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Rogue Wave

City works to shift old policy against boogie boards

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One sure-fire way to make sure a new "edgy" sport maintains its cachet is for that sport to have a scofflawish tinge to it. Street luge without the risk of getting busted is, well, just not that thrilling after a while.

Unfortunately, one of Boise's rising business stars is also running afoul of the law in its home town. After getting a glowing write-up in the Idaho Statesman's Thrive, Banshee Riverboards is now finding that it, too, might have to watch out for the boys in blue.

Turns out that a 1992 ordinance banned all forms of "boogie boarding" from the Boise River, and that the very thing that the fledgling company makes is just the sort of thing city councilors banned way back when.

"They were terrorizing rafters," said current City Councilor David Eberle, who said he did a little boogie-boarding himself in his time. Back then, however, the sport meant little more than perching atop a piece of plywood that, Eberle said, was permanently attached to the 8th Street bridge by a rope. "The problem is when you zip along on that board and you whack someone, there's a real potential for injury."

Flash forward to the present, where CEO Kevin Veon and his compadres at Banshee Riverboards are expecting to pull in about $400,000 in revenue this year. They sell riverboards that attach to a bungee cord, which, according to their Web site, "is anchored to any stationary object along the side of the river." They could have taken that line straight from the city's ordinance, which bans use of any form of board that "creates a surf-type wave upon or within the river surface and which is secured by rope, line or in some other fashion to a stationary object."

Veon, interviewed while he was attending a trade show in Munich, Germany, said none of his company's representatives have had trouble with Boise Police officers who, he said, have been "fine with us." One guy (not an employee), however, did get stopped by police and kicked off the river recently, Veon said.

The difference between Veon's setup and the plywood upon which Eberle hung 10 is that the Banshee Riverboards technology includes an automatic release, Veon said.

"We're a real safety-conscious company," Veon said. "There's no fixed point between the bungee and the board. It automatically releases." He expects his company will sell 1,000 of the units this year. By 2010, he said, he's projecting revenues of $50 million, by selling the boards to the same millions of people that have made snowboarding so popular. Plus, he said, wakeboarding doesn't require a boat, gas, or a trailer.

Eberle, for his part, is leading the charge to legalize the new boards. He thinks there's room on the now-sober Boise River for the new boards to ride. Since the city has been murmuring lately about building a water park, he said, this could be just the thing.

"We're going to have a re-look at it," Eberle said. "We'll see if the whole new mood of civility will accommodate certain activities."

City staff are now working to schedule a demo with Banshee, to show city leaders just how safe their technology is.

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