 1980s is yet to unfold.
One day, Dick Roetert Steenbruggen comes across an article in a magazine from the American chemical company Dupont about two avid surfers in California. These surfers are frustrated with the effort required for traditional surfing. They conceive the innovative idea of attaching a sail to a surfboard, allowing them to sail away from the shore with minimal effort and wait for a wave to lift them. Afterward, they simply toss the sail off the board, and it washes ashore on its own.
A new product in a new market
Upon reading this article, Roetert Steenbruggen sees a business opportunity and decides a new boost is much needed. He identifies the producer of these sail-equipped surfboards and, along with colleague and market researcher Martin Spanjer he travels to America. Spanjer, well-acquainted with the U.S., quickly arranges a meeting with Hoyle Schweitzer, one of the inventors.
Schweitzer, having acquired the patent for the surfboard through the buyout of fellow inventor Jim Drake, exclusively brands it as Windsurfer. Spanjer sees an opportunity, and within half a year, the first containers of surfboards and accessories arrive in the Netherlands.
World Championships in 'windsurfing'
Martin Spanjer takes immediate action. He secures articles in magazines, conducts product demonstrations, establishes surf schools, develops manuals, organizes school competitions, and encourages everyone involved in watersports. He even organizes world championships in 'windsurfing,' generating considerable publicity, although he conveniently omits that the initial participant pool for the world championships consists of six people: four members of the Spanjer family and two acquaintances.
Sailcloth from Ten Cate Technical Fabrics
The classic pioneering phase lasts about four years. During this time, dealers are appointed in the Netherlands through selective distribution, while most European countries have appointed importers. The products are still imported from Los Angeles, except for the sail, which is now manufactured by the Frisian sailmaker Gaastra using sailcloth from Ten Cate Technical Fabrics, based on Windsurfer specifications. Meanwhile, the growing organization is moved to a separate company: Ten Cate Sports.
In a later phase, Ten Cate Sports collaborates with the rotational molding company Fusion in Deventer to manufacture the surfboards in the Netherlands. As demand continues to rise in the late seventies, the decision is made to have Ten Cate produce the surfboards themselves. This production takes place at the Indië-terrein of Nijverdal Ten Cate on Sluiskade NZ in Almelo. New rotational molding and foam machines are installed for production. Fusion is tasked with removing the molds from the machines and sending them to Almelo. The production of the Windsurfer by Ten Cate Sports becomes a reality.
Things are going well for Ten Cate. Sales figures are rising rapidly, and additional machines are being acquired. Surfing becomes a family affair. Many households own one or more surfboards. In the seventies, the surfboard often accompanies families on vacation, securely tied to the roof of the car. Surfing is booming in Europe. The demand, tens of thousands per year, exceeds the production capacity. And every board that is produced is sold immediately.
Ten Cate undergoes a development in which models other than the well-known Windsurfer are produced. The Windsurfer remains popular, but with growing competition comes an increase in patent infringements. This leads to numerous lawsuits, incurring significant costs for Ten Cate. It's a tumultuous period both internally and in the market, involving substantial investments. Meanwhile, Ten Cate Sports begins producing the masts as well. The raw material, fiberglass cloth, is supplied by fellow subsidiary Ten Cate Glas. In addition to the Windsurfer, models TC 36 and TC 39 are now also being produced. Especially the TC 36 (shorter and wider) proves exceptionally popular among beginners in that market phase.
Ten Cate Sports misses the boat
Around 1980, Will Visscher becomes the general manager of Ten Cate Sports. These are prosperous times, with three production machines running in three shifts and approximately 40,000 to 50,000 sailboards produced annually. Export to Canada, the U.S., Japan, and Australia is now also taking place. The expectations are high, but a sailboard remains a seasonal item. Production mainly occurs in winter, followed by the hope for good weather and a clearance of the warehouse. However, this becomes increasingly difficult over time due to rising competition and the somewhat outdated image of the Windsurfer. Competitors make sailboards faster, lighter, and more modern, and Ten Cate Sports lags behind. At this time, about 120 people work for the company, but by the mid-1980s, Ten Cate Sports is incurring losses.
The creative mind of Koorn
In an effort to revamp the development department, a student at the University of Twente, Ruud Koorn, is given the task by Ten Cate Sports. The organization is sales-driven, and although the brochures look polished, product development lags behind. It's time for change, so Koorn is brought in as the creative mind. The mechanical engineering student had previously crafted a few wooden sailboards with a study mate. Inspired by Bruynzeel during a 'sailing' competition, Koorn decided to approach Ten Cate Sports when they placed a summer ad. He confidently enters the company with drawings under his arm.
"This is my design. You need me! But first, I need to graduate," says Ruud Koorn.
Study trip to Hawaii
Ruud gets the job and starts working at Ten Cate Sports in November 1981. He enjoys a fantastic time, including a 'study trip' to Hawaii. Global competitions are organized where professionals use the latest models and designs. Unfortunately, this dream situation cannot last. Overcapacity and price erosion due to increasing competition make things increasingly challenging for Ten Cate Sports. However, this eventually sets the stage for the birth of Pentas Moulding B.V.