Widget Tools promises a Swiss Army knife of boardsports
Updated: Jun 8
Surfers, snowboarders, and skateboarders all share a common problem: when their boards fail, they could be just about anywhere, far away from the tools that would help them get back on their feet.
For the guys behind Widget Tools, a unique idea for a tool for boardsports from a team out of the University of Portland, that’s a problem they can now solve with one quick fix.
Recognizing the similarities between the boards riders use for snow, surf, and skate, the team out has invented a single, svelte tool riders can use for all three—without having to invest in big, bulky equipment that will slow their ride and ruin their stoke.
“Our mission with Widget Tools is to build reliable tools for sport enthusiasts,” said Benjamin Messerly, a senior in operations technology management at the University of Portland. “We call it a board widget. The board, which consists of six different tools, two of them being screwdriver's, three of them being in different sockets, and then one being an Allen key.”
Anyone who has conquered the ability to balance on a board—no easy task, it bears mentioning—will also understand that board maintenance is demanding.
Prior to Widget Tools, there were few tools on the market that combined the ability to maintain boards from different board sports. That’s a big deal for board enthusiasts, many of whom dabble in many if not all three of the main board sports.
“The beauty of it is that you can fit this anywhere in your pocket,” said Messerly. “It's just a little two and a half inch by one and a half inch tool that can easily be carried by the rider and they can use it at any time, whether they're back in the backcountry, out by the beach, and they need to replace their fins or just out at the skatepark.”
The tool features a number two Phillips head for mountaineer skate trucks, a number three Phillips head screwdriver for mounting snowboard bindings, a three-eight socket wrench for adjusting skate wheels, a half-inch socket wrench for adjusting trucks, and a nine-sixteen socket wrench from mounting trucks. There’s also a hex key for mounting surf fins on a surfboard.
For Nicholas Robinson, a recent graduate in finance and entrepreneurship, the need for Widget Tools was obvious. “People we've met on the streets and shops have all said, well, I'd love to use a tool like that. It's hard to have all the specific tools ready to make adjustments.”
To those in the sport, according to Robinson, the fact that Widget Tools has six attachments ready to make any adjustments necessary for a board saves a lot of time searching through the toolbox, especially when adjustments might be necessary on the fly, wherever riders might be.
“I'm an avid surfer, snowboarder and skateboarder myself. So I kind of dabble in all three areas of stoke,” Messerly said, using a term riders commonly use to refer to boardsports. “I really enjoy this and I've found a lot of different people who really enjoy at least two of those same activities themselves. So I feel like we can penetrate a market that hasn't yet been seen by other outdoor retailers and outdoor tool companies in the industry.”
Messerly, who is spearheading the project, was struck by inspiration when he worked in a rental shop in Arizona, where he is from. “I kind of got this inspiration, you know, all of my interests into one tool. So I drew three socket wrenches and a little too those lines to represent one screwdriver. One wasn't anything special, but it was really kind of the key for me. I was like, wow, this could actually be something I pursue.”
Pursue he and Robinson did, and the team placed in the University of Portland’s Pilot Venture Challenge. At Invent Oregon, the team hopes to convey how useful this tool could be for riders—a group that is poised to grow significantly with an uptick of interest in the outdoors.
“I want them to know that there is a real need out there for both sport athletes,” said Messerly.