Darrell Bachmann found himself in an unusual competition when he attended an Alaska Aces hockey game in Anchorage last year.
“I raced the Zamboni in front of about 7,000 people,” said Bachmann, a former Penticton entrepreneur.
He wasn’t wearing skates for the race, just boots. Boots that incorporated the kickspike technology he invented for golfing in sunny Okanagan summers.
Bachmann’s idea was to make golf shoes with retractable spikes, so you could walk straight off the green into the clubhouse without changing shoes — just tap a button on the shoe and the spikes disappear.
The golf shoe is still in development, after eight years of trying, including an appearance on Dragon’s Den in 2009. But while showing off a prototype at a Professional Golf Association show Bachmann was approached by the vice-president of the US Postal Service who asked if he had plans to make boots with the same retractable spikes.
“Yes, absolutely,” was Bachmann’s response.
“I saw the niche for boots in traction footwear,” said Bachmann. Then, last November a number of oil companies invited him to Alaska to demonstrate the kickspike concept.
“They loved it so much that we decided to open a store in Anchorage,” said Bachmann, who now lives in Kelowna after spending 13 years as a Pentictonite.
“It’s just taken off. The store is doing amazing,” said Bachmann
Ice is a big problem in Anchorage, where it is often too cold for salt to be useful in melting it, so the ice builds up over the long winter. That goes for both workers on the oil rigs and for pedestrians on the street, Bachmann said.
“It (Kickspikes) has just been a game changer,” said Bachmann. “There is ice everywhere. Everywhere you go, slips, trips and falls are the number one injury.”
Word is spreading about the Kickspike boots, and with B.C. experiencing an extended bout of extreme cold, Bachmann said he has been getting lots of orders now from Vancouver and other areas.
“I’ve even been getting a ton of sales out of Penticton. It’s awesome,” he said.
A button on the back is the secret. Tap the button with the toe of the opposite foot and the spikes pop out. Tap it again and they retract. Bachmann said it’s been hard work bringing it all together.
“It’s eight years, and about 200-plus prototypes. But when you compare that to the Dyson vacuum, he has 3,500 prototypes,” said Bachmann, who said that now he has found the right market and the right boots are getting made.
“We were very naive when we got into this. Every step of the way we seemed to think we were there, but we weren’t,” said Bachmann. “It’s still hard, we’re still grinding away, but people are loving our product and we’re getting it out there now.”
Bachmann hasn’t given up on the idea of retractable-spike golf shoes.
“That’s my passion,” he said. “Fall of 2018, I will have our own golf shoes out.”